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A look at the new Mitsubishi Outlander range

 

Who dislikes the look of the Outlander? Lots of people, apparently, so Mitsubishi has rushed through a facelift model after only two years on sale. We take a look at the new range.

New Zealanders obviously rather like the current Mitsubishi Outlander’s retro-futuristic styling: it’s the brand’s number one seller here (about 1500 cars per year) and has achieved even greater volume than the sporty-looking first-generation model.

But the rest of the world has not been so keen on Outlander’s look, which is why Mitsubishi has rushed to give the medium-sized crossover a facelift after only two years on sale.

Ironically, New Zealand is the first market in the world to get the new model. Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand (MMNZ) had examples for media to drive at a recent launch event in Wellington, the same month the car made its global debut at the New York Auto Show.

The obvious change for Outlander is the new frontal styling, which embraces a styling template that Mitsubishi calls Dynamic Shield. It comprises a new front bumper, grille and headlights, with daytime running lights on all models and new LED main lamps on the higher-specification XLS and VRX (pictured) versions. Expect to see this look replicated on other future SUVs from the Japanese brand.

At the rear, there’s a wider bumper and revised LED tail light design, as well as a new lower side-door garnish. The main body panels – bonnet, doors and roof – are all carried over, as it the main cabin architecture. However, inside there is a new steering wheel, revised front-seat design, redesigned trim and minor improvements such as soft-touch finish on the centre console and a sunglass holder for the VRX.

“We thought we were getting a significant facelift,” says MMNZ head of sales and marketing Daniel Cook. “But we actually got a vehicle that’s been dynamically enhanced.”

The Outlander also has a new-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT), similar to that already fitted to the smaller ASX. The introduction of the new gearbox has prompted Cook to admit what we knew all along: the engine-flaring of the current-generation CVT was criticised by customers and has been addressed in the new model.

“The mapping has been changed for much better acceleration feel,” says Cook. “When you put your foot down, the revs increase aggressively but then become more linear. There’s more immediate response but then a much smoother increase, more like a conventional automatic.”

MMNZ is not sure whether the changes equate to faster acceleration, as there is not yet an official 0-100km/h time from the factory. But Cook says the more important aspect is “acceleration feel”. The changes do result in four percent better fuel economy for the petrol models, from 6.7 litres per 100km for the front-drive LS to 7.2 litres for the all-wheel drive versions.

Other mechanical changes include retuned electronic power steering and larger rear shock absorbers.

Cook says a major focus for the new model was noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Changes in this area have been made with help from the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), which carries much more sound-deadening than regular models. There have been 39 individual changes to the new Outlander to maintain the peace, including thicker windscreen glass, increased insulation inside the wheel arches and extra dampening around the roof, doors and rear-quarter panels.

Restricted drive-time meant we didn’t get to try the petrol-CVT Outlander, but a stint in the VRX diesel (which has a conventional automatic gearbox) highlighted the NVH improvements. Engine and road noise were both issues in the previous model, but the new car was indeed much quieter on coarse-chip seal.

Ironically, after giving its best to help the regular Outlander range, the PHEV won’t get the styling update until later in the year. Expect even more differentiation between it and the mainstream lineup as the model range moves forward.

Prices are unchanged for the new Outlander: the 2.0 LS front-drive starts at $39,990, with a $400 premium for the 2.4-litre all-wheel drive. The 2.4 is also available as an XLS ($47,490) and VRX ($54,490), with a $2500 premium for the 2.2-litre diesel engine in both specification levels. Diesel fuel economy remains unchanged at 6.2 litres per 100km.

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