After giving it an extensive redesign a couple of years ago, Mitsubishi is back on the market with yet another refurbishment of its Outlander compact crossover SUV with what the company says are more than 100 engineering and design improvements for 2016.
Such an aggressive move likely is an indication of the place the Outlander and its stablemate Outlander Sport hold in the Japanese automaker’s portfolio. The two crossover SUVs are two key vehicles when it comes to Mitsubishi’s future in the U.S.
In one sense, the company’s approach is working. The Outlander and Outlander Sport are its two best sellers, though not in that order, for the first two months of 2016.
In another, it’s not working. Both rate far behind their competitors in the segment.
Mitsubishi sold 4,824 Outlander Sports and 3,664 Outlanders this past January and February, more than they sold in the same two months in 2015 (considerably more when it comes to Outlander). By comparison, Toyota reported sales of 47,077 RAV4s, Honda 44,458 CR-Vs, Ford 43,073 Escapes, and Nissan 41,323 Rogues.
That’s a lot of ground to make up, to say the least.
The first step toward doing that is getting shoppers looking for an affordable family vehicle to consider the Outlander in the first place. Much like Hyundai and Kia at the turn of the century, Mitsubishi has an image problem when it comes to the reputation of its products.
Fair or not, that’s pretty much the way it is.
Recognizing that, the company recently has taken to asking reviewers to rate on a scale from 1-to-10 how likely they would be to recommend the Outlander to a friend before even driving it. Just take a look and give it a number. Then it asks for a follow-up rating after the reviewer has spent a week with the vehicle. My initial rating of 6 went up to 8. You might have a similar experience.
The Outlander comes in four trim levels starting with the base ES carrying an MSRP of $23,845 including the $850 destination and delivery charge. It has an array of standard features that include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and automatic climate control.
The SE has keyless ignition among other standard features and starts at $24,845, and the new-for-2016 SEL starts at $25,845. Among its standard features are leather seating surfaces, and you can also add optional packages not available on the ES and SE trims.
For example, the Touring Package adds such niceties as navigation with a 7-inch touchscreen (which is fairly user-friendly to operate), forward collision mitigation, an adaptive cruise control system that is more refined than what is offered on some competitive brands, lane departure warning, sunroof, and premium sound system for an additional $5,250.
Those three trims all are equipped with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that is mated to a CVT. With 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, it’s not exactly a sporty performer but is OK around town and cruising on the interstate. Fuel economy is rated at 25 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway, not the best in its class but not the worst either.
The Outlander also is offered in GT trim with a 3.0-liter V6 that is rated at 224 hp and 215 lb.-ft. of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission and fuel economy of 20/27. It carries a starting MSRP of $31,845. That helps boost towing capacity to 3,500 pounds from the 1,500 of the four-bangers. All but the ES Outlander are available with all-wheel drive in addition to the usual FWD configuration.
The cabin is pretty comfortable and though the decor is not luxurious, it is far from spartan and very nice for the segment. The first and second row seating provides adequate room, but the third row is pretty much for children or very small adults only. The ride is quiet and comfortable as well.
Overall, this is a vehicle worthy of a little more respect that it currently is getting. Put some badging other than “Mitsubishi” on it and it likely would get that respect.
What’s good about the Outlander: The exterior design has a modern look and the interior is a nice clean design.
What’s not-so good about the Outlander: It needs some feature, maybe more power, maybe better fuel economy or hauling capacity, to make prospective buyers sit up and say, “Wow!”
For a look at the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander and more details, check out the accompanying slide show.