Even though Mitsubishi has had a pair of sport utility vehicles on sale in recent years, the companys marketers determined that a third model was necessary. Because young buyers have been flocking toward smaller SUVs and Mitsubishi caters to that end of the age spectrum the new compact Outlander SUV is dimensionally smaller than the Montero and Montero Sport.
Unveiled at the New York International Auto Show in March 2002, the Outlander takes clear aim at young and youthful-minded buyers. We are confident that the Outlander will shake up the entry-level market, said President and Chief Operating Officer Pierre Gagnon during the SUVs introduction. Gagnon added that both the Outlander and the redesigned 2003 Montero promise an edgy sense of style and rugged SUV heritage. Mitsubishi also guarantees an easy and playful demeanor from the Outlander. A fully independent suspension is intended to give the entry-level crossover vehicle a carlike ride.
LS and XLS trim levels will be available with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Prices are expected to start below $18,000, and Mitsubishi expects to sell about 40,000 Outlanders per year. The Japanese automaker also plans to produce a new midsize SUV, named Endeavor, which will be built in the United States starting late in 2002.
Boldness is the byword for the four-door, unibody Outlanders external appearance. The two-tone body blends painted metal with gray bumpers and chip-resistant urethane side sills.
The Outlander sits on a 103.3-inch wheelbase, stretches 179.1 inches long overall, measures 68.9 inches wide and stands 66.3 inches tall when a roof rack is installed. In contrast, the Montero Sport has a 107.3-inch wheelbase, a 181-inch overall length and a height of 67.7 inches. The Outlander has a fully independent front and rear suspension. A power sunroof will be optional.
Color-keyed door handles are standard. The manufacturer says the clear taillight lenses on the XLS add a dosage of urban chic and tuner styling. The tubular roof rack, which is standard on the XLS and optional on the LS, can be adapted to carry bikes, surfboards and skis. The XLS comes with fog lamps, privacy glass, 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and color-keyed outside mirrors.
The Outlander holds five occupants in an interior that Mitsubishi says resembles that of the sporty Eclipse coupe. Reclining, 60/40-split rear seats fold flat into the floor. A knee-height cargo floor conceals the spare tire, and the rear liftgate is hydraulically assisted. Cargo space totals 60.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Standard equipment for the LS includes air conditioning, a 140-watt CD stereo, cruise control, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. The XLS adds a white-faced instrument cluster, see-through headrests and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The XLS Luxury Package consists of side-impact airbags, heated leather seats and heated mirrors.
Under the Hood
Mitsubishis 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes 140 horsepower and 157 pounds-feet of torque; it teams with a four-speed Sportronic transmission that can operate either automatically or with manually selected gear changes. FWD and AWD versions will be available.
Side-impact airbags are optional and included in a Luxury Package for the XLS trim level. Antilock brakes are also offered as optional equipment.
Moving to the smaller end of the SUV spectrum, Mitsubishi has taken the expertise derived from years of producing larger models and turned out a respectable, if essentially ordinary, compact model. Other than experiencing a choppy ride on imperfect pavement and excessive engine blare on hard acceleration, the Outlander isnt a bad choice.
Some critics have suggested that the Outlander is comparatively slow and suffers a bit of hesitation on startup, but acceleration is acceptable. Low-speed passing power falls short of energetic, but it will suffice. Steering feel is reasonably good. The seats are comfortable and have good support, but the headrests impair rear and over-the-shoulder visibility. The gauges are small but easy to read, and they sit on a basic but interesting dashboard layout.