2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Goes Mainstream

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The 3rd generation Mitsubishi Outlander will be introduced in mid-2013 as a 2014 model year product.  The new Outlander is based on carryover architecture, but has all new sheetmetal giving it a much more mainstream look.  Where its predecessor has a very distinctive front end theme – admittedly controversial because of its “shark nose” style – the new Outlander goes decidedly mainstream.  This is an example of Mitsu taking a very conservative approach and attempting to sell a style that no one will find controversial.

Viewed from a lower angle, the lower grille opening reminds some of Lightning McQueen in Disney/Pixar’s Cars movies.  The key distinguishing feature for the new exterior style other than the toned-down front six inches is the deep character line stretching from the front fender through the doors and ending at the rear quarter. There is a horizontal bright trim piece on the liftgate stretching between the taillamps that looks like a bit of an afterthought.

Overall, the new Outlander is not displeasing, it just doesn’t grab you with its styling.  For a vehicle Mitsubishi hopes will be a strong seller, the Outlander blends in rather than stand out.  One way to make a statement is through pricing and it appears that Mitsubishi will drop the base price of the Outlander while adding equipment providing a stronger value statement.

While the skin may not turn heads like the 2nd generation, Mitsubishi has substantially upgraded the crossover SUV under the skin.  While the aluminum roof panel of the 2nd generation is gone, other actions have yielded a 220-pound weight reduction.  This weight reduction helps the Outlander get better fuel economy from its new 2.4L 4-cylinder base engine.  The new engine drops double overhead cams for single to provide a “more lightweight and compact engine”.  The new 4J12 4-cylinder has 166HP down from 168 in the 2nd generation (torque is down by 5 lb-ft to 162lb-ft compared to 167lb-ft).  Mated to a CVT, the new engine achieves 31MPG on the highway for the seven passenger version (up from 28MPG previously).  The GT model gets the carryover 3.0L V6 with slightly less oomph than before – now 224HP/215lb-ft compared with 230HP/215lb-ft.  With a conventional 6-speed automatic, the V6 gets 28MPG for 2014 compared with 26MPG on the highway for the 2013 iteration.

Mitsubishi has added a slew of advanced technologies as part of the optional Touring Package.  The addition of these to the equipment list demonstrates how former high tech luxury features are now moving down into more mainstream vehicle classes.  Some of these features are an ECO Drive Support System that has a green leaf graph to reward you with more leaves when you are driving economically.  Advanced safety systems like the Forward Collision Mitigation System will stop the car from a slow speed before it hits an obstruction.  This is great in stop and go traffic where you might not be paying sharp attention.  Lane Departure Warning System will audibly and visually warn you when you are drifting out of your lane above 40mph.  Adaptive Cruise Control maintains distance from the vehicle in front.

All AWD Outlanders will get S-AWC (Super-All Wheel Control) for 2014.  The GT gets S-AWC as a standard part of its package.

Unique to most previews of crossover SUVs, Mitsubishi provided an opportunity to drive the new Outlander off-road.  While the off-road course was not the equivalent of the Rubicon Trail, it was worthy of challenging Trail Rated Jeeps.  That Mitsu was confident enough to let us drive the course in their crossover is testament to their confidence in the S-AWC system.  The vehicle had no trouble with any of the surfaces, rocks, climbs or descents.

The 3rd generation Outlander gets an upgraded interior with new instrument panel design and upgraded trim.  Special attention has been paid to improving NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) in the Outlander.  This shows in most driving conditions, but there are some road surfaces where the tires just sang.

While the Outlander does have 7-passenger seating capability, it has a mid-size body really designed for five passengers.  While the spaciousness of the 3rd row seat has been improved (+2 inches fore and aft, 5 inches in width), the third row seat is still appropriate for occasional use by young children.

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