David Linklater reviews the latest Mitsubishi Outlander VRX.
Base price: $54,490.
Powertrain and performance: 2.4-litre petrol four, 126kW/224Nm, continuously variable transmission, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.2 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4695mm long, 1680mm high, 2670mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 477-1608 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 tyres.
We like: Smoother transmission, improved refinement, adaptive cruise control.
We don’t like: Conservative interior, ordinary engine.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Previously marked by its distinctively retro exterior styling, the Mitsubishi Outlander has been relaunched with a new look that its maker calls ‘dynamic shield’, with changes to the grille, front and rear bumpers, tailgate and side sills. We test the flagship petrol-powered model, the VRX.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? You could argue that it’s too early in the Outlander’s life cycle for a facelift, but there have also been major changes to the powertrain and suspension that are most welcome.
The 2.4-litre engine is carried over, but the continuously variable transmission (CVT) has been substantially recalibrated to give better driving feel. CVT is a fact of life these days – it’s favoured by most Japanese carmakers for its efficiency and ease of use. But it’s not the most driver-focused gearbox technology, because with no set ratios it tends to wander up and down the rev range and flare up when hard acceleration is required.
The previous Outlander’s CVT was not one of the better ones for driver appeal, but changes to this model have markedly improved the driving dynamics.
The CVT calibration has been changed to give more immediate response to the throttle, so instead of meandering up the rev range it now jumps to attention when you ask for hard acceleration.
Mitsubishi also claims that there is 26 percent less torque loss with the new CVT. This helps not only with responsiveness but also fuel efficiency, which has improved by four percent.
The handling has also evolved, with extra body strengthening and recalibrated suspension.
The other big improvement with the revised Outlander is refinement. A bugbear of the previous model was engine and road noise. Mitsubishi has learned from the soundproofing that was applied to the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) and applied some of it to the standard models, including thicker glass and heavier door seals. It’s made a real difference to the petrol VRX. A switch to Goodyear Eagle tyres has also played a part.
Previously, New Zealand’s coarse-chip seal (admittedly, a tough test for any car) was an earplug scenario for the Outlander driver.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Outlander has never had a radical interior and the styling has been carried over from the previous model, but with a new detail and trim touches intended to give a more luxurious feel.
The steering wheel is new, there are more soft-touch surfaces (the centre armrest, for example), new headlining material and additional comfort and convenience features, such as a sunglass holder and electro-chromatic mirror.
As always, the VRX is a seven-seater, although the third-row is strictly occasional. When not in use, it folds flat into the cargo floor.
The top VRX specification brings adaptive cruise control with forward collision mitigation, leather upholstery, more interior brightwork, rain-sensing wipers, power tailgate and larger seven-inch touch screen with satellite navigation.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Kiwi market is dominated by SUVs and the Outlander has traditionally been one of the most popular models in the medium segment.
You can make up your own mind about the new look, but the improvements wrought to performance and refinement for the revamped model are obvious and appealing. The provision of that third-row seating also continues to give the Mitsubishi an edge among family buyers.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Adaptive
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40 second row, 50/50 third row