One of the evaluations I remember most vividly was in 2010 and it involved a Mitsubishi Outlander sport utility vehicle.
A storm was blowing through Canterbury and I was high on Banks Peninsula with heavy rain and torrents of water washing across the road. The Outlander was a V6-powered model with all the trick four-wheel-drive gear that had been developed for Mitsubishi’s World Rally Championship-winning Lancer.
Along with the water, there were also rivers of mud in places, yet the slippery, greasy conditions were no match for the power proportioning driveline, the car felt stable, the huge power outputs didn’t test grip and the Outlander felt as if the tyres were doing their job thanks to the clever electronics.
Long gone is the V6 Outlander, and with many upgrades and life cycle changes since, a new Outlander has just landed. It’s also fair to say the drive system isn’t quite the same as I’ve just described, but with the benefit of all that knowledge, the new Outlander is still a force to be reckoned with in today’s sport utility vehicle market.
The changes for 2018/2019 haven’t altered the Outlander’s concept, it is still the large five or seven-seater SUV that Kiwis have embraced willingly. It has been a big seller here, and the upgraded model will only add to that appeal. Most of the changes are cosmetic, it’s fresher inside and out, and along with new seats and new suspension the car is a lot more comfortable and controlled.
There are eight, two and four-wheel-drive models in the Outlander range (PHEV plug-in model aside), they range from $32,990 to $56,990 for the turbocharged diesel 4WD VRX, as tested.
In high-grade form the Outlander gets on-board items way too numerous to detail in full, but major inclusions are radar cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, full leather trim, heated front seats and a comprehensive infotainment system which includes Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
Under the bonnet sits a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine and, unlike its petrol counterparts that have continuously variable automatic transmission, the diesel works with a traditional six-speed torque converter automatic.
The engine is a beauty with its 112kW and 366Nm power outputs, and if you take into account that peak power is listed at just 3500rpm and maximum torque available all of the way from 1500rpm to 2750rpm there is a strong mid-range surge of turbocharged boost.
However, it’s fair to say the test car was still quite tight, the trip meter was showing just 200km when I picked it up and at times it felt as if it needed a little freeing up. As a consequence, I didn’t do any hard acceleration runs, not wanting to afflict abnormal pressure on the new engine, but a standstill to 100km/h time of around 9sec can be expected.
For the same reasons, I also felt it would be unfair to publish my own fuel usage results, but Mitsubishi claims a 6.2-litre per 100km (46mpg) figure, and from previous experience with this engine in the ASX, I wouldn’t dispute that.
I took the evaluation car on a highway burst through Darfield to Burnham, returning to my home in the city suburbs through Lincoln. The diesel Outlander cruises quietly, and it is very involving through the chassis, that statement backed up through the feel you get from the new suspension, it is rigid and promotes a taut feel.
I’m not saying the ride is compromised, it’s not, but you definitely have a sure-footed connection with the road. Steerage is accurate, while body balance over the suspension is strong, and grip through the large Toyo tyres (225/55 x 18) feels secure.
During the time I had the Outlander I started a bit of a garage clean-out, taking some accumulated recycling to the transfer station. It’s in the everyday environment that SUVs come into their own, and the Outlander is no exception.
If you don’t need the rear rows of seats upright, the load space is cavernous – up to 1608-litres can be carried in total. Importantly, the Outlander also has a 2000kg tow rating which means you can hook up that small boat or caravan for the summer holiday.
Sport utility vehicles aren’t really the quintessential off-roader, you’d better leave that to the Pajero Sport or Triton from the Mitsubishi stable. However, the Outlander in this form with its 190mm ground clearance figure is useful if it comes to cross-country travel.
The lessons Mitsubishi has learnt with its four-wheel-drive development through the years has been beneficial in terms of today’s road cars, the Outlander is still a desirable purchase. It also has the benefit of a 10-year driveline warranty, which brings peace of mind, you know it’s been engineered to last.
Price – Mitsubishi Outlander, $56,990
Dimensions – Length, 4695mm; width, 1810mm; height, 1710mm
Configuration – Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 2268cc, 112kW, 366Nm, six-speed automatic
Fuel usage –6.2l/100km