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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Mitsubishi Outlander

It's sometimes easy to forget that Mitsubishi manufactures vehicles other than the performance-oriented Lancer Evolution. We have nothing against the brand, but a majority of its product line-up consists of mediocre vehicles overdo for a redesign, and the Lancer Evolution is the only exception. Mitsubishi is attempting to change its image with a greater focus on fuel economy though, starting with the new 2014 Outlander crossover vehicle.

We were intrigued by the Outlander from the start, but it ended up being one of the most popular vehicles during the event. Everyone wanted to drive it, so it took a while for us to get some seat time with the crossover and Mitsubishi’s very friendly and easy-going PR rep. The car on-hand was a well-equipped Outlander SE with S-AWC and Touring package; Mitsubishi left the V6-equipped GT at home.

The first thing we noticed about the Outlander was its sedate styling that borders on blandness. Heck, the Honda Crosstour is more exciting to look at, and I died a little inside coming to that conclusion. Fortunately, I also think the styling is more appealing in person than pictures, though the copper brown color of our sample didn't do the Outlander any favors, either.

Sitting down inside the Outlander, we found a lot of soft-touch surfaces. The driver-focused layout is simple, but functional. Mitsubishi employs a standard double-DIN infotainment system with a touchscreen LCD. Unfortunately, the 6.1-inch solution is mediocre, bearing some resemblance to the Mitsubishi-built Chrysler 430N unit in terms of function and feel. The Bluetooth module appears to be separate from the rest of the system, since the pairing process was completely voice command-driven with no link to the head unit. Mitsubishi touts this as a next-generation HD navigation system with 3D mapping, but we saw nothing "next-gen" about it.

We did manage to pair our HTC Droid DNA with the Outlander, though it took longer than the simple task should have. The fourth-gen iPad connected and played music without issue. Other tech features include adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane departure warning. There wasn’t the time or the traffic where we tested the Outlander to try those features out, though we plan on taking a deeper look at the vehicle soon.

The Outlander's power source is a new 2.4-liter SOHC inline-four engine (4J12). Mitsubishi pairs it to a CVT that is smooth enough, but not overly exciting otherwise. The Outlander's stand-out feature is Mitsubishi's Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system with four selectable drive modes. We didn’t expect Mitsubishi to equip its crossover with this very compelling AWD technology lifted from the Lancer Evolution, but it did, and it took us by surprise.

We left the S-AWC system in normal mode, letting it do its thing automatically (as suggested by our rep on the road and dirt courses). The car handled both environments well, exhibiting unwavering grip throughout. The balanced system did not demonstrate any real understeering or oversteering tendencies. If only the Outlander came with the Lancer Evolution’s 2.0-liter turbocharged motor, Mitsubishi might be onto something outlandishly cool.

Vehicle Specifications
VehicleMitsubishi Outlander
Trim levelSE
Engine2.4 L MIVEC inline-four (4J12)
DrivetrainSuper All Wheel Control (S-AWC)
InfotainmentNext-generation MMCS navigation system 3D mapping (MMCS)
Notable featuresAdaptive cruise controlForward collision mitigationLane departure warningRear-view camera
Fuel economy24 city, 29 highway