2010 Mitsubishi ZH Outlander First Drive Review
MITSUBISHI?S OUTLANDER may not immediately bring the image of a jet fighter to mind, but the prosaic family wagon now has just that look. This is thanks to the integration of the well-regarded Lancer Evolution X nose.
The more aggressive, and, we have to say, very appealing look, was first previewed at the New York International Auto Show earlier this year with the showing of the Outlander GT concept.
The other thing we?d have to say at the outset is that it?s been a case of trial and error with the Outlander with the first two iterations being somewhat stylistically challenged.
Never mind, that?s all resolved now with this very successful addition of the ?jet fighter schnoz? to the Outlander.
At the same time, Mitsubishi has introduced a range of feature upgrades, including Hill Start Control on the automatic transmission versions, and the again Evo X inspired Super All-Wheel Control for V6 engine models.
Mitsubishi Motors has high hopes for its sharper-looking ZH. Mitsubishi Australia President and CEO, Robert McEniry describes it as having ?city-friendly size and style (with) rugged off-road capabilities and all the technology we could squeeze into it?.
The front grille design is complemented by a reshaped front bumper, side mirrors, headlamps, front guards and bonnet.
The rear has also come in for some attention. It is now squarer at the base with a new rear bumper and side-sills completing the ?toughened? sports styling look.
To complement the new exterior, the Outlander interior design has been freshened with the addition of new seat, door and dash trims, grained leather to premium models, double stitching, chrome accents and a brilliant new instrument cluster.
It?s all a lot more up-market in look and feel and provides a lot more soft surfaces. Too much hard plastic was something Mitsubishi picked up on from customer clinics and it?s moved to give the Outlander a plusher and softer feel on the inside.
(The stitched leather look across the dash, instrument binnacle and running across the tops of the doors is quite smart.)
Keeping up the Lancer-inspired theme are Evo-inspired aluminium racing-style pedals and a sport-type steering wheel.
Merging Mitsubishi?s experience in off-road and rally racing with production car development, the V6 Outlander features the revolutionary Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system.
The system goes beyond simple four-wheel drive, with S-AWC offering a comprehensive system that improves handling, traction and stability.
Using a first-in-class active front limited-slip differential and an electronically controlled four-wheel drive coupling, S-AWC can prevent wheel slip between front to rear and side-to-side, providing greater traction through all types of terrain and inclement weather, including ice, snow and rain.
Of course, it has to be remembered that this is very much a city car that can go outdoors when the family wants to head down a bush track on to the beach, not your full-on four-wheel-drive.
The 2010 model year Outlander continues with two tried and trusted engine choices.
First, the 2.4 litre DOHC 16-valve MPI MIVEC engine provides spirited performance, yet frugal motoring for drivers with a keen eye for economy.
It generates 125kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm of torque at 4100rpm and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission or an optional continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT) with Sports Mode sequential-style virtual six-speed and INVECS Smart Logic.
However, drivers with a need for speed will choose the powerful V6 3.0 litre SOHC 24-valve MPI MIVEC engine that generates 169KW of power at 6250rpm and 291Nm of torque at 3750rpm.
The V6 benefits from improvements to the all-aluminium engine, including a reduction in intake restriction plus optimised camshaft timing and compression ratio.
These changes have raised the maximum output by a modest 7kW, but, importantly, also contribute to an improved torque curve for more responsive city driving and improved fuel efficiency and better emissions.
The 3.0 litre V6 engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sports Mode sequential shifting and INVECS Smart Logic.
Mitsubishi hopes this latest version of the Outlander has what it takes to move it from minor player in the ?soft? SUV market to a major seller against the likes of the Subaru Forester, Nissan X-Trail and the Toyota RAV4.
Outlander offers a comprehensive line-up of variants, with the 2.4 litre version available in three specification levels, the LS (manual or CVT), XLS and the XLS Luxury option (these last two with CVT only).
The V6 version offers two specification levels, the VR and the VRX, both models with six-speed automatic transmission only but both well-kitted inside (especially the VRX with Rockford audio, Mitsubishi?s multi-communication system, sunroof, reversing camera, and multi-function display).
Safety is also a focus with the Outlander. All models feature driver and front passenger dual-stage airbags, active stability control and ABS with EBD. Side and curtain airbags are optional on the LS, but standard on all other models.
Putting both the range-topping VRX V6 model and a lower-spec 2.4 litre model through their paces in the northern regions of New South Wales provided some interesting first impressions.
The 2.4 litre kicks along quite nicely on most roads and feels both a strong performer and a nicely balanced vehicle.
There?s excellent sharp steering and a reasonable ride quality, although it can get a little choppy on some inferior road surfaces.
The tyres fitted to both Outlander models also produced a little more ?road roar? on coarser tarmac than we would have liked. (The Triton we drove was ? unexpectedly - a little better isolated and quieter inside over similar road surfaces.)
The Outlander though can be punted along swiftly and confidently. It has surprising cornering grip, turn in and levels of adhesion. Using the paddle-shifts in the V6 (to get the best out of the engine), it can really be hustled along if demanded.
Off the beaten track the dual-purpose character of the Outlander emerges. It has good ground clearance and feels very secure on loose gravel, although we only drove a vehicle with the standard AWD system on this type of surface.
Our drive in the S-AWD equipped VRX was confined to tarmac so we had little chance to determine just what difference this more sophisticated AWD system made to things.
Surprisingly, we found the V6 engine less impressive than its smaller capacity sibling (despite its extra kilowatts); it was a little lethargic at lower revs or noisy and flustered when pushed hard.
On the other hand, both the CVT and the six-speed auto were smooth performers that did a more-than-adequate job of getting the power to the road.
With comfortable and supportive seats, a large easily-accessed cargo area (and a seven-seat option), good manners on-road and versatile off it, the revised Mitsubishi Outlander is the company?s best shot yet at making its mark in this segment.
With punchy new looks and upgraded specifications, plus pricing that?s virtually unchanged, the new model makes a solid case to buyers.
2.4 litre models
- LS: $33,240 (plus on-roads) (Add $850 for side and curtain air-bags, add $1950 for seven seats plus side and curtain air-bags.)
- XLS: $40,490 (plus on-roads)
- XLS Luxury Option: $47,990 (plus on-roads) (Fitted with 18-inch alloys, Rockford audio, Mitsubishi Multi-communication System.)
3.0 litre V6 models
- VR: $40,990 (plus on-roads)
- VRX: $51,990 (plus on-roads)
Where it sits
Price range comparison of ZH Outlander against major competitors:
- Outlander: $33,240 to $51,990 (plus on-roads)
- Rav: $33,490 to $51,290 (plus on-roads)
- CRV: $32,990 to $42,990 (plus on-roads)
- X-Trail: $32,990 to $39,240 (plus on-roads)
- Forester: $30,990 to $41,490 (plus on-roads)