2016 Mitsubishi Outlander: Underdog SUV improved

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Thirteen years since its North American debut as the replacement for the Montero Sport, the Mitsubishi Outlander is vastly updated from its predecessor. Most notably, there’s improved fuel mileage, more attractive exterior and interior designs and a standard third-row seat that translates into seating for seven.

Still, Mitsubishi has long been an automotive underdog. And with the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander, the Japanese carmaker is making a further attempt to gain a slice of the ever-popular SUV market.

The heavily revised Outlander now includes what Mitsubishi calls “Dynamic Shield.” The standard improvements include: a steering wheel headliner, rear folding seats, door controls, increased sound insulation, reinforced door glass, dynamic suspension and thicker weatherstripping.

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander has been updated inside and outside.
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander has been updated inside and outside. Images © Gretchen Gaither/2015

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

It’s been two years since I last drove a Mitsubishi, and it was also the Outlander, the Japanese manufacturer’s steadily improving seven-passenger SUV. For 2016, the further improved Outlander is available four trim levels: ES, SE, SEL and GT. The GT is equipped with the V6 engine while the other trims have four-cylinder engine. All-wheel drive is standard on the G, optional on the SE and SEL and unavailable on the ES.

As an unheralded SUV, the Mitsubishi Outlander tries harder by offering a lengthy list of standard and optional equipment. Consider the standard equipment of the entry lever ES:

Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and taillights, heated mirrors, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding second-row seat that slides and reclines, a 50/50-split third-row seat, Mitsubishi’s “Fuse” voice-command system (for phone and audio controls), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB port.

My weekly driver was the four-trim upgrade to the GT. It also includes standard after a few dozen-additional features from the other models, with a few confusing exclusions — the touchscreen navigation system and the advanced safety technologies (adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and lane-departure warning).

The excluded standard items are included in the optional GT Touring package and the GT trim also includes LED headlights, silver roof rails, chrome exterior beltline accents, shift paddles and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

With it materials improvement, the 2016 Mitsubishi offers a substantially improved drive. It’s quiet on the open road and it’s a comfortable people mover for five adults. While workable, the third-row seating is hard to access and the tight space is only suitable for children.

The Outlander has only adequate acceleration and it struggles on steep inclines. But it’s an overall comfortable SUV with a sizable leg and headroom in the first two rows and an impressive overall vision for the driver.

Mitsubishi’s engineers did a commendable job utilizing the interior space. Shelves, storage bins and cupholders, even for tiny passengers in the third row, are plentiful.

Likes:

Comfortable seating configuration.
Good definition in back-up camera system.
Retractable side mirrors.
Strong warranty.

Dislikes:

Super sensitive lane change detection system.
Third-row seating an afterthought.
Sub-par gas mileage for segment.

Facts & Figures: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 9.2 seconds.
Airbags, 7.
Fuel economy: 20 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway), 23 mpg (combined).
Horsepower: 224.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $30,995.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.mitsubishicars.com.
Price As tested: $35,195.00.
Warranty: Bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 7 years/100,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“The Outlander’s third -row seats are tiny, its engines aren’t the most powerful, and the styling isn’t for everyone. In addition, Mitsubishi’s 3-row SUV doesn’t have the same residual value as the competition. The smaller dealer network may also be a challenge for people who live in more rural areas.”— Kelley Blue Book.

“Moving about with a certain swagger in their step, Mitsubishi is trying hard to overcome past obstacles, both internal and market-related. With this major mid-cycle refresh, an attractive pricing scheme, and hopefully more competitive products to come, the Outlander should be on many a compact SUV buyer’s comparison list.” — Left Lane News.

“While the 2016 Outlander is a step up from its predecessor, we don’t believe it’s risen much higher than midpack among a vast sea of competitors. A comparison test will sort out its position more definitively, but we can already tell you that the Outlander is no Mazda CX-5 or Honda CR-V, visually or dynamically.” — Car and Driver.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“The Mitsubishi Outlander continues to improve and has moved past its former reputation as an SUV to avoid at all costs. Still, while there’s nothing particularly bad about the new Outlander, there’s nothing spectacular, either. As such, why would a potential buyer opt for an Outlander against long-proven rivals?”

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