I’m not a gambling man, but if there were a pool for an automotive death watch, my money would be on Mitsubishi… Lincoln is a close second. To understand the plight of Mitsubishi, you only have to look at its current lineup; they all just look, feel and drive about 10 years older than they really are. With the departure of the Endeavor and merciful killing of the Eclipse (the Galant lives on, but is on hiatus for the 2013 model year), one of the worst remaining offenders is the Mitsubishi Outlander, which I recently drove in top-level GT trim for this Quick Spin.
If we had a time machine and took the 2013 Outlander GT back to 1998, it would be revolutionary. If we could take it back to 2004, it might be near the top of its class. But in the current highly competitive crossover segment of today, the Outlander just falls short. Yes, the all-new 2014 Outlander is on its way later this year, but from what we’ve seen both inside and out, the new design would look great in 2008. That being said, spending a week with any vehicle can point out surprising highs as well as lows, and there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy Mitsu’s midsize CUV.
- Unfortunately, I have to kick off my driving impressions on a negative note. There are few utility vehicles on the market that make the third row an enviable seating position, but the Outlander GT’s rear-most seat is downright insulting. Not only is this the worst third-row seat currently on the market, it could very well be the worst ever created – that includes the uncomfortable rear-facing third row of a certain 1977 Impala station wagon I was relegated to as a kid during family road trips. The operation is clunky, the padding is lacking and the snap-on headrests are as tall as the seat back itself.
- On the opposite end of the scale, the best part about the Outlander GT is its drivetrain and platform. Replacing the base four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission, the GT trim level brings a well-aged 3.0-liter V6 paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Since it shares its underpinnings with the Mitsubishi Lancer, the Outlander also has a pretty good ride quality in just about any road condition.
- My tester was equipped with Mitsubishi’s dynamic Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) sending the engine’s 230 horsepower to all four wheels, improving traction or performance depending on which driver-selectable mode has been chosen (Tarmac or Snow), and there is also an active front differential that that splits engine torque across the front axle or fully locks (in Lock setting) for better off-road performance. I didn’t have the chance to do any serious off roading in Outlander, but I was able to test out the S-AWC along sandy, gravelly roads, which the Outlander handled like a champ.
- Thanks to a 2010 styling refresh, the Outlander is one of the better-looking budget crossovers on the market. With its gaping grille and angular HID headlights, the Outlander GT has a pretty imposing face, and the clear-lensed LED taillights are also a stylish touch to the overall look of the Outlander. While this tester’s dark blue color didn’t do its lines any favors, it’s is still a reasonably handsome midsize CUV.
- Try as it may to look like the Lancer Evolution, the Outlander does not live up to its “GT” trim. Its car-based platform and raised stance just make it feel like a tall car rather than a sporty crossover. I didn’t have the time to put the performance aspect of S-AWC to the test, but you can tell that the Outlander is designed to be the budget-minded crossover in its segment rather than performance-minded. Speaking of budgets, the Outlander GT’s fuel economy rating of 19 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway is about par for V6-powered vehicles in this segment, but it also requires premium gasoline.
- Aside from the after-thought of a third-row seat, the rest of the Outlander’s interior isn’t all that bad. Front occupants can enjoy heated seats (with the button buried between the seat and the center console) and Mitsubishi’s easy-to-use Fuse hands-free system as standard equipment. Even the middle row provides a surprising level of comfort with a 60/40 split seat that can slide and recline allowing ample legroom and space for the unfortunate passengers in the way back. Another quirky benefit of the Outlander is the fold down tailgate that sits flat with the cargo floor making it easier to load and unload bulky items.
- Then there’s the matter of price. Even though the Outlander starts at a reasonable $22,695, this GT tester came practically fully loaded with a $2,500 Touring Package and a $2,000 Navigation Package, which boosted the as-tested price to $33,920. You can get a lot more utility from a more stable brand for that much or lower.