What's Hot: Much improved CVT auto, quiet and comfy on-road, standout styling.
What's Not: Inadequate front-passenger legroom, fuel consumption not the best.
X-FACTOR: Family friendly seven-seat capability in a comfortable, easy-driving, light duty SUV.
Vehicle style: Medium SUV
Engine/trans: 124kW/220Nm 2.4 litre petrol | 6spd (virtual ratios) CVT.
Fuel consumption claimed: 7.0 l/100km on 91RON unleaded | tested: 10.5 l/100km.
It's not often in the motoring business that just two weeks after its debut at a major international motor show, a new car arrives in Australia.
This is exactly what has happened with Mitsubishi's Outlander SUV.
The medium-large SUV had its global unveiling at the New York Auto Show, and, a couple of weeks later, here it is.
It's a bit over a decade since the first Outlander was launched in this country and, since then, the car has established itself as a solid, if unspectacular, performer.
It sits mid-pack in the segment among a huge selection of competing petrol and diesel models - a growing number of which offer seven seats.
In the case of the Outlander, there are three variants - LS (in both 2WD and 4WD versions), XLS (with the same driveline choice) and the top-spec Exceed which is a four-paw-only vehicle.
Only the XLS and the Exceed are available as diesels. All petrol variants have a continuously variable transmission while the diesel is mated with a six-speed automatic.
For this test, we drovee the mid-spec XLS petrol.
- Digital audio, Bluetooth with voice command and steering-wheel controls
- Colour LCD display, satellite navigation
- Reversing camera and reverse sensors
- LED daytime running lights and rear lights, front-and-rear fog lights
- Automatic headlights and wipers
- Cruise control
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
- Dual zone air-conditioning
- Cargo blind and 18-inch alloy wheels
Quality: Mitsubishi has done a lot of work on improving the look and feel of the Outlander's interior.
The XLS comes with new higher-quality fabric seat trim with some stitching highlights that give it a classier look.
There is also new headlining and a reworked, better-to-hold, leather-wrapped steering wheel with multi-function controls.
Carbon-fibre look trim-panels on the dash and front doors also add to the improved feel and there is soft-touch plastic for the dash-top and the tops of the doors.
While not the plushest interior in its segment - and not in the same league as the class-leading Mazda CX-5 - the refreshed Outlander's cabin is a pleasant enough place to be.
The infotainment screen is not as big as we'd like, but things are well-placed in this well laid-out cabin.
Comfort: In response to customer feedback, Mitsubishi seat designers have put a lot of work into where buyers place their posteriors… and it shows.
The front seats have excellent hip-and-thigh bolstering that hold firmly and comfortably.
Dual-zone climate-control air-con adds to cabin comfort, and NVH improvements have made the cabin much quieter on-road.
Ride comfort has also been improved thanks to chassis and suspension improvements (quite noticeable on bumpy surfaces).
Storage: Because of its seven-seat layout, cargo capacity varies enormously depending on which seats are occupied or folded away.
Put the neighbours' kids in the third row, and you're left with only 128 litres. Fold their seats away and it rises to 477 litres.
Drop the second-row seats flat and you come up with a pretty cavernous 1608 litres.
Other storage compartments include four cup-holders, a deep glovebox (the lid of which opens onto the passenger's knees), an open tray beneath the centre stack, one map pocket behind the front-passenger's seat back (why not two?) and a roof-mounted sunglasses holder.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Mitsubishi engineers have done a lot of work on the CVT transmission, the electric power steering calibration, and damper tuning and suspension.
And the improvements are obvious. While still not the best CVT about - that honour goes to Subaru - the newly tweaked Outlander unit is pretty good, especially when launching from a stop.
The responsiveness generally is improved, but it can be found wanting when accelerating out of a slow turn. Then, it can feel a little doughy while it gathers momentum.
The result is that you'll tend to ‘stick the boot in' harder, which doesn't speed things up but results in a lot more revs and, no doubt, helps explain the heavier thirst - we got nowhere near Mitsubishi's claimed fuel consumption.
(That ‘doughy-ness' in rolling acceleration also means it needs a decent shove if you have to overtake.)
With the tested XLS however, there are paddles at the wheel (fixed to the column rather than following the turn of the wheel), that give more control over up-and-down shifts.
Refinement: This is another area where the 2016 Outlander is much improved.
There is additional chassis bracing, noise-isolating windscreen-and-tailgate glass, new tyres, more insulation material in key noise-transfer areas and new dynamic dampers.
All of this is designed to improve noise, vibration and harshness and provide a quieter, more refined ride.
You will notice it. The refreshed Outlander is now nearly as quiet as the serene PHEV (its below-floor battery pack makes it especially quiet on-road).
Ride and handling: Again, there are noticeable improvements in the Outlander's ride and handling.
Though the suspension underpinnings are stiffened slightly, the front end remains soft (by modern standards), and ride comfort is generally very good.
It also feels quite a bit more settled than the previous model on bumpier road surfaces.
The re-calibrated electric power steering is also better weighted; it's very light at low speeds, and, overall, quite settled on-road.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: There are seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver's knee), a reversing camera and sensors, traction and active stability control, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, hill-start assist and tyre-pressure monitoring.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: The Outlander comes with a five-year/100,000km warranty (it's been cut from 130,000km)
Service costs: With maintenance scheduled for every 12 months or 15,000km, Mitsubishi offers capped-price servicing of $375 per service for the 4WD petrol Outlander
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY RATING:
The medium SUV segment is a tough environment and the Outlander XLS has some fierce competition.
Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2.5 litre petrol ($35,790) - The segment-leading five-seat Mazda has more power-and-torque (138kW/250Nm versus 124kW/220Nm) than the Outlander.
The Outlander is however roomier inside with its second-row seats either occupied or folded flat. But, the CX-5's real world fuel use is better than the Outlander. (see CX-5 reviews)
Nissan X-Trail ST-L petrol ($37,590) - With 126kW and 226Nm, the handsome new X-Trail has a tad more power and torque than the Outlander but also offers seven seats.
It's quite a bit more capable off-road (though still a very light duty SUV) than the Outlander and also labours with a CVT. (see X-Trail reviews)
Subaru Forester 2.5i-L petrol ($34,990) - Like the Nissan, the Forester has slightly more power (126kW) and torque (235Nm) than the Outlander.
Like the CX-5, this is a very appealing car. Its cargo capacity is slightly less than the Mitsubishi, which actually feels bigger all round. (see Forester reviews)
Note all prices are Manufacturers' List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The refreshed 2015 Outlander's distinctive new ‘shield' frontal treatment certainly makes a bold statement and gives the car an edgier and quite striking on-road persona.
It's a roomy, family-friendly wagon that will get you and your brood capably and comfortably around the city, and then just as capably get them all loaded up and out of town.
While it's a light-duty SUV (so that means no off-road tracks), the XLS tested here has the added security of AWD, as well as the Outlander's seven-seat capability.
The price, at $36,490 (unchanged from the previous model) is a bit of a hurdle, as is the fuel consumption (although our cars were very ‘tight' with few kilometres on the clock), but this new model is improved most places you care to look, especially in ride and handling.
Still not the class leader, but we'd recommend a close look. It's certainly worth a place on medium SUV buyers' shopping lists - especially if the added practicality of seven seats is on the menu.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- 2WD Outlander LS MT - $27,740 (up $750)
- 2WD Outlander LS CVT - $29,990 (up $500)
- 2WD Outlander XLS CVT - $33,490 (no change)
- 4WD Outlander LS CVT - $32,990 (up $500)
- 4WD Outlander XLS CVT - $36,490 (no change)
- 4WD Outlander Exceed CVT - $43,890 (down $400)
- 4WD Outlander XLS DiD 6AT - $39,490 (no change)
- 4WD Outlander Exceed DiD 6AT - $46,890 (down $400)