We first sampled the Mitsubishi Outlander in 2003
(see New Car Test - Mitsubishi Outlander XLS)
and, while it was decent overall, it lacked anything to give it an edge. Its
100kW engine was also pretty underpowered in the class – “more power and/or less
weight” is what we asked for.
Well, three years on and the ZF series Outlander
has received a significant power boost – and, along with various other updates,
it’s now a vehicle that has some appeal. Think of it as a cheaper Subaru
Since mid ’04, all Outlander models have received
MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve lift Electronic Control) to alter the timing
of the 2.4-litre four’s single overhead camshaft. This has contributed to a
substantial 20 percent power hike over the early model – there’s now 120kW at
5750 rpm and 220Nm at 4000 rpm. The extra grunt enables the Outlander to run
side-by-side with its rivals and, despite the engine’s very long stroke, it revs
cleanly towards its 6500 redline. Interestingly, the 20 percent power increase
has not sacrificed torque in the all-important low rpm range – the MIVEC
Outlander offers perfectly adequate slog when you want it and 95 percent of peak
torque is available from 2500 rpm.
Unfortunately, the only transmission available in
the Outlander is a four-speed auto. Thankfully, the auto trans is well matched
to the engine and the Sports Mode sequential shift function works well. We found
ourselves using the Sports Mode shift more than usual thanks to the handy
on-dash placement of the selector.
Enjoying a 20 percent power increase, the
Outlander can climb hills with minimal fuss and zap in front of other cars when
required. Tipping the scales at 1575kg, the Outlander MIVEC is capable of
accelerating to 100 km/h in the mid 10 second range (about 2 seconds quicker
than the early model). And, surprisingly, this extra performance comes with no
discernable fuel consumption penalty – we recorded just over 11 litres per 100km
during our mainly urban test, which is virtually identical to what we recoded in
the early model. The engine’s 9.5:1 compression ratio is happy on a diet of
normal unleaded fuel.
As previously, the Outlander is one of the most
car-like crossover vehicles on the market. Its ride height is elevated enough to
provide a safety benefit but it’s not so high that it cowers when there’s a
corner approaching. With the security of constant AWD (using a viscous centre
coupling), the Outlander has a safe, predictable bias towards understeer when
exploring the limits. But, yes, there is more roll and pitch than a
normal vehicle and grip levels are slightly reduced (sporty VR/VR-X Outlander
models are equipped with 215/55 17 Yokohama Geolander tyres). Note that VR/VR-X
models also have sports-tuned suspension – the ride is firm but not
The thin-rimmed steering wheel that we criticised
in the early version is replaced by a much grippier item (leather trimmed in the
VR/VR-X) and the power assisted rack and pinion steering has decent response and
feel. The brakes have also received a welcome upgrade – the rear drums found in
the previous model have been replaced by discs. ABS and EBD come standard and
the Outlander can pull up with excellent stability.
The off-road capabilities of the Outlander are
severely limited by the lack of low-range gearing and a center diff lock. A look
underneath also reveals minimal bash protection but there’s more than enough
ground clearance for tackling rutted tracks on weekends away.
Inside, the Outlander offers impressive space for
passengers and cargo. Lift the tailgate and you’re greeted by a cargo floor
that’s big enough to accommodate the majority of loads. The 60:40 split rear
backrests also fold forward to increase cargo volume from 328 to 1049 litres.
The cargo area is neatly finished with four tie-down hooks, a 12V power outlet
and, in the VR-X, a security blind. A full-size alloy spare wheel is accessible
beneath a false floor.
The Outlander is well equipped even in base guise
– you get a foot operated park brake (which maximizes interior space), power
windows, cruise control, dual airbags, white face instruments, an adjustable
driver’s armrest and plenty of storage facilities. The top-of-the range VR-X
model adds easy to use analogue climate control, side airbags, carbon fibre look
and leather bits, aluminium pedals, exclusive floor mats, chrome inner door
handles and front scuff plates. The sports-spec seating onboard the VR-X is also
covered in leather/suede and you get see-through head restraints which
tremendously improve rearward visibility.
But the standout feature of the VR-X is
its Multi-Media system which integrates satellite navigation, a trip computer,
CD/MP3/DVD/VCD/MPEG player and a colour 6 ½ inch screen. The navigation system
performs reasonably well (though the mapping data has some ‘holes’) and the
sound system is suitably refined but, put bluntly, the whole system is a bastard
to use. For example, if the navigation/map screen is being used you can’t push
the VOL DOWN button to turn down the audio system – you must first locate the
appropriate button to change to audio mode. Other simple tasks, such as changing
the front-to-rear speaker bias, also had us delving into the operating manual.
Visually, the MIVEC Outlander is distinguished by
its standard roof rails, projector style headlights and new grille, bee-sting
aerial, revised taillights and rear spoiler. The tailgate has also been resigned
to feature a larger window and handle. Sporty VR/VR-X models score full colour
coding, a chrome exhaust tip, darkened headlight surrounds, fog lights and 17
inch alloys. The mid-spec VR misses out on the VR-X’s headlight washers, rear
privacy glass and clear lens taillights – no big loss...
The Outlander should be a pretty durable vehicle
(as evident by the supplied five-year/130,000km warranty) but, compared to some
of its rivals, it lacks some polish. The roof rails and much of the interior is
made using cheap plastic, the leather trim is very thin and our test vehicle had
a major front-end clunk over bumps. The engine and exhaust notes are also
appalling from outside the vehicle.
We congratulate Mitsubishi on giving the Outlander
what it needs to put up a fight against the Forester and other light crossover
vehicles; with a base price of AUD$29,990, it’s cheap enough to any grab buyers’
attention. Unfortunately, the top-of-the-line VR-X attracts a substantial
premium of AUD$10,000 (for a total price just under 40 grand) and we don’t
reckon it’s justifiable. We’d be happy to miss out on the VR-X’s terribly
integrated Multi-Media system and opt for the mid-spec Outlander VR -
that’s the bargain model.