Highway 1 in a 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander
- August 26, 2006
- Mitsubishi, On The Road: Driving Impressions
- Posted by George Peterson
- Comments Off on Highway 1 in a 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander
Mitsubishi has an all-new compact SUV for its 2007 lineup. Though it carries the Outlander name, there is little that the second Outlander shares with the first, other than the Lancer platform. This time, though, Outlander is the launch product for Mitsubishi’s all-new C-segment platform. The result is a more grown-up and sophisticated compact SUV. The first generation did not fare well in the marketplace, selling only 75,000 units between late 2002 and 2005, the new version has more to offer in all areas.
Sales begin in the United States in November 2006, and AutoPacific and VehicleVoice were invited to be among the early drivers. Using the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco as a home base, Mitsubishi plotted out an entertaining drive route that took us across the Golden Gate Bridge to Highway 1 and up to Bogeda Bay.
Finally, a Competitive Package
Styling has grown up; there is a modern silhouette, better overall proportions, and more attractive styling. The first Outlander looked like a short-but-tall wagon with big bumpers (click here and here for images). The old underwhelming 160HP 2.4L I4 is replaced by a 220HP 3.0L V6 and six-speed automatic (magnesium paddle shifters are optional). There is an improved interior with thoughtful storage and convenience touches and optional jump seats give room for seven in a pinch.
For the 2007MY, there are several new or updated compact SUVs, including the Jeep Compass (click for VehicleVoice Compass review), Jeep Patriot, Honda CR-V, and Suzuki SX4. Against these products, and solid entries like the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, the Outlander brings more power, more size, and more features. The new Outlander can better justify having one of the highest MSRPs of the available Compact SUVs.
New Powertrain and New Suspension
The V6 brings competitive and lively performance, with expected penalty of 1 or 2 mpg in the city and better highway mpg, depending on model. (The top 2006 AWD model was rated at 21/25 mpg; the estimated mpg for the top 2007 AWD XLS is 19/26.) There is a small fuel penalty, but the extra performance is well worth that price.
More direct and responsive steering allowed for diving into twists and turns along the route with confidence and the extra power was enough for spirited bursts on less-traveled roads and smooth acceleration in the urban duty cycle. The Outlander XLS held the road well, helped by uplevel eighteen-inch tires (sixteens are standard).
A steel-reinforced aluminum roof reduces overall weight and contributes to a lower center of gravity and less body roll and more stability overall. An all-new suspension keeps a MacPherson strut layout in front and the rear is a new trailing-arm multi-link arrangement. Separate coil springs and shock absorbers are among engineering solutions that help improve cargo space. The new chassis and steering system maximize fuel economy and as well as improving driving dynamics.
New AWD System
Increasing gas prices and the larger engine made fuel economy particularly important, and the all-new optional AWD system helps. The three-mode system includes 2WD, 4WD Auto, and 4WD Lock settings. A viscous coupling solution was dropped in favor of a rear-mounted electronically controlled transfer clutch. As well as adjusting torque due to wheel slippage, in 4WD Auto and steady cruising speeds, 15 percent of torque is sent to the rear; under acceleration (below 40MPH) as much as 40 percent is. At low speeds and through tight corners, coupling torque is reduced for a smoother feel. The 4WD Lock splits torque 50:50 for low-traction situations like snow and sand.
Me and my co-driver saw much fog and some overcast skies, but crossed no rain, snow, sand, or even seriously bumpy roads. On-road manners of the Outlander, FWD or AWD, are pleasant, and in 4WD Auto the Outlander seemed a more willing accomplice through some of the sharper turns.
Inside, Attention to Detail Makes for Practical Environment
Outlander arrives with a well-planned interior, with money put into areas you touch, feel, and use and compromises made in areas that get less use. The bigger size means more interior room, but the rear suspension, fuel tank, and spare tire were packaged to maximize that space. A few interior tricks we’ve already seen are improved.
The increased size gives room, barely, for two jump seats in the rear. These optional seats stow into the floor and the cargo area gets a flat floor; the load rails are a nice touch. It’s a one-person job raise or lower the third-row, but the process is clumsy. The tiny seats have little padding and the foldable headrests are just plain ugly. These are better suited to punishment than emergencies, and we’d skip them. Without jump seats, buyers get an underfloor storage compartment. In either case, access to the cargo area is improved by a double-opening tailgate, with a small lower section for loading larger items or for tailgating (it can hold as much as 440 pounds).
The comfortable, contoured driver’s seat offer thick side bolsters, as does the front passenger seat, for a sporting impression. The 60/40-split second-row seats offer more legroom and fold forward for access to the jump seats. They slide fore and aft and recline independently. Fold-forward second-row seats are not new, but Mitsubishi added small lamps on the seat bottoms that light the area between the second and third rows for ten seconds.
The Outlander gets a dash-mounted storage tray above the center stack, with a typically cheap-feeling lid, but this one is a couple of inches deep and has an effective grippy plastic liner. Another thoughtful touch is the slight tilt toward the driver/passenger of the bottle holders in the doors, making grabbing and replacing the bottle easier. There is a split, two-compartment glovebox and the sliding center console gets an air conditioning vent to keep the area cool.
Expanding Technology for Entry SUV Segment
The Outlander brings an impressive touch-screen 30GB hard-drive navigation and music storage system to the segment. About 24GB is dedicated to the navigation system and the remaining 6GB for a music storage system. Using a hard drive instead of a DVD (or CD in the case of music) gives nearly instantaneous responses in both navigation and audio systems. The system recalculates, readjusts the map location and scale with nearly no lag time and displays on a high-resolution screen. The music store brings up music and switches songs instantly.
Mitsubishi brings an optional keyless entry and start system to the segment, called the FAST (Freehand Advanced Security Transmitter) Key system. An optional rear-seat DVD system, atypical for this segment, uses a large nine-inch screen. Other new options include Bluetooth hands-free phone technology and Sirius satellite radio. Though at launch there is no auxiliary jack for MP3 players, engineers say one is coming. Steering-wheel-mounted buttons for cruise control are standard, with LS and XLS models adding radio controls to the steering wheel.
The Outlander brings new features to the Compact SUV segment and offers a competitive powertrain, measured by fuel economy, power, or by emissions, but will it be enough?