Which non-luxury brand was the fastest growing market share and sales in 2017? Mitsubishi was the fastest growing non-luxury brand in the U.S. Fueled by all new 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander, sales up 32.9 percent last year, the often-forgotten brand really proved value was a top consumer priority over all else. A week behind the wheel of the Outlander reinforces this approach and also exposes a few issues.
Launched way back in 2002, the Outlander has been a staple in Mitsubishi’s lineup even as the brand has gone through a variety of changes. Gone is the Eclipse, the Lancer EVO, 3000GT and the Montero. Instead, the lineup features a variety of SUVs with the Outlander coming in a regular, sport and even a plug-in hybrid electric model not to mention a handful of limited edition Outlanders and an Eclipse Cross. Mitsubishi still offers a few cars in the Mirage and Lancer, but this brand is really SUV driven.
Leading off the SUV charge is the Outlander. New for 2018, the Outlander features a host of exterior and interior styling upgrades, a new 7-inch infotainment screen and a variety of safety features.
Inside and out, the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander shows off a new sportier design with sharper lines and more up-to-date interior materials and treatments.
The front reminds me of what Lexus is doing with their spindle grille and the side wraps nicely into the lift gate with some style added to the bumper.
Inside, our test model featured a two-tone treatment of a black and light tan with a graphite style added to the section above the glovebox. The straightforward design adds style to the SUV without bumping up the price for really expensive materials. While, the flat black dash left a lot to be desired, the flip side is the price comes in lower than other SUVs. The price argument is a consistent theme for the Outlander.
My test model came with the 3.0L V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic. There is a base 2.4L four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission for those wanting to spend even less money, starts at $23,945, with a good return on fuel economy – EPA estimated at 25/30 city/highway.
The V6 model starts at $31,695 and also had all-wheel drive. Interestingly, it is hard on Mitsubishi’s website to discern engine size when building a new Outlander expect to understand the V6 only comes in the one GT 3.0 S-AWC package. Unlike other manufactures, Mitsubishi seems to really, REALLY want you to buy the base model.
For the V6, the powertrain produced 224 HP and 215 lb-ft. of torque while returning 20/27/22 city/highway/combined fuel economy (non-AWD is slightly better). This is a big improvement over the 166 HP, 162 lb-ft. of torque from the four-cylinder.
The two key variables for most consumers often seems to be: “Is the car safe?” “Can I haul what I need?” In both cases, the Outlander hits the mark.
Starting with safety, the SUV is an IIHS safety top pick and comes equipped with latest in safety equipment like rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, blind spot monitoring, forward collision mitigation, automatic high beams and a personal favorite, adaptive cruise control. This collection of equipment is included in the GT Touring package for $1k and the SEL trim receives blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane change assist standard.
Next is the cargo room. With the third-row folded down, the rear cargo area is voluminous and I was able to easily carry around everything I needed like my golf clubs! The second-row is fairly roomy and the front seating area had plenty of room especially thanks to a rather low center console and shifter. It gave the impression you simply had more space.
With the third-row up, the seating area was pretty quaint. My 8-year-old son complained of being cramped while my 6-year-old son didn’t have the same concerns. It is a kid’s riding area or a quick trip seating area. The second-row seats do slide forward allowing you to manage the amount of legroom between the rows.
Behind the wheel, the Outlander is simply adequate. It isn’t an engaging driving experience, nor is it really that dull. Somewhere in the middle really would be most accurate.
Off the line, the V6 does a good job of taking off and while you won’t be burning rubber, you won’t be waiting for the SUV to get moving. It corners OK and stops OK. Again, nothing particular stands out, it simply does the job.
I’ve often been told there are certain things that bug me other journalists don’t care about. While they will talk about how this SUV may not “corner like it is on rails,” I tend to be more practical. Here goes.
First, the cruise control is just annoying. Set the cruise to 45 and the SUV will keep that EXACT speed. I mean it will brake and accelerate to hold that speed. This is very annoying and akin to the feeling you have when you ride a horse – sliding forward and backward. There should be a touch more play in this setting allowing for a 1 MPH cushion both ways of what you set or a change in the acceleration setting. Either way, it is annoying.
Next, Mitsubishi NAILED IT on the location of the steering-wheel adjustment. However, it is a metal handle connected to a long plastic handle. Honestly, I feared I was going to snap the plastic handle. If I could, doesn’t matter. Why not keep the metal handle and extend it outward then wrap it with a soft-touch sleeve?
Finally, the style tries a bit too hard. The thing is the Outlander is a great value play over its competition and with the long warranty terms, 60 month/60,000 mile on vehicle and 120 month/100,000 mile on the powertrain, I’d like to see a more simplistic style. They have a good thing going with the graphite styling over the glovebox and then the SUV has a glossy black shine throughout the instrument panel. On a bright day, it is quite overwhelming and I can’t imagine having a scratch on it. Just make it simpler would be my approach.
Ultimately, I’m not a huge fan of the Outlander. However, that is just me and clearly the volume the Outlander is selling at, tells you people really need an inexpensive 7-seater point A to point B vehicle. Mitsubishi clearly understands their role in the marketplace in providing an inexpensive SUV filled with safety and a great warranty. Yet, for my money, I simply want more.