Mitsubishi is in need of a hit, if ever anybody in the car business has ever been. US sales have been soft and slipping for years and the once innovative and aggressive brand has been dropping product lines like a bad stand up tosses off one-liners. The official line continues to be that this is just a rough patch and that new product is on the way to save the day. Well, let’s bring it on.
First of the new wave of brand saviors is the 2014 Outlander, and after a nice drive in the Monterey California countryside, I think we have a winner. Certainly a real contender in the mid-sized crossover mosh pit. Going their own way, as they always have, the 2014 Outlander is a unique product that has a distinct style and feature set.
With the new Outlander, Mitsubishi designers have tossed the brand’s signature trapezoid grille motif and stepped back into really conservative territory. In pictures the new Outlander looks like the most generic box on wheels one could imagine, inoffensive if not invisible in a pack of over-styled, over-creased and shouting loud competitors. If bland is in, Mitsubishi is going to be the talk of the town. In person, the new Outlander goes over a bit better, and is pleasant enough to gaze on, but definitely not a trend setter.
Open the door and you’ll find a considerably improved interior. The dash and trim pieces no longer scream of decades past, and the overall look is contemporary. Fit, finishes, and general quality also take a step up, now into the middle of the class. Hardly an Audi, but no longer second fiddle to Hyundai, Kia and the rest of the low priced leaders. Interior packaging has been improved with more space and an especially upgraded 3rd row seat, that now folds neatly into the floor and offers adequate space for kids and the short term occupancy of adult sized humans without torture complaints coming forth. Tasteful, functional, roomy and useful with an attractive level of design and quality – well done, considering the price point.
On the road, the new Outlander excels, with a remarkably light and eager driving feel. Mitsubishi engineers have taken several hundred pounds off the chassis with this redesign and it shows very favorably at the wheel. Others have chosen to build in a heavy feel, but Mitsubishi goes with a delightful nimbleness that is rewarding and refreshing in the curvier places and remarkably pleasant on the freeway. It is a quiet chassis too, which adds to the enjoyable driving impression. Clearly, the new Outlander drives very well.
Our test vehicle was a front wheel drive model with the base 2.4 liter engine and CVT automatic, the lightest combination available, so that probably accounts for much of it, but I’d expect the V6 powered top of the line GT to offer a similar feel. The 2.4’s 166 HP mated well with the CVT transmission to deliver reasonable pep and is rated at a very impressive 25/31/27 mpg (city/highway/combined).
The new Outlander is set to arrive at dealerships in June with a base price right around $24K, top line V6 AWD GT models will go for about $29K. It is very competitive at those prices, offering a lot of value for the dollar, if not class leading anything else, besides the excellent warranty coverage. It is the only mid-size to offer a 3rd row seat, and the roomier, plusher new version is a very solid feature advantage.
A lot of Crossover for the money, with outstanding road manners and good economy .. let’s see how that plays.
• dean seven