Mitsubishi redesigned its smallest SUV for 2007. The Outlander grew in size compared to the previous model, and that version was only available with a V-6 engine. For 2008, Mitsubishi adds a 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission to the mix.
The smaller engine helps fuel economy ratings, with a city rating that's 3 mpg better than the V-6's, according to Mitsubishi. The four-cylinder gets 20/25 mpg city/highway, while the V-6 gets 17/25 in two-wheel-drive models. Outlanders compete with the Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
The Outlander is available in LS, upscale XLS and new-for-2008 ES trims. An electronic stability system is standard on all models. Front- and all-wheel-drive models are offered, and the XLS has magnesium steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for driver-controlled gear changes of the six-speed automatic transmission.
Though not especially distinctive, the Outlander's front end is relatively pleasing. Wraparound headlights flank a trapezoidal grille. A gaping intake below the front bumper is covered with a mesh screen. High-intensity-discharge headlights are optional.
The Outlander's roofline terminates at angular D-pillars, and the rear taillights feature LEDs, which illuminate more quickly than conventional bulbs. In addition to a rear liftgate, Outlanders have a small rear tailgate that flips down to make loading easier; it can support up to 440 pounds.
Based on a platform that sees duty in the current Lancer and Lancer Evolution sport sedan, the Outlander is trumpeted by Mitsubishi as a driver's sport utility vehicle. LS models have standard 16-inch steel wheels, while the XLS rides on 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. LS models also include rear privacy glass, roof rails and body-colored mirrors and handles. XLS models add silver-painted door handles and roof rails. The roof is made of aluminum to give the SUV a lower center of gravity.
ES models are powered by the four-cylinder engine but have the interior amenities and options of XLS models.
Mitsubishi says the Outlander's gauge cluster is reminiscent of motorcycles. LS models can seat up to five people on front bucket seats and a 60/40-split folding second-row seat that can also tumble forward. XLS models achieve seven-person capacity with the addition of a two-person third-row seat that can fold into the floor.
Air conditioning; cruise control; power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; and a six-speaker CD stereo are standard. The XLS adds automatic climate control, audio controls on the steering wheel and Bluetooth technology that can recognize compatible cell phones for hands-free operation. A 30GB hard-drive-based navigation system is optional, as are a rear seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch screen and a 650-watt, nine-speaker Rockford-Fosgate audio system. The Outlander's available hard drive can also be used to store about 2,500 digital music files. The XLS Luxury Package includes first- and second-row leather seating surfaces, heated front seats and a power driver's seat.
Under the Hood
Four-cylinder Outlanders make 168 hp and are equipped with a CVT. The Outlander's 3.0-liter V-6 engine makes 220 hp and 204 pounds-feet of torque and drives a six-speed automatic transmission. The six-speed automatic incorporates a clutchless-manual mode that's separate from the XLS' paddle shifters. Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds with an optional package.
All-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for the first and second rows and an electronic stability system are standard.