The mission of the Mitsubishi Outlander is to offer value-minded families efficiency, comfort, and space; it’s close in size to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Subaru Forester, but it feels roomier inside. The 2017 Outlander gets interior updates.
Outlander offers seating for up to seven, although the third-row seat is small.
This generation of the Outlander dates to 2014, although it got a major overhaul for 2016, with changed styling, better interior materials, more sound deadening, and an updating of the transmission. There are more changes for 2017, including a simpler all-wheel-drive system on the base model. Interior updates include a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area, front courtesy floor lamps, knit fabric sun visors, and a new center console design with a gloss black finish. The radio adds Apple Car Play and Android Auto. New available safety features are added, including blind spot monitors, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alerts, and the addition of pedestrian detection to the forward collision warning system. Buyers can also now get a heated steering wheel, a multi-view camera system, and automatic high beams.
The base engine is a 166-horsepower, 2.4-liter four cylinder mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission that’s barely adequate.
The Outlander GT features a 224-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6, but it isn’t much faster than the four-cylinder. It accelerates from zero to sixty in about 8.0 seconds, slower than rivals. However it increases the towing capacity from 1500 to 3500 pounds, and has a pleasing exhaust note.
Two all-wheel-drive systems are offered. The base Outlander ES gets a new system with a locking center differential. Standard on the Outlander GT and optional on the other models is a system with an electronically controlled center coupling, an open rear differential, and an active front differential, but no low range.
The EPA rates the Mitsubishi Outlander at 25/30 miles per gallon City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined for the 2.4-liter with front-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive models with that engine are rated 24/29/26 mpg. That’s among the highest mileage vehicles with third-row seating.
The GT, with V6 and all-wheel drive, gets 20/27/23 mpg, on Premium gasoline.
On a fast drive over mountain roads, we got 21 mpg in the four-cylinder, and 20 mpg in the V6, both AWD.
Mitsubishi plans to introduce an all-wheel-drive Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) as a 2018 model. It will be able to function as a series or parallel hybrid, whichever is most efficient at the time. The system combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with two 60-kilowatt motors, with an electric-only range of more than 30 miles. Charging it completely will take about 4.5 hours on a 240-volt outlet.
The Outlander gets top results in every category of the IIHS tests, to achieve the insurance industry agency’s Top Safety Pick+ status. From the NHTSA, it gets four stars overall for front-drive models and five stars with AWD.
Available safety features include lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking and, new for 2017, pedestrian detection. Those items can all be had together on the mid-range SEL, as can three new features: blind spot monitors, lane change assist, and rear cross traffic alerts.
The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander comes in ES, SE, and SEL models, and the V6 GT, with front- or all-wheel drive. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Outlander ES ($23,495) comes standard with cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth, six-speaker 140-watt audio system, 60/40-split folding second-row seats, 50/50-split third-row seats, power locks, windows, and mirrors; under-floor rear storage, rain-sensing wipers, leather-wrapped steering-wheel and shift knob, three 12-volt power outlets, USB port, 6.1-inch touchscreen HD radio, rearview camera, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Outlander ES AWC ($24,995) comes with all-wheel drive.
Outlander SE ($24,495) adds satellite radio, Apple Car Play, and Android Auto. It also comes with fog lamps, heated seats, and high-contrast instruments. Outlander SE S-AWC ($26,495) gets the upgraded all-wheel-drive.
Outlander SEL ($25,495) upgrades with leather seating surfaces, remote power liftgate, and Rockford Fosgate Audio with satellite radio. The SEL also gets a power driver’s seat, power-folding mirrors, roof rails, gloss-black interior trim, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a universal garage door opener. Outlander SEL S-AWC ($27,495) gets all-wheel drive.
Outlander GT 3.0 S-AWC ($31,695) gets the V6, the 710-watt, nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, the heated steering wheel, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights. The GT Touring package adds the multi-view camera system, forward collision warning with emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control.
Options include a rear-seat DVD player, remote engine starting, and additional cargo solutions.
Outlander styling sits somewhere between generic and awkward. Mitsubishi says the Outlander’s Dynamic Shield styling is derived from the look of the bumper-side protection that’s been put on generations of the Montero SUV. That design is highlighted by chrome trim with a shape that some say looks like fangs. Mitsubishi says that the Outlander doesn’t have a bad angle, but we’d say the front end is it.
Other bits of chrome trim are found on the sides and at the back, where the trim’s shape echoes the front grille. The look is not as sporty as the design of the 2014 and 2015 models, but the profile works very well.
The cabin is highly functional but not harmonious. The low instrument panel is simple; some might think it’s too plain, while others might think it refreshingly straightforward. There aren’t a lot of buttons, and the layout and trims are spare. It’s at once understated, modest, warm, and accommodating.
The interior materials are as good as those in competitors like Jeep Cherokee and Ford Escape. The roomy cabin is also one of the quietest in this class.
The front seats are supportive with lower cushions just long enough for tall people, and the driving position is great. Unlike many crossovers in this class, the second row doesn’t feel flat and hard, and it’s comfortable enough for adults.
The second-row seats fold in a three-step process: Flip the headrests forward, lift the lower cushion and place it against the rear of the front seat, and flip the seatbacks forward. You can’t slide the second row fore and aft, as you can with some other three-row models.
Both the second and third rows fold perfectly flat, creating a very useful cargo floor with a low load height. There are small side boxes just aft of the wheelwells, plus a small under-floor storage compartment that can hide a laptop.
It will take a kid to reach the third row, and once back there, even pre-teens might be looking at their knees.
The Outlander isn’t designed to be sporty or engaging to drive, and it isn’t; it’s just easy and comfortable. It’s quite soft and detached from the road, but well-mannered. It’s a confidence-inspiring, driver-friendly crossover. But it’s still underpowered with the 2.4-liter, 166-horsepower engine, and the CVT is too slow to respond. It follows a logic that holds some ratios while accelerating, it’s indecisive on long grades, and barely adequate for this seven-passenger vehicle weighing 3500 pounds.
This transmission was updated in 2016. Its total ratio span is 7:1, as opposed to 6:1 in the previous unit, which means that it has a lower ratio for better standing-start launches, as well as reduced revs in highway cruising. Mitsubishi has worked on making this unit more responsive and quicker to adjust the ratio when passing, and the CVT aims to reduce some of the motorboating feel that comes with many CVTs by holding onto ratios for a short time during acceleration. The net effect is that it while it seems at ease and effective in level, lower-speed use, it hunts around quite a bit on hills.
Outlander GT models use a V6 making 224 horsepower; it’s considerably thirstier and needs premium fuel. To add to the disappointment, it doesn’t develop that much torque until you rev it. At least the paddle-shifters and 6-speed automatic enliven the driving a bit.
With either engine and all-wheel drive, there’s an Eco Mode button that uses only front-wheel drive until there’s actual slip at the front wheels. The mode also softens throttle response and uses the air conditioning compressor more conservatively.
For the 2016 changes, Mitsubishi worked to improve the ride and handling, by reinforcing the front suspension crossmember, changing the spring rates, and tuning the shocks to match. The electric power steering is precise and rather firm, and perhaps a little too aggressively centered.
The Outlander has more off-road ability than most other cars in its class. It’s worth noting Mitsubishi Motors was once a leader in rallying and in Paris-Dakar raids across the desert. Outlander’s AWD and suspension are fully up to the task of heading up most rugged gravel roads or two-tracks on the way to a trailhead.
The available all-wheel drive in the ES is basic, with 2WD, 4WD, and Lock modes (the latter a locking center differential). All-wheel-drive SE and SEL models use a more advanced system; the GT comes standard with it. It uses an electronically controlled center coupling, combined with an open rear differential. This system also has a separate active front differential to help get the right torque split for the conditions, which helps power through some exceptional conditions, like when one wheel is on ice.
The Mitsubishi Outlander provides functional family appeal for a reasonable price, but the powertrains are weak, the third-row seat space is tiny, and the infotainment features are behind the times.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.