The Outlander is a must-succeed for Mitsubishi in Australia and in large part the new SUV should.
It’s a diamond in the rough - there are a few harsh edges - but it definitely deserves shopping against the latest crop of mid-sized soft-roaders. It sits on the same chassis as the outgoing model but has new panels and suspension, which help cut the weight by 100kg and lift towing capacity to up to 2000kg. The diesel is a more than decent engine and the one I’d go for. If you can’t do the oilburner, the 2.4-litre petrol is a willing playmate, even with a continuously variable transmission.
Explore the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Range
Like its competitors, the Outlander comes in front and all-wheel-drive guises. It is the only vehicle in this class to have five and seven-seat options. The FWD models are restricted to the 2.0-litre petrol engine and the ES version costs $28,990 with the five-speed manual gearbox.
A CVT adds $2300. Entry to the AWD ranks comes via a 2.4-litre petrol engine with a CVT at $33,490. A step up in trim to the LS brings seven-seats and a $38,990 tag. The 2.2-litre diesel is only sold in seven-seat setup and with a six-speed auto. Prices for the oilburner start at $40,990 and climb to $45,490.
You have to pay to get the good stuff. The ES-badged base models have reverse sensors in place of a camera, which kicks in with the 6.1-inch touchscreen on the LS model. And those who want a burger with the lot will need to buy the Aspire and then spend an extra $5500 for the Premium pack that adds automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, better sound system and a powered tailgate. A plug-in hybrid will join the Outlander line-up midway through next year.
If it’s what’s on the inside that counts, the Outlander counts as a big step up. Better feeling switchgear and soft-touch plastics give the cabin a quality feel compared to its predecessor. The downside is the deletion of the glovebox chiller and two-piece tailgate. Also worth a “Do’h” comment is the decision to fit a subwoofer on the Aspire model in on the left rear side of the cargo area - and stop the removable cargo blind from being stowed in its floor recess.
Some will appreciate the extra space in the third-row seats; others will bemoan the fact cargo space has dropped by more than 100 litres to 477 litres (with the third row seats folded).The second-row seats no longer tumble flat in a one-touch operation but the flipside is they add another 300mm to cargo length, so that Ikea table will almost certainly fit in the back. The front end is a smart-looking unit, with horizontal layers that contrast with the Triton-inspired round fog lamps on the Aspire.
ANCAP has rated the Outlander as a five-star car. A reinforced passenger cell uses more high-tensile metals and there are seven airbags to protect the occupants. The only area the Outlander copped criticism was the bonnet edge, with not enough give on the area where kids’ heads come into contact with the car. Its overall score of 35.58 out of 37 was just behind the Honda CR-V and Volvo XC60 in the mid-sized SUV ratings.
Sometimes bigger isn’t better. That’s the case with the ride on the range-topping Aspire’s 18-inch rims against the 16s fitted to the ES and LS models. The lower profile rubber gives a jittery ride on minor irregularities at speeds over 80km/h. The extra sidewall on the 16s soaks up the same bumps rather than send them into the cabin.
There’s a bit of road noise from either set but interior noise is decibels lower than before. The suspension is adequate, though pitch and body roll isn’t as composed as a Mazda CX-5 or Subaru Forester. The 2.2-litre turbodiesel is the pick of the engines and the paddle shifters - solid metal ones, not flimsy plastic jobs - help maintain momentum uphill when the automatic transmission’s default drive mode tends to upshift early and drop below the 2000rpm threshold where things get interesting.
The 2.4-litre petrol does a commendable job, despite being handicapped by a CVT that drones under load like an economics lecturer. The 2.0-litre petrol is a fleet or inner-city special. The five-speed manual it is mated with is good but buyers increasingly want a self-shifter and in this case that’s the CVT. Most potential private owners who compare the two petrols will spend the extra $2K for the 2.4.
In the real world the entry donk will probably use more fuel than its big brother because it has to work harder to achieve comparable acceleration. There’s an Eco mode to help grow leaves on a digital tree. Mitsubishi says it helps modify driving habits; I turn it off. When most drivers will accelerate into a non-existent gap to stop a fellow motorist from changing lanes, those deciduous leaves are going to drop off the dash, so I can’t see it reforming the masses.
Likewise the all-wheel-drive system has three settings, 4WD Eco, which delivers a claimed 5-10 per cent fuel saving by delaying the onset of AWD and cutting the aircon compressor; 4WD auto, which is an on-demand setting and 4WD lock that keeps all four wheels digging in for maximum traction.