Mitsubishi has decided to take their compact SUV in a new direction for 2014. Introduced in 2006, the original Outlander placed a lot of emphasis on its rugged off-road capability. That competence is still there but today's Outlander is more family friendly, more comfortable, more economical and a lot quieter. The re-think starts on the outside with a completely restyled body that spent many hours in wind tunnel testing, emerging with a much more aerodynamic shape. The revised bi-level nose is much neater with a shallow two-bar chrome grille flanked by integrated headlight clusters. The lower air intake is much less obtrusive than the previous model while the body-sides are smoother with a simple style ridge defining the 'waist' that runs from the headlights to the taillights. The overall impression is mature and conservative rather than the bold and daring look of the previous model. And there is a big payoff for the more mature lines. The wind-cheating profile with roof grooves and rear roof spoiler is seven per cent more efficient, registering a remarkably low 0.33 co-efficient of drag (as good or better than some sports coupes). Combined with a reduction in overall weight and a more efficient powertrain, the 2014 Outlander now delivers best-in-class fuel economy of 8.2 and 6.3, city/highway L/100km (ES 2WD model).
There are four models to choose from. The ES 2WD and ES AWC (All Wheel Control) come with a 166 horsepower, 2.4-litre, SOHC, MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Electronic Control) four-cylinder engine, CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).
The SE AWC and GT S-AWC are equipped with the carry-over 3.0-litre, V6, SOHC, MIVEC with 227 horsepower and 215 ft-lb of torque. This is slightly less power than the previous model but since it is lighter, performance is the same and of course, it is significantly more economical with a rating of 10.1 and 7.1, city/highway L/100 km compared to 11.2 and 8.2 of the previous V6. The transmission is the six-speed Sportronic automatic with manual paddle shifters and Idle Neutral Logic (it automatically engages neutral when stopped in traffic to save fuel). Our tester was the GT S-AWC model finished in Titanium Grey Metallic with Black Leather interior.
One thing I always appreciate in Mitsubishi models is the driver oriented cockpit design. All the controls and gauges are logically placed, easy to read and reach. Simple white-on-black gauges for speedometer and tachometer are seen through the tilt-telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel.
One screen positioned between them allows you to scroll through trip information such as instant and average fuel economy, ambient temperature, range, gear selection, service reminder and two trip odometers. A second screen indicates your S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) selection. This is controlled by a simple dial in the centre console with four positions: Eco, Normal, Snow and Lock. Eco selects 2WD and a revised shift pattern for maximum fuel economy (but will engage AWC if it detects wheel slippage). Normal shifts between 2WD and AWC as needed in normal conditions; Snow selects AWC and Lock divides the power equally to front and rear axles for more serious off road conditions. The 'S' in Super AWC refers to the split front differential that allows power to shift laterally between the front wheels for added grip and traction.
In addition to expected dynamic assists like ASC (Active Stability Control), Traction Control and four-wheel, power-assisted disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist, our tester included three advanced safety features. For-ward Collision Mitigation keeps an eye on the vehicle in front. Get too close and you'll get an audible warning. Ignore that and the Outlander will apply the brakes for you. The Lane Departure Warning gives you an audible warning if you start to drift across lanes while Adaptive Cruise Control will maintain a fixed distance between you and the vehicle ahead. And that's not all. Blind Spot Warning gives an audible and flashing light (in the outside mirrors) if a vehicle enters your 'blind spot.' With remote keyless entry, you can keep the key fob in your pocket or purse. Just push the stop/start button to fire up the engine and you're on your way. The Sportronic transmission will do all the work or you can enjoy a greater measure of control - and fun - by using the magnesium paddle shifters. Greater use of sound deadening materials makes the cabin quiet as a vault and the new electric power steering is light and direct. You won't burn any rubber at the traffic lights but the Outlander performs ably in city traffic or on the highway.
Our tester also included a Navigation Package with a seven-inch touch screen in the centre stack. This is also the hub for your nine-speaker, 710watt Rockford-Fosgate AM/FM/ CD/MP3 player with six-months complimentary XM Sirius satellite radio service. The screen also doubles as your rear-view camera.
Steering wheel controls include audio, cruise and Bluetooth hands-free interface and streaming audio. Both front seats are heated and provide excellent under-thigh and torso support. The driver gets the added luxury of power adjustments and lumbar tensioner. The 60/40-split second row can move forward to allow easier access to the third row and also includes adjustable seatbacks (not common in this segment). That third row provides 'occasional' seating for two but will likely be used infrequently. When the second and third rows are folded flat you get a very useful 1,792 litres (63.3 cu-ft) of cargo capacity. And new for 2014 is the one-piece power liftgate that makes stowing and going much easier. All the usual power features are standard.
Alan McPhee is a Canadian automotive journalist and is former editor of Carguide Magazine. His articles appear each week in this space.
2014 Mitsubishi Outland GT S-AWC
Type: AWD compact SUV
Engine: 3.0-litre V6
Horsepower: 227 @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 215 lb-ft @ 3,750 rpm
Fuel economy: 10.1 L/100km; 7.1 L/100km highway
Base price: $35,998
Price as tested: $40,428
Vehicle provided by Harris Mitsubishi
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