Sales of large cars in Australia have plummeted –
so what are people buying who have a need for lots of space? Cars like the
V6-powered Mitsubishi Outlander VRX.
We found the Outlander to be a rather ponderous
and quite thirsty vehicle. But it also had a high equipment level, good load
space versatility and a superb engine.
The VG Outlander is a distinct size bigger than
the first Outlander models sold here - the current model is new ‘from the ground up’. One of the design
aims was to give the vehicle better load versatility and the outcome is extreme
The body design incorporates a clever horizontally
split tailgate that permits a lower loading height when handling heavy and bulky
items. A third row seat pops up out of the load area, allowing a total of seven
to be seated. However, these extra seats are suitable only for small children -
say 6 years and under. Access to the third row is via tumble-folding a section
of the second seat row, a process that works well. But don’t expect to carry
much luggage when the Outlander is used as a 7-seater - and also be aware that
the side airbags don’t extend to cover the rearmost seats.
The second seat row can be electrically or
manually tumbled and folded, a process that gives a large load area and a flat
floor. This seat can also be slid forwards and backwards, so creating either a
lot of legroom or more luggage space, as the situation requires. While rear
space is good-to-excellent, put a baby seat in the middle and the passengers
either side suffer for elbow room. No rear vents are provided.
Getting in and out of the Outlander is easy – the
doors open wide and the seat level is not unduly high, even for older people.
Interior equipment level in the $48,990 VRX is
good, with a 9 speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system, rear drop-down DVD player
and screen, leather, climate control and driver’s side-only electric seat.
But whether you like the end result or not depends
very much on personal taste and the individual buyer’s needs.
For example, the DVD player is not particularly
well integrated into the car – there’s no way for the front seat passengers to
see what is displayed on the screen, insert a DVD or effectively control it. So
the DVD is fine if the rear seat passengers – most likely to be children – are
old enough to operate it themselves, but not so good if younger ones are to be
The interior of the car has hard black surfaces
everywhere – again, fine if practical, easy clean surfaces are wanted but not so
good if the buyers see them as cheap looking and (in summer) hot bits of
The VRX comes with an automatic key – in most
driving you need only keep it in your pocket. The car unlocks as you approach
within 70cm of the doors and the ignition has a separate knob. However, we
didn’t find the system of much use.
And in fact the idea that the car will suit some
and definitely not others also extends to the mechanical package.
Equipped with a new SOHC per bank 3-litre V6
engine, the Outlander lunges off the line with immense torque and then sings to
the redline. There is certainly no shortage of performance – but you pay for it
at the pump. We got fuel consumption of 14-15 litres/100 km around town and saw
a best on the open road of 11.5 litres/100km. Admittedly, the driving was in
very hot conditions (and with 4WD selected – see below), but the city fuel
consumption figure was a real eye-opener. The official fuel consumption test
figure is 10.9 litres/100km.
The six-speed automatic transmission is manually
controllable by either steering wheel paddles or the gear lever itself. The
steering wheel paddles are rather distant for those with small hands and the
cruise control / auto transmission calibration relationship is poor – up one
long, constant gradient country road hill, the gearbox changed between
4th and 5th gears no less than 10 times... However, in more normal
conditions, the 6-speed generally behaves itself and works well with the engine.
The all-wheel drive system has three
driver-selectable modes - 2WD, 4WD and Lock. Four wheel drive can be selected on
the fly and when enabled, actively distributes torque front/rear. However,
Mitsubishi states that fuel consumption is “much better” in 2WD – but then of
course you lose the active safety benefits of having all-wheel drive! For this
reason we left the car in 4WD – perhaps that’s one reason the measured fuel
consumption was poor.
Handling is adequate – but only for this type of
vehicle. On the relatively high profile tyres, the steering lacks precision and
on a back country road the Outlander was lurchy and imprecise. The ride in urban
conditions is jiggly.
Build quality of the test car was good, with fine
paint, consistent panel margins and doors that shut very well.
As you’ve gathered, we think assessment of the
Outlander depends very much on where you’re coming from.
Is the Outlander a true off-road four-wheel drive?
Nope – but we’d suggest that when the occasionally slippery piece of road (snow,
mud) needs to be negotiated, the ‘4WD Lock’ position will be highly
So is it a semi-frugal medium/large car that has
the safety-traction advantages of all-wheel drive? Nope, not with such poor fuel
consumption in 4WD mode – a huge incentive to select 2WD for normal use.
So is it a true people mover, the seven seats able
to be filled day-in and day-out? Again no, not with the resulting reduction in
luggage space, the lack of rear vents and the missing side airbag protection for
the last row.
Mitsubishi itself says the Outlander V6 buyer
profile is a family with the parents in the 35 – 45 age bracket, with half
having no children at home and the other half having one or two children at
home. They expect the average household income to be $96,000 and buyers to be
primarily living in large cities.
We reckon that’s about right – but do you fit that
The Mitsubishi Outlander VRX was provided for this
test by Mitsubishi Motors Australia