Having researched a few impressions of the Outlander earlier in the week I honestly wasn’t looking forward to driving it. This however is a true case of “believe half of what you see, and some or none of what you hear”. I absolutely loved the Mitsubishi Outlander.
Let’s get right down to it. I don’t know what the other reviewers are talking about. Sure with the 4 cylinder in the ES and SE trim levels you won’t be winning any drag competitions at the local street races but of course that’s not what this car is meant for. As far as meat and potatoes driving goes, the Outlander comes with a lot of side items.
The first thing that struck me was the standard magnesium-alloy paddle-shifters. Seriously, paddle shifters on a crossover SUV? Tip-tronic and sport-tronic semi-sequential gearboxes of the past could at best only aspire to be sloppy. But the technology is now over a decade old and in many mass produced passenger cars. Yet this is the first I’ve ever experienced one attached to a CVT Transmission; another new piece of technology that has come a long way in the last few years.
As I got in and looked around the canvas that Mitsubishi prepared I could tell that while simple and stylish were key design features for the dash of the Outlander, quality materials were not. Then I made the mistake of adjusting the seat. I say that because even the seat rails were noise and almost squeaked “cheap” as they moved. Once locked in place though, they dramatically changed the tune of the 2010 Outlander for the better.
As I adjusted the mirrors, tilted the steering wheel and locked in DC 101 for my trip, I couldn’t help but notice that everything else had a nice solid feel to it. While you may adjust a seat once or twice a year depending on how many drivers are in your family, the regularly used components of my test vehicle felt like they were more than up to handling daily abuse. Looking at the information display between the Tachometer and Speedometer you get the feeling that you are in a large European sedan instead of an American SUV because the readout is exactly the same as more expensive VW’s and Audis. The 4 cylinder did make a bit of noise after starting but settled in seconds after the car came to life. From there the improvements continued.
As I moved the car to leave the parking lot I could tell that the ride was very solid and firm. While those seat rails may have sounded cheap, again, when they locked into place they did a great job of tying the seat into the rest of the vehicle.
Pulling out into a very wide open area free of traffic I was able to allow the Outlander to come up to speed at leisure. I wanted to get a good sense of the sluggishness many others have reported. To be fair the Outlander does take its time to accelerate in the 4 cylinder trim due to the 168 HP it produces. The XLS and GT packages come with a 3.0 liter 6 cylinder to solve that issue but truth be told, you really don’t needed it. After deciding to see what the Outlander was made of I gave it a little stick and it woke up quite nicely. The CVT transmission definitely is something to get used to as it will choose a RPM to maintain as it delivers performance based on gas pedal position. I honestly feel that this is where the sluggish rumor comes from, because while joining the highway I was presented with a very different animal all together.
While merging I found that only having 4 cylinders could never be described as a problem with this SUV. The CVT was very responsive, dropped several ratios and gave everything the little engine that could had. I actually felt a slight kick in the pants from that 168 HP. Any other time you are cruising along and are only trying to accelerate at a very mild rate the CVT only changes a little to bring your speed up. But when it comes to the issue of passing out of necessity, simply put your foot down and it knows you mean business. Even in the sport-tronic shift mode.
Leaving the highway there was a need to pass a slower vehicle in order to take the exit. With just a tap of the left shift paddle I feel the CVT actually responds quicker than a regular automatic in my opinion when downshifting to deliver the desired power. In the exiting lane you can simply brake to your desired speed and continue to downshift as needed and again, the CVT is right there in the range you need to merge back into traffic. This was really building up my appetite for the Outlander Sport.
It was time to stop to take a few notes. As I noted, I noticed, a little face on one of the buttons on the steering wheel. Leave it to a time like this for my ADD to flare up, but I’m glad it did. A quick press revealed that it was for hands-free Bluetooth activation. The Bluetooth system the Outlander is equipped with is quite impressive. Before I describe why im overjoyed with it let me tell you that I am by and far NOT a technology buff. In fact I am usually one of the last people to adopt any type of new technology or system. But its Bluetooth, it can’t be that hard Jon. Well I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. Interacting with the systems voice command it was easy to setup a new connection, have my phone sync and voice dial a call.
On the down side my listener did complain of a fair bit of road noise while I was in motion, remarking that it sounded as if I were driving with the windows down even though they were fully up. But as far as buy or no buy complaints about a cars features goes, it really isn’t one to hold against the Outlander.
I really did go into this test drive seeing nothing but the pretty face of a revised front end chasing the popularity of the Lancer Evolution and didn’t plan on enjoying myself at all. I am happy though that I and other reviews we’re proven wrong. Which doesn’t happen very often, but it did today. While there are many other reasons to check out the new Outlander, there are a handful of really big selling points that prove the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the Crossover SUVs to buy.
One a rather serious engine that gives you performance when you need it and can be sensible every other time and deliver 23 city-MPG and 28 highway. Solid build quality with a confident and firm ride. Advanced technology that is up to speed with more advanced competitors. Above all a price that won’t leave your wallet and spouse asking…”What were you thinking?!” In fact if you drive by your local Mitsubishi dealer without experiencing the Outlander for yourself, you can think of me asking you now…What are you thinking?!”
A big thanks to the staff at Hagerstown’s Younger Mitsubishi for a fun ride. To check out the 2010 Outlander for yourself just give them a call and schedule a test drive. You can find all of their information here: www.youngermitsubishi.com