It is hard to explain where the Mitsubishi Outlander fits in the crossover/sport-utility-vehicle market. Is it a compact crossover competing with the likes of the Santa Fe Sport, the Jeep Cherokee, and the Mazda CX-5? Or does the Outlander face up with the likes of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Toyota Highlander, and the Mazda CX-9? Perhaps the best way to explain how the Mitsubishi fits in the market is to think of the time you looked back in your high school yearbook and said “oh, yeah, that guy!” You know, the kid who was a part of a few different sports teams, but was never the all-star. He was just there, no one knew why, but he just was.
Once an automotive division that showed such great potential, such as the Lancer Evolution, after the halt of Evo production, Mitsubishi has fallen short of massive success and thus has faded a little bit. For a large multifaceted corporation, it is strange that Mitsubishi has stayed at the back of the pack while classmates have moved onward and upward. Will the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC give Mitsubishi what it needs to get back on track?
The Mitsubishi Outlander, now in its third generation, was redesigned and introduced for the 2014 model year. Long gone are the days of the ugly bulging wheel arches, the Evolution-esque front end, and the old interior with enough hard plastic to hand tap the drum solo to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. When I picked up the keys to my 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC I was optimistic once I saw that it was painted in my favourite Mitsubishi paint colour, ‘Rally Red Metallic’. Outside, Mitsubishi has lessened the sharp edges on the rear quarter panel windows, and while the front end is not much to look at, complimented with the 18 inch two-tone alloy wheels, the Outlander grows on you. The Japanese automaker has also stated that this Outlander GT is approximately 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, weighing in at 3668 pounds. This makes the Outlander among the lightest in its class, again depending on what class you place it in.
Inside the 2015 Outlander, I was slightly surprised by the interior renovations. Some of them good, while others not so good. Softer touch materials, a clear and crisp gauge cluster, a centre console that is quite attractive to look at with just the right amount of buttons, and two-stage heated leather seats that were plush and comfortable to sit in. Not so good in the interior was the lack of a heated steering wheel and the presence of some faux silver carbon fibre dash trim that looked and felt like a previous owner had done it himself.
The GT S-AWC spec comes standard with a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch audio system with 9 speakers including a 10-inch subwoofer. For those that are not audiophiles, you should know that Rockford Fosgate makes good stuff and I was pleasantly surprised that this Mitsubishi featured it. Turning up the volume became a daily occurrence as this system sounded fantastic. Crisp highs paired with loud and booming bass made for a great listening experience. It should be noted that although the bass was boomy, I did not notice any rattling or lack of sound deadening, definitely a one up for Mitsubishi.
For a fee of $2,730, the GT S-AWC model also adds a navigation system on a 7 inch display. I found the navigation system difficult to use and I absolutely hated when the system would guess the street name too early and force me to scroll through what seemed like hundreds of streets. Other features included a power glass sunroof that was on the small side; and felt disproportionate for the vehicle’s size, a power tailgate that operated smoothly, a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control and a forward-collision mitigation system that would beep and flash “BRAKE!” if the Mitsubishi thinks you are too close to the car in front.
The Mitsubishi is billed as a 7-seater, which is slightly to blame for its class confusion. On the latest model, Mitsubishi has said that they have added a few inches of leg room, also sacrificing trunk space. After taking a closer look at the accommodations in the back, I deduced that the only people fitting in the third row would be small children or pets. Perhaps the true competitors of the Outlander are the Mazda CX-5, the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 anyhow?
This is where the Mitsubishi has the worst chance at ever being ‘class leading’. Although it’s one of the few entries in this class that even offer six-cylinder power to begin with (the Equinox is another), it requires premium fuel despite not having forced induction. With power being carried over from the same 3.0-liter Mitsubishi Innovative Valve-Timing Electronic Control System V6 engine, the mill is not as efficient as the competitors. The 3-liter engine has 227 horsepower and 215 lb-ft torque, paired to a 6-speed Sportronic automatic transmission, which also features paddle shifters for gear change requests. This is all fed to all four wheels thanks to the Super All Wheel Control system (S-AWC). With a mix of 55% highway and 45% city driving I averaged 10.8 L/100km in cold conditions. This is not too far off the combined average 10.1 L/100km claimed by Mitsubishi.
With four selectable modes: Eco, Normal, Snow, and Lock, it essentially has the same workings as the all-wheel drive system found in the Lancer Evolution, but albeit a less hardcore application. During a large snowstorm I put the S-AWC system into ‘Snow’ mode, turned off traction control and had at it. I was blown away by the performance of the vehicle in the snow. Everything about the way it handled was just so right. The system made the Outlander an unstoppable force, plowing through the snow. Flipping through the menu in the instrument cluster, you will be able to find a display of the torque vectoring system and can see it working in real time in the event of wheel slippage. Call it, the little devil and angel on your shoulders. It’ll let you have some fun, but still bring you back on course when you need it to.
With an as-tested price of $40,628.00 the Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC is not cheap by any means. So then the question returns; does the Outlander GT have a place in this market? Is there somewhere on this planet where you can wake up and say I am taking the Outlander GT over everything else it competes with. Maybe. If I lived somewhere it snowed every day of the year, and I needed great reliability, ruggedness, and an impeccable warranty, I would opt for the Outlander. But here on city roads, and highways, it is hard for the Outlander GT to fit in. There isn’t anything blatantly wrong with the Outlander GT, but competitors in whichever category the Mitsubishi finds itself in offer more soul-grabbing dynamics, better interior quality, and better efficiency. It’s a solid choice, but its competitors are two steps ahead.
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT Gallery