It’s certainly an attention-grabber in a crowded segment
Powertrain and performance: 2.4-litre petrol four, 126kW/224Nm, continuously variable transmission, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.5 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4655mm long, 1680mm high, kerb weight 1570kg, luggage capacity 591/1754 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 18-inch wheels on 225/55 tyres.
We like: Spacious, good chassis, high-tech equipment in VR-X guise.
We don’t like: Still lacks refinement, controversial styling.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
The previous model Outlander did great things for Mitsubishi New Zealand: it was critically acclaimed and formerly a top seller in the segment.
The medium-sized crossover class is much harder work these days, of course: one of the most highly populated and hotly contested areas of the new-car market.
So while the new Outlander isn’t showing any sign of rocketing back to the top of the sales charts, you cannot argue with the package now being offered: it’s larger yet lighter than the old car, one of the few seven-seat offerings in this segment and absolutely loaded with equipment in the VR-X specification tested here.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Continuously variable transmission (CVT): it certainly polarises people. But Mitsubishi has been doing it for a long time and it’s a very well accepted technology in Outlander. It’s only the petrol models that have it, of course: if you step up to the turbo diesel (another $2500), you get a conventional six-speed automatic.
The VR-X’s 2.4-litre engine isn’t exactly packed full of character, but it does offer sufficient performance for the Outlander and a potential payload of driver plus six passengers.
The CVT does not like to be pushed hard: it requires a certain driving technique to avoid the over-revving and unpleasant soundtrack that so often comes with transmissions of this type.
Having said that, it is an excellent companion for the VR-X’s adaptive cruise control, as the CVT’s ability to constantly adjust its gearing in a linear fashion means it can make tiny adjustments to cruise control speed (when it approaches a vehicle ahead, for example) almost imperceptibly.
The chassis is more impressive than the powertrain. Losing a bit of weight has certainly helped, but overall the Outlander has a nimble feel that belies its stature. It’s not the least bit sporty, but it is crisp and quite rewarding to drive on the open road.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
As a driver you get the benefit of driver-assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and sat-nav – all impressive for what is still a mainstream family vehicle.
But it’s highly practical machine as well. It’s not just that the Outlander can carry seven people. The luggage space is vast and very usable by class standards. In seven-seat configuration there’s not much space, but that’s just a fact of life when you have an occasional third row. As a five-seater, Outlander boasts a massive boot and wide opening, while with the middle row folded as well it’s almost van-like.
One further convenience feature: the VR-X boasts a powered tailgate, which is another touch of luxury on a very mainstream nameplate.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
The decision might come down to the rather controversial retro-futuristic styling. I quite like it, but plenty of people I encountered thought the car looked a bit awkward, with its rounded edges, hockey-stick grille and prominent overhangs.
The Outlander still lacks refinement and cabin quality compared with some rivals, but it’s vastly improved over the previous model and the extremely high level of equipment will be a draw for many. It’s certainly an attention-grabber in a crowded segment.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: Yes
Cruise control: Adaptive with collision mitigation
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: Yes
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Lane guidance: Yes
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Power boot or tailgate: Yes
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40 second row, 50/50 third row
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Stop-start: NoTrip computer