In 2003, when the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV first landed on North American soil, its segment was just starting to reveal itself as the next big thing. The 2016 Outlander is the third generation of the four-door, three-row sport-ute that has to prove itself as above the middle of the heap of nearly 100 SUVs currently available.
Mitsubishi is hoping that this new look, with over 100 updates and improvements, will move the affordable family-hauler even further up the list. We spent time in the environs of San Francisco for a first look at the '16 Outlander.
What is it?
Affordable and packed with content. The base Outlander ES starts under $23,000, with LED daytime driving lights, LED tail lamps, and18” alloy wheels all standard. Six (six!) trim levels later, the Outlander GT checks in at nearly 31 grand. In any trim level, the 2016 is far better-looking than the 2015 model. From the windshield to the tip of its nose, the Outlander has become beefier, more aggressive, and punchier with design cues that give a strong nod to the more rugged off road-ready, foreign-sold sibling, the Mitsubishi Pajero—says Mitsubishi. We see the Outlander adapting to a market driven by aggressive style in crossover SUVs. Even door panels and the rear liftgate receive chrome finish while the latter has increased opening height.
How does it drive?
The answer to this question is simple: better.
The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) has been retuned to respond quickly, making the Outlander more responsive when needed—as in being able to safely accelerate onto a freeway. While the inline four-cylinder engine is now more powerful and able in everyday driving, the GT trim's 224-hp V-6 is now strong enough to tow 3,500 lbs. The suspension has also been retuned for a smoother ride, stiffer handling, and less body roll.
Fuel economy is a huge factor in people considering the Outlander and the 2016 will not disappoint. The 166-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine on front-wheel-drive SE and SEL S-AWC (all-wheel-drive) variants will average 26 and 27 combined mpg, respectively, while the V-6-equipped GT can also return 27 mpg on the highway—not bad, for a three-row SUV with a six-cylinder engine.
Safety is another big factor for buyers in this segment, so Mitsubishi added forward collision mitigation braking to the features list. The automaker hopes that the '16 Outlander will again score as an IIHS Top Safety+ Pick. The Outlander will retain an additional safety net: a ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty as well as a five-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, and five years of unlimited roadside assistance. Who said you can't buy security?
What’s it like inside?
Familiar. The first thing that you notice in the updated Outlander's cabin is how quiet it's become. Beyond that, expect a fairly similar dashboard layout and lightly touched cabin design.
How’s the competition?
Some of the fiercest on the market. Most of the obvious price-oriented competitors, the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V, at 25 grand or less, all lack a third-row seating configuration. (The Nissan Rogue is available with a way-back seat by special order.) The Outlander will have an ever-tougher time distinguishing itself, without unique engine choices, integrated technology, or a larger dealer network.
A great choice for the price-conscious family that enjoys quirky factor of being able to find their SUV in a sea of Escapes and CR-Vs.
Value, value, value; premium appointments at a price that won’t strangle a growing family.
Still has some kinks to work out in appealing to its fan base.
The ideal setup:
Ideally the Premium Package perks would be available on more options. Even more ideal is the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, due for North American release in 2016. The third row is lost to make space for battery packs, but the gain in fuel economy should more than make up for that. Think of it as Chevy Volt with far more space.
In the meantime, the GT trim offer the most features, but lower trim levels on the Outlander offer plenty of value. The de-icing windshield wipers, full LED headlamps, Rocksford-Fosgate sound system, and Sirius XM radio are only available on the GT trim with the Premium Package.
By the numbers: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander
MSRP: $22,995 (excludes destination charge)
Power / drive wheels: 166-hp, 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine / front- or all-wheel drive, 224-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, all-wheel drive
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy: 25/31 (2.4, FWD), 20/27 (3.0, AWD) city/highway
In showrooms: Soon