While manufacturers like – oh – Toyota, Honda, and Ford seem to dominate the compact SUV market, Mitsubishi quietly chugs along with its strong-selling Outlander model. Never quite at the top of the heap, but usually within sight of it.
Maybe 2016 will see a change in this unassuming SUVs fortunes. The company is claiming that this iteration will feature “the most profound series of changes since its launch”.
“We are taking the Outlander to the next level,” said Mitsubishi Canada senior manager of product planning, Don Ullmer, at the Canadian launch in Vancouver, “and this model will feature over 100 various changes and enhancements.” Ullmer says that the body style of the new Outlander pays a kind of homage to the company’s earlier heritage….specifically, the no longer in production Montrero, with a new front end treatment and various “embellishments”.
Still offered with either a four cylinder or V6 engine, the 2016 Outlander retains its driveability; this is a user-friendly vehicle and as easy to drive as ever. The V6 displaces 3.0 litres and delivers 224 horsepower, while the 2.4 litre four cylinder is good for 166 hp. You can get the new Outlander with either conventional front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. That said, the four cylinder comes with a CVT transmission only. The V6, meanwhile, gets a conventional six-speed automatic. And the AWD models can be had with four settings: Normal, for around-town driving; Eco, which reverts back to front-drive only for enhanced fuel economy; Snow, for…well…. snow; Lock, for maximum traction and off-road conditions.
All things considered, the four cylinder is the easiest to live with. Not to mention being the most affordable. After a couple of hours behind the wheel of both models, I found the V6 to be a little on the unrefined side…nothing onerous, but definitely not as smooth or driveable as the four cylinder version. As for the CVT….what are you going to do? Manufacturers have apparently decided that this gearless transmission is the way to go and buyers are going to get it whether they like it or not. Mitsubishi is no exception. I don’t like CVTs….never have; I find them comparatively unresponsive and kind of annoying in stop and go traffic. But it is what it is and if you choose the base ES Outlander, that’s what you get. Interestingly, the V6 Outlander has, up to this point, represented almost 70 per cent of total sales.
And here’s something noteworthy. According to Mitsubishi’s research, almost half of Outlander buyers purchase this vehicle because of the warranty package, which at 10 years or 160,000 kilometres for powertrain components, is one of the most comprehensive in the industry.
Elsewhere, Mitsubishi has redesigned the back seat, making it easier to fold down than before. In this market, where loading up the family vehicle on weekends and schlepping loads around is why you buy a vehicle of this type in the first place, this seemingly innocuous function is important. Who wants to fumble around with a recalcitrant back seat mechanism while trying to stuff a large house plant or a couple of bags of groceries into the car?
A few other points of interest. Mitsubishi has apparently spent consider time and effort to make the Outlander as quiet as possible. That bane of carmakers everywhere – noise, vibration and harshness, or NVH – has been reduced through the use of various bits and pieces, right down to an inner wind barrier within the rear view mirrors. Various body components have been reinforced, the windscreen has been redesigned, the floor insulated, and assorted dampeners have been built into the drivetrain. The result, says Mitsubishi, is a “significant reduction” in low frequency NVH. I didn’t notice this so much on the V6, but with the four cylinder model, it did seem more refined than the last generation.
As far as fuel economy goes, the front-drive ES is notably thriftier than the V6. Combined rating for this model is 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres, while the AWD V6 delivers 10.1 L / 100 km. These ratings aren’t the best in class, but definitely competitive.
For 2016, the Outlander will be offered in seven variations and prices range from $25,998 for the base ES, to $38,498 for a full zoot GTS V6 with AWD and a navi system. It’s on sale now.
One more thing. Mitsubishi has closed down its plant in Normal, Illinois and all Outlanders are now built in Japan.