Monday, June 18, 2007

All New Mitsubishi Outlander XLS AWD

Redesigned Outlander a Step in the Right Direction

Like virtually every major auto manufacturer, Mitsubishi offers a car-based crossover vehicle featuring AWD. In and of itself, that fact isn’t exactly a bombshell. In fact, today there are so many choices out there it’s easy to get them confused, especially considering that many of them look a lot alike. Mitsubishi’s entrant in this class is called the Outlander. It was introduced back in 2002 as a 2003 model. This year it gets its first major redesign. And with this redesign, it does something many manufacturers in this segment fear. The Outlander dares to be different.

Okay, so from a straight-line performance standpoint, the Outlander doesn’t reinvent the wheel. I apologize if my lead-in indicated otherwise. It’s acceleration is adequate compared with that of its competition. Another 20-30 horsepower would really improve this aspect of the Outlander’ personality. Despite its lack of brute force, the Outlander does feel sporty. Its aluminum paddle shifters aid in creating a crossover that is quite fun to drive.

The Outlander will cut corners with any of the crossover SUVs I’ve driven. When I hustled through some of my favorite local twisties, I detected limited body roll courtesy of the Outlander’s rather firmly sprung fully independent suspension. I was also a little surprised to find that despite its AWD, the Outlander doesn’t feel sluggish or heavy in transition between corners.

I think that the Outlander’s styling is the main area where it distinguishes itself from the bulk of its competition. The exterior is modern, sporty, and bears a slight resemblance to the Nissan Murano. Slide inside, and you’ll find a cockpit that is comfortable and well-appointed. Like the Galant Ralliart and Lancer GTS I recently tested, the Outlander is available with Rockford Audio, which includes a subwoofer. The Outlander also boasts optional third row seating. However, like the majority of the small SUVs making this claim, these seats are mainly fit for small children. Fold down the third row and there is plenty of room for luggage. The Outlander also comes with the Flap Folding Tailgate, which opens close enough to the ground to make loading heavy items a snap.

Mitsubishi’s slumping recent U.S. sales has been due, in large part, to forgettable cars and SUVs. The Outlander is a big step in the right direction. If there is one thing you can say for the Outlander, it’s not forgettable. If you like the Murano, but can’t afford the near $40,000 price tag, take a look at this crossover.