With a company as beleaguered as Mitsubishi, the temptation is to look for the hail-mary pass, the winning throw of the dice that'll save the company. Given the tepid reception of the iMiEV, the way Nissan stole the Mirage's econobox appeal with the Micra, and the aging platform of the Lancer, you can't help but view the new Outlander with a somewhat jaundiced eye. After a slew of wild concepts, this is a pretty tame-looking crossover, and while the de rigueur phrase “game-changer” was used in the press conference, you can't help but wonder if we're looking at another Suzuki.
However, perhaps the Outlander's decidedly un-outlandish appearance is just the battening of the hatches Mitsubishi needs to figure out what tack to take. This new one is approximately the size of the Outback, but without the faux body-cladding of the Subaru, and the better for it. And if there is another company that saw success going with a conventional looking SUV, Subaru's Forester is a great example.
If the exterior is like the Outback, the interior of the Outlander is like the Forester: I hereby dub thee the Forestback.
The new front grille treatment is supposed to be taken from past models like the Montero, and will be the new face of Mitsubishis from now on. Drat – rather liked the old Audi-ish EVO grille treatment you got on the Outlander a generation ago and the current RVR, and this new version is somewhat overwrought.
However, most other angles on the Outlander are actually pretty good. The rear three-quarter view is not unlike the unfussy shape the old Highlander presented, and the standard LED rear taillights are a bit like an X5 or X3, and the profile view of the rear pillar as well. The 18-inch alloys are redesigned (Mitsubishi claims that they're lighter as well), and GT models get LED headlights and power-folding mirrors.
If the exterior is like the Outback, the interior of the Outlander is like the Forester: I hereby dub thee the Forestback. Up front, there's been considerable improvement in quality and ergonomics, and the Outlander can now run mid-pack in terms of feel. Having said that, this is a brand-new machine and doesn't raise the bar in any discernible way. It feels like a reaction to criticisms, rather than an attempt to exceed expectations.
A little time in the back seat confirms this impression: the rears are really not all that adult-friendly, with shortish bottom cushions that you perch on top of. The rears fold properly flat, with the seat bottoms flipping up to do so, but you do have to remove the headrests. There's a tight third-row rumble seat that can be deployed, and looks kid-sized only, and barely that.
Mitsubishi is claiming over 100 refinements made to their Outlander, ranging from increased body rigidity to sound-deadening material in the A-pillars to new front and rear dampers. This redesigned Outback, oops, I mean Outlander, so they say, will feature a driving experience that's both quieter and more dynamic. We'll believe that when we drive it, though it's worth mentioning that Mitsu's all-wheel-drive system is excellent.
No technical details were given out around powertrain changes, so expect carryover versions of the 166-hp 2.4L four-cylinder and the 227-hp 3.0L V6. The CVT transmission has been tweaked for all models in an effort to improve responsiveness and acceleration.
Why might shoppers consider an Outlander? Warranty, value and reasonable financing rates. With this redesigned crossover, Mitsubishi has created something that appears more acceptable when lined up next to the competition than the current model; however, it's not groundbreaking in any way, so it'll be up to the marketing and financing department to get the iron rolling off the lots.