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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Outlander - LS Safety Pack 2.0-litre

Our Opinion

We like
Spacious, comfortable, practical, value for money, good infotainment system
Room for improvement
Sketchy wet-weather grip and traction, quality concerns, underpowered, lacks blind spot monitoring

Mitsubishi logo11 Aug 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

Overview

TOUTED as ‘the car designed by fleet managers’, the Mitsubishi Outlander LS Safety Pack essentially bolts on a suite of active safety and driver assistance tech to an automatic version of the base variant, in return for a $1500 price premium.

It makes sense to provide as much workplace safety as possible for people whose offices have four wheels. Democratising this potentially life-saving technology also makes sense for the family buyers who are increasingly attracted to mid-size SUVs.

For Mitsubishi, this appears to have been a successful strategy because at the time of writing Outlander sales were up 41.1 per cent against a segment that grew 19.7 per cent in the same timeframe, putting it comfortably in Australia’s top five most popular medium SUVs.

It may be an uninspiring way to travel, but this Outlander does strike a strong balance of practicality and value for money.

Price and equipment

The Mitsubishi Outlander price list is awash with LS Safety Pack variants, starting from the $32,000 (plus on-roads) 2.0-litre front-drive petrol variant tested here.

Every other Outlander drivetrain combination bar the electrified PHEV is available in LS Safety Pack trim, comprising 2.4-litre all-wheel-drive petrol and 2.2-litre all-wheel-drive diesel. The former can also be had in either five- or seven-seat guise.

The LS Safety Pack variant we tested also comes with forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam.

Other standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring plus Bluetooth with audio streaming, DAB+ digital radio, AM/FM receiver and MP3-compatible USB inputThis variant also comes with with automatic headlights and wipers, cloth upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear fog lights, LED daytime running lights and tail-light clusters, roof rails, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, illuminated vanity mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rails, leather trim on the gear selector and multi-function steering wheel, electrically folding door mirrors, a multi-function trip computer, security alarm and engine immobiliser.

Premium paint costs $590, applying to six of the seven available colours (the only standard shade being white). A cargo blind is not standard-fit and costs $205.

Interior

The current-generation Outlander has been around since late 2012 and received a major facelift in 2015 but remains one of the segment’s most spacious and practical options, particularly for the price.

A slightly cramped seven-seat layout is available, but we tested a five-seat variant that provides positively cavernous accommodation for rear passengers, who also get to recline their seats to a seriously relaxed angle. No worries for tall people in here, and the broad of shoulder are pretty well catered for, too. Those up-front benefit from this roominess, too.

To an extent, the spaciousness story continues in the usefully rectangular and flat-floored boot, with a reasonable but not class-leading 477 litres of cargo volume when the rear bench is upright and 1608L with it folded. But a Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan has more seats-up luggage capacity and the latter has more room than the Outlander with its seats folded, too.

Because the full-size alloy spare wheel is stored beneath the vehicle and the lack of third seating row leaves a void in five-seat Outlander variants, the boot has a useful under-floor storage area that is divided into three sections.

Either side of the boot floor, behind the wheel arches, are deep wells big enough to each take a supermarket bag and stop them from moving about. We also found them handy for storing shoes.

Having a pair of cup-holders in the boot – for the absent third-row – is also surprisingly useful for keeping drinks upright while luggage is being loaded.

No more driving off with your water bottle or coffee cup on the roof.

The front seats are comfortable, although there are large steps in backrest angle adjustment that we found either provided a slightly too reclined or slightly too upright setting. Otherwise, side bolstering and back support is good and thigh support adequate.

A stitched leather-effect trim on the instrument cowl adds a touch of class and although the dashboard texture looks like a hard plastic, it is in fact soft-touch. Usually the aim of car-makers is to achieve the opposite effect.

The same squishy covering applies to front door trims, although rear passengers are not afforded this level of luxury.

Unfortunately, other plastics are of the low-rent scratchy, hollow, brittle-feeling variety that make cars feel cheaply put together. Being one up from base spec, this Outlander also has really obvious switch blanks everywhere like a car from the 1980s, serving as a constant reminder of all the features you could have had if you spent more at the showroom.

However the infotainment touchscreen and climate control adjustment panel are familiar from the Pajero Sport, which is a good thing. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integrations are present and correct, with the rest of the features modern and easy to use.

The glove box is big, as are the bottle-holding door bins front and rear.

Beneath the central armrest is a large two-tiered storage area with two USB ports and a 12V power outlet to supplement the 12V socket in front of the cup-holders. Under a cover in the centre console are two well-sized cup-holders. A sunglasses holder is also provided.

Most of the storage areas also have removable rubber inserts to help prevent items sliding about or rattling and to ease the removal of dust and fluff that will inevitably collect there.

Fitting a child seat was easy, although the Isofix anchorages were not perfectly aligned. Top tethers are also sensibly located and easily accessible.

The rear bench position, large door apertures and elevated vehicle height also eased the loading and unloading of children, including those requiring tricky rear-facing infant capsules.

On the subject of these bulky baby carriers, the Outlander provides plenty of room for front passengers when one is installed, whereas many cars require a comfort compromise in this regard.

Gripes with the cabin included the dated staggered gear selector gate, the lack of digital speedometer, near-useless trip computer that resets every time you begin a new journey and air-conditioning that fails to effectively blend the airflow, resulting in occupants feeling too cold or too warm. The wobbly indicator and wiper stalks feel like they are going to snap off at any moment, too.

Like most current Mitsubishis, the Outlander cabin comes with too many shrill and annoying beeps and chimes, such as the madness-inducing seatbelt alarm that sounds should you start to turn on the ignition without first clipping yourself in. The adaptive cruise control beeps every time a vehicle is detected in front – and we thought the Toyota system of hijacking the trip computer display was irritating.

But on the move, the Outlander is pretty quiet in terms of road noise regardless of surface. Coarse-chip country roads are worse at lower speeds but fine above 60km/h and wind noise from the door mirrors plays a distant second fiddle to the hard-working 2.0-litre engine that constantly makes its presence felt. This is much worse in hilly areas where it really struggles.

It is a good job, then, that the sound system can pump out tunes with respectable audio quality for a vehicle of this type and price point.

The lane departure warning component of the safety pack fitted to our test vehicle simply beeps when it detects the driver has drifted toward the white lines and does not make any steering corrections or provide forceful feedback through the wheel.

Apart from the aforementioned annoying chime, the adaptive cruise control is pretty effective. But despite its ability to apply the brakes it does not do a great job of maintaining the selected speed down hills.

Unlike some systems it will slow the vehicle to a complete stop if a traffic jam is encountered, but in doing so would sometimes activate the forward collision warning or autonomous emergency braking systems. Not that confidence inspiring. And it will not resume progress, requiring the vehicle to be travelling at more than 40km/h before it will activate.

There is no blind spot monitoring as part of the safety pack and our test vehicle reported an airbag fault on numerous occasions during our week with it.

Not very safe at all, and pretty poor form for a vehicle with less than 4000km on the clock.

Engine and transmission

Before we go any further, we strongly suggest you bypass the 2.0-litre petrol engine fitted to our test vehicle and go for the more potent 2.4-litre petrol that also comes with all-wheel-drive. Which given our experience during the wet conditions of this test, would be a great investment. More on that later.

Naturally aspirated and producing 110kW of power at 6000rpm, the 2.0L Outlander develops a modest and 190Nm of torque at 4200rpm – 7Nm less than the smaller, lighter ASX in which this engine struggles enough as it is.

Ascending a steep urban hill, with the accelerator pedal pinned to the carpet, the Outlander we tested struggles to achieve 40km/h. Many base-spec medium SUVs are underpowered, but the Outlander was particularly sluggish.

When accelerating, the engine screams away. It drives the front wheels through an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that does not tend to flare the revs too badly but neither does it seem that well calibrated to the engine’s power and torque delivery characteristics.

The transmission’s Sport mode hangs onto higher revs, which results in more immediate engine response but does not hide the delay before revs begin to build when reapplying the throttle or hide the fact the Outlander engine is a thrashy old thing.

Accelerator pedal travel remains long and slow regardless of mode, with much deeper applications required than feels natural when attempting to maintain momentum through corners. The drivetrain is altogether more usable in Sport mode, save for the racket and vibration emanating from the engine bay.

Judging from all the hardworking revving and noise, we expected the Outlander’s fuel consumption to be pretty ghastly and it did not surprise, chewing through more than 12 litres of unleaded per 100 kilometres in urban and suburban driving, significantly up on the official 9.2L/100km urban cycle figure. For perspective, we tested the much bigger, six-cylinder Toyota Kluger in similar conditions and it only used slightly more fuel.

On longer journeys the Outlander settles down somewhat, although we missed the official 7.2L/100km highway cycle claim, reaching mid eights after 90 minutes on the motorway.

Ride and handling

The Outlander generally rides comfortably, but like the larger Pajero Sport the rear suspension can get disconcertingly bouncy and rebound two or three times after a bump before settling. This kind of foible is understandable in an off-road capable car like the Pajero Sport but not in a front-drive, car-based crossover that is the Outlander.

In the wet conditions of our dynamic test, the Outlander-specific Toyo A24 tyres do not provide high levels of grip or traction and the lifeless, viscous and artificial-feeling steering do little in terms of feedback to instil confidence that our inputs would have the desired result.

Braking performance is uninspiring, too, with quite a bit of squirming under hard deceleration. It was not as though we were driving on greasy roads during the first rain after a long dry spell, either. They had received a sustained soaking for days prior to our foray into the Outlander’s dynamics.

It is best, then, to primarily use the Outlander for urban or suburban errands and the occasional motorway journey.

Just be careful in the wet.

Safety and servicing

ANCAP awarded the Outlander a maximum five-star rating, scoring it 35.58 out of a maximum 37 points based on 15.88 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, a perfect 16 in the side impact test and the full two points in the pole test.

Whiplash and pedestrian protection were respectively considered ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’.

Safety equipment includes seven airbags, electronic stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and emergency stop signal, and hill-start assist. No autonomous emergency braking is available.

The LS Safety Pack variant we tested also comes with forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam.

Mitsubishi supplies the Outlander with a five-year, 100,000km warranty and a year of roadside assistance.

Service intervals are a sensible 15,000km or 12 months, with a three-year capped-price servicing program. Petrol front-drive variants cost $230 for each of the first three maintenance visits, while all-wheel-drive petrols cost an extra $20 per visit and diesels cost $400 for the first, $550 for the second and $600 for the third (correct at time of writing).

Verdict

If you can stretch your budget by an extra $3000 to get the all-wheel-drive 2.4-litre petrol variant of the Outlander LS Safety Pack, you should overcome some of the major frustrations we experienced.

A bit more drivetrain muscle and the extra assurance of four-wheel traction in the wet would improve the experience markedly.

For us, a week with this variant was more than enough so bear this in mind when committing to one for several years.

Apart from that, the Outlander remains a practical and spacious offering that also happens to be well equipped for the money, even if the Safety Pack tech is a little rudimentary.

It is, however, coming under increasingly intense pressure from the revised Nissan X-Trail and all-new Honda CR-V – especially now the latter also has a five-year factory warranty that beats Mitsubishi’s 100,000km coverage by having no limit on kilometre-count for private buyers.

Rivals

Honda CR-V VTi-S 2WD ($33,290 plus on-road costs)A strong turbo-petrol engine from base level up sets the CR-V apart in a segment dominated by underpowered base variants, while this new-kid-on-the-block Honda also scores well on space, practicality and driver appeal. But you have to spend big to get safety tech to rival that of the Outlander.

Nissan X-Trail ST 2WD automatic ($30,490 plus on-road costs)A recent facelift has also lifted the spacious and capable X-Trail’s appeal.

Standard autonomous emergency braking is a selling point, but again the Mitsubishi offers more of this tech and a similarly spacious interior for not much more cash.

Toyota RAV4 GX 2WD automatic ($30,590 plus on-road costs)The RAV4 remains a serious contender among increasingly stiff competition, drives much better than you’d expect but the equipment list is very sparse in base GX trim.

Subaru Forester 2.5i-L ($32,990 plus on-road costs)A worthy Outlander contender with its spacious, airy cabin, and the lack of available safety tech low in the range is offset by standard all-wheel-drive, tough go-anywhere credentials, a strong drivetrain and handling charm.

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