Mitsubishi's all-new Outlander, launching this week, is set to repeat one of the big success stories of New Zealand motoring.
Over 7,500 Kiwi owners (and a million more worldwide) have enjoyed what's become NZ's favourite midsize SUV. Now comes the third-generation 2013 Outlander, a totally re-engineered premium vehicle packed with technology and delivering even more driving pleasure, greater passenger safety and massively improved fuel economy.
The new Outlander is the world's first model designed, from the outset, for petrol and diesel engines and PHEV plug-in hybrid technology too. (The hybrid will be here mid-2013).
New Smart MIVEC 2-litre and 2.4-litre petrol engines use up to 20 percent less fuel than current models. A super-smooth 2.2 litre clean diesel, with exceptional low-down torque and 5.8l/100km economy, joins the line-up for the first time.
Inside, there's been a quiet revolution: everywhere you look there's a soft-touch premium look and feel. Extraordinary extra space, too. Exterior dimensions are unchanged, yet the designers have freed up more room everywhere: third row passengers benefit handsomely, and when you fold down the rear seats you discover a bigger-than-ever 1.7m-long flat floor. There's easy access from the power tailgate, operated remotely from your console or your smart key (VRX only).
A big chunk of Outlander's appeal, of course, is its go-anywhere do-anything capability. Five of the six new models are 4WD, electronically-controlled to give you full off-road confidence. For daily use, an eco mode shifts from two driven wheels to four when the system senses the road getting slippery.
Smart fuel economy
Mitsubishi has developed its cleanest, most efficient internal combustion engines yet. The new Smart MIVEC 2-litre and 2.4-litre petrol engines, a total redesign of Mitsubishi's continuously variable valve-lifting system, pave the way for massive cuts in fuel use and emissions.
The 2.2-litre clean diesel combines 366Nm torque and 2-tonne braked towing capacity with class-leading economy - a potential 1,000 kilometres from a single tankful.
Aiding and abetting the engines' economy achievements are 7 percent less drag from improved aerodynamics, savings from the petrol models' CVT transmission - further refined for better gear selection timing - and a 100kg weight saving from more use of high-tensile steel, the lightweight alloy wheels fitted to all Outlanders, and other design tweaks.
Constantly helping you avoid a possible highway shunt is the VRX models' new "e-Assist" technology. Select cruise control and ACC (adaptive cruise control) keeps the car at your pre-selected safe distance from the vehicle in front. FCM (forward collision mitigation) senses a possible collision, primes the brakes and alerts the driver: if the driver doesn't brake, FCM does.
Other advances include the "wide vision" xenon headlamps whose 1,350 lumen beams light up twice as much road as conventional HID lamps, and the 125 degree extreme wide-angle rear view monitor system that in every Outlander is integrated into the seven-inch touch screen audio panel.
A 5-star safety rating for 2013 Outlander is anticipated.
Pursuing every last opportunity to improve quietness and refinement, Outlander's interior designers decided a shade more window glass could mitigate some exterior noise: not huge, but it adds to the decibel and vibration protection created elsewhere through clever soundproofing, cutting back oscillation, and suspension insulation innovations. In technical terms it's about minimising NVH, or noise, vibration and harshness, but for whoever's in the car it's about being in a calm, relaxing environment with minimum distractions.
Outlander's interior is replete with premium materials, a new padded, soft-touch feel with a refined silver- or wood-accented finish; leather seats with power controls and heating for driver and front passenger; comfortable, full size third row seats, 120mm wider overall and split 50/50 to maximise flexibility; dual zone air conditioning so driver and front passenger can each choose their preferred setting, without debate.*
All the modern styling and hi-tech 4WD performance in the world wouldn't get you into an SUV unless it had plenty of easily-accessible space to let you do what you want to do. Clearly, Outlander's exceptionally easy-to-use space helped put it to the forefront of NZ's mid-size SUVs.
Mitsubishi's "space engineers" have gone a step further. Seating is now tailored more flexibly still. A new double-action folding mechanism for the 60/40-split second row seats lets the user raise the seat cushion and fold forward the seat back with much less effort. These seats now slide 250mm, providing more legroom for third-row passengers and easier access to the 50/50-split third-row seats, which now have a "one-touch tilt down" action: fold forward the seat back, and the seat lowers.