Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review: 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWD—An often overlooked CUV is quite good

Nope, it's not a subcompact, but I did get a chance to review it. Mitsubishi’s Outlander is now in its second generation. It’s bigger, more powerful, and more substantial than the previous model. It is a seven-passenger crossover SUV with all-wheel drive, a V-6, and plenty of accouterments in GT trim. In fact, it’s pretty sporty for a crossover, and its Rockford Fosgate sound system is probably the loudest on the block.

EXTERIOR: Clean and sporting

The Outlander GT has modern, clean lines. Its corporate Mitsubishi Lancer EVO-inspired front end has a sporting look, albeit, a bit odd at first on the front of a CUV. Although not drop-dead gorgeous, but it isn’t cookie-cutter, either. To me, it’s one of the more attractive CUVs. The 18” wheels and tires help give the exterior a bit of sport, as does that shark-like front end.

INTERIOR: Comfortable (minus the third row), pleasant (minus the third row)

In GT trim, the Outlander does a lot to make its interior a good place to spend time. Comfy, heated power leather seats, leather-trimmed dash, plenty of room, and just the right amount of gadgetry are all nice touches. It loses points for somewhat cheap feeling climate control knobs, but other than that, it’s quite nice. All the controls are easy to use, the gauges are spot on, and it all just seems to fit. Build quality feels good, too.

In the second row, seating is comfortable and roomy. My friend’s 6’3” brother (and he’s a big guy, too) fit without complaint in the back seat. However, the third row, on the other hand, is really only good in a pinch. It comes out of the rear cargo area and can be tricky to setup at first. And once out of the floor, it’s not anywhere near comfortable. It feels like a metal chair frame covered with some fabric, sans padding. But, in a pinch, it can be good to have. With that being said, even kids probably wouldn’t be comfortable back there for any period of time.

Speaking of cargo, with the seat folded into the floor, there is plenty of room for hauling stuff. It easily gulped my purchase of four winter tires, and had plenty of room for groceries. It also has a cool clamshell-style tailgate, too.

DRIVETRAIN: 3 liters, 6 speeds, all wheel drive

With 230 horsepower on tap from its 3.0-liter V-6, the Outlander has ample power, but it’s not overly gutsy. The all-wheel-drive system has settings for tarmac, snow, and “lock,” which presumably locks the center differential for deep snow, sand or mud. Power is delivered to all four wheels via a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic with manual shifting capability using either the shifter lever or paddles mounted on the steering column. The engine/transmission is complaint-free.

DRIVING: A of bit sport, a bit of comfort, needs a bit more power

The Outlander is actually rather sporty for a “sport” utility vehicle (or CUV, whatever they call them these days). Although the vehicle isn’t super gusty, it has no lack of power. But, a little more grunt, being a GT version and all, would be nice. Grip from its 18” wheels/tires is good, and body roll isn’t bad for a CUV. In fact, it’s actually quite fun in the corners. The vehicle always feels sure-footed and stable. Although certainly more sporting than its four-cylinder base model, at more than 3,700 lbs. and making 230 hp, the Outlander doesn’t quite live up to its GT badge.

I found the Outlander GT to ride quite well on all surfaces. I don’t recall ever thinking the car had any issues in this department. Even on some of the rougher roads around Portland, the vehicle was pleasant to ride in. Plus, it’s a good combination of handling and comfort.

TECHNOLOGY: Outstanding audio; easy-to-use tech (yay!)

It’s refreshing to be in a vehicle that makes its technology easy to use! The outstanding (and incredibly loud) 710 watt Rockford Fosgate stereo (with 10” subwoofer) is controlled through a touch-screen monitor that also displays the vehicle’s navigation and back-up camera. And yes, it’s all quite easy to use and intuitive. Add to this Bluetooth (with streaming Bluetooth audio), AV hookups, a DVD player in the dash (I assume it plays on the screen; I didn’t try it), and satellite radio and you’ve got a lot of customizable in-car entertainment. Plus, the trip computer displays a host if information including temperature, traction info, fuel economy, and more.

On the mechanical side, the Outlander GT with Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) has the aforementioned adjustable all-wheel-drive. It also has a hill-holding feature that automatically keeps you planted on an incline—a nice feature, especially in hilly areas.

OVERALL: One of the most underrated cars; worth a look

I’d say the Outlander GT is a fair deal. It’s not overly high on the bang-for-the-buck scale, but it’s definitely in the ballpark for this segment. Mitsubishi isn’t known for its high resale value, however, and dealerships can be few and far between. However, most major metropolitan areas have at least one or two dealers. It does have a 10 year, 100,000 powertrain warranty, though. Regardless, you can shave off $3,000 by not getting the Premium Navi and Leather Package, if that’s not important to you.

This may be one of the most overlooked and underrated vehicles on the market. I think it deserves a look if you’re shopping for a CUV. With plenty of room, ample power, notable driving dynamics, a comfortable interior, and good cargo-carrying ability, this is one of the better cars Mitsubishi has sold in the U.S. in a while. It feels solid and well built, plus it can carry seven people in a pinch. It could use a bit more get-up-and-go, but it’d likely be fine for 99% of the driving population. This is one of those vehicles that is quite good, and deserves more attention.

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