What’s hot: Improved interior, ultra-quiet diesel, seven-seat availability
What’s not: Tyre noise, reduced cargo capacity, jittery ride, higher boot lip
X-Factor: Those seven seats will be a plus for families, as will be the refined new diesel
Vehicle style: Medium SUV
|2.0 litre petrol - CVT||110kW/190Nm||6.6 l/100km|
|2.4 litre petrol - CVT||124kW/220Nm||7.5 l/100km|
|2.2 litre turbo diesel - 6A||110kW/360Nm||5.8 l/100km|
Although a reasonably strong seller for Mitsubishi, the previous Outlander mid-size SUV was not without its flaws.
In a brutally honest presentation to the media, Mitsubishi acknowledged that the last-generation model suffered from below-par interior quality, excessive noise, vibration and harshness, and a third-row seat that was cramped, uncomfortable and difficult to operate.
With the 2013 Outlander, Mitsubishi has addressed those flaws - but at the same time introduced a few new weaknesses.
For one, it looks rather plain-Jane: the new Outlander is almost anonymous. Somehow, the wow-factor of its inspiration, the PX-MiEV concept car, has been lost on the journey down the production line.
But there’s finally a diesel in the range. And while Mitsubishi expects the diesel to account for just 15 percent of Outlander sales, in our opinion it’s the one to get. Quiet, tractable and smooth, this is precisely the kind of engine for a modern SUV.
It’s a familiar story around the rest of the car. In some areas Mitsubishi giveth, but in other areas taketh. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cabin.
While the old Outlander’s dash looked like it was ripped from the Triton, the new Outlander’s interior has far more panache.
There’s a vast improvement in quality and visual appeal. The dashboard now sports a modern design, with a large gloss-black fascia tying the centre stack and instrument panel together.
The upper dash is trimmed in soft-touch plastics, and soft surfacing is more prominent in areas like the door trims.
However, the fake woodgrain accents in the high-grade Aspire look cheap and nasty. The faux aluminium trim in the lesser grades is actually far more appealing.
The front seats are very, very firmly cushioned, and the front passenger seat has no height adjustment. However, we didn’t actually find them uncomfortable after a long day behind the wheel - it appears the padding, though firm, is in the right place.
The sliding second row is spacious and boasts plenty of head, shoulder and knee room. A near-flat floor also increases the usability of the centre seat.
But like the front seats, the second-row cushions are very firm, and the squab is rather flat and lacking in under-thigh support. Not so much of an issue for short-legged children, but not quite so comfortable for adults.
One of the biggest improvements in the new Outlander is the complete re-jigging of the third row seats.
Standard on all 4WD models bar the entry-level ES, the third row is now easier to deploy (you simply lift up the backrest and lock it into position) and far more comfortable than before.
In the previous Outlander, you’d send your kids to the third row as punishment. In the new car, it’s actually a reasonably comfortable place to be - provided you’re no taller than 5’4.
Fold down the second and third row and you get a flat floor that’s perfect for hauling flat-pack furniture.
Unfortunately, the total load area is reduced, measuring in at 477 litres with the rear seats up - a whopping 112 litres smaller than the last model.
Fold the seats down and the size difference is less dramatic, with 1608 litres available.
While the outgoing Outlander had a split tailgate, its replacement has a single-piece tailgate and the boot lip-height has consequently been raised.
Having a low loading height was one of the old Outlander’s best attributes, and we think it’s a shame that the split gate has been deleted.
ON THE ROAD
At the bottom of the range, the 2013 Outlander is powered by a 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated petrol four, with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard or an optional CVT automatic. All 2.0 litre Outlanders are front-wheel-drive.
Surprisingly, the 110kW/190Nm 2.0 litre engine didn’t feel as underwhelming as we expected. Married to the CVT it wasn’t exactly quick, but it wasn’t breathless either.
It’s also relatively smooth and quiet - unless near its 6000rpm redline. The 2.0 can struggle when faced with a serious incline, or with weight in the back, and you’ll need the revs up to push along.
The 2.4 litre petrol is a more relaxed device although it produces only 124kW and 220Nm - just 14kW and 30Nm more than the 2.0 litre.
It’s got decent torque around 4000rpm, but the throttle mapping is too sensitive: half-throttle sees the CVT pegging revs at a high 6000rpm (where peak power is made).
Generally speaking, the Outlander’s CVT isn’t one of the best around. Kickdown performance is slow and it’s indecisive under acceleration, constantly shifting rpm as it determines what ratio is best.
It should also be mentioned that two 2.4 litre Outlanders experienced CVT overheating issues and went into ‘limp-mode’ during the drive. With the CVT being the only transmission for the 2.4 litre petrol, there’s no way around these issues.
The situation is more rosy with the diesel. A 2.2 litre turbodiesel four, the diesel replaces the previous petrol V6 as the most muscular motor in the range, with 110kW and a substantial 360Nm of torque.
Diesel clatter is barely perceptible at idle; for general refinement, this is certainly one of the best diesels in this segment.
It’s so smooth and quiet throughout its rev range, we kept glancing at the tachometer to double-check that yes, were were in fact driving the oiler.
Backed up by a six-speed conventional automatic, the diesel’s drivetrain is also a winner. It’s got the right ratios to make the most of the 2.2 turbodiesel’s strong midrange torque, and it shifts early to keep fuel consumption down.
In terms of dynamics, the Outlander - in both 2WD and 4WD variants - is predictable, grippy and reasonably agile. There’s good resistance to body roll too, but the steering is too light for our liking.
On the Aspire’s 18-inch wheels, there’s abundant tyre roar on coarse chip asphalt, and the ride can be jittery on roads that are less than glass-smooth.
The base model 2WD Outlander ES actually handles and rides the best, with less weight to shift and taller sidewalls to help soak up smaller bumps and reduce road noise.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Finally available with a diesel, with this engine the new Outlander is at its absolute best.
The vast improvements in interior quality, space and comfort also merit a tick for Mitsubishi, but not so good is the compromised load-carrying ability.
The CVT in the petrol models is also a very ordinary transmission, and pricing is on the high side of the mid-size SUV segment.
But some traditional Outlander strengths remain, like quite good grip and the availability of seven seats - a rarity in this vehicle class.
Certainly, the new Outlander is better than before, but there’s still room for improvement.
- Outlander ES 2.0 litre petrol manual 2WD - $28,990
- Outlander ES 2.0 litre petrol CVT 2WD - $31,240
- Outlander ES 2.4 litre petrol CVT 4WD
- Outlander LS 2.0 litre petrol CVT 2WD - $34,990
- Outlander LS 2.4 litre petrol CVT 4WD - $38,990
- Outlander LS 2.2 litre diesel automatic 4WD - $40,990
- Outlander Aspire 2.4 litre petrol CVT 4WD - $43,490
- Outlander Aspire 2.2 litre diesel automatic 4WD - $45,490