Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Outlander - range
22 Jul 2004
BATTLE-WEARY from fighting with one arm tied behind its back, Mitsubishi’s distinctive Outlander cross-over has finally received the engine it needs to compete on an equal footing in the fiercely-fought compact SUV segment.
Launched with a wheezy Nimbus-based 2.4-litre engine in March last year, when most of its rivals were offering at least 2.4-litre performance, the ZE Outlander never set the small SUV market on fire.
But the tripe-diamond brand hopes a new 2.4-litre MIVEC engine, more equipment, revised pricing, upgraded brakes, subtle styling changes and the addition of a flagship VR-X variant will make the revised MY2005 ZF Outlander, on sale from August, “an important compact SUV player”.
While Nissan’s all-new T30-series X-Trail launched with a 132kW/245Nm 2.5-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine in October 2001 and went on to become the top-selling compact SUV, the second generation of Honda’s former segment leader, the CR-V, appeared here in January 2002 with a 2.4-litre DOHC i-VTEC inline four making 118kW/220Nm.
It took until July of that year for Subaru’s compact SUV heavyweight, the Forester, to appear in second-generation guise with a 112kW/223Nm SOHC four, while Toyota’s stalwart Rav4 was last of the big four to receive 2.0-plus performance, via a 120kW/224Nm 2.4-litre DOHC VVT-I version of Camry’s four-cylinder engine. The facelifted version of Toyota’s MkII Rav4 was launched here in October 2003.
While SUVs now account for 20 per cent of the total vehicle market Down Under, almost half of them are compacts. Together, X-Trail, Rav4, CR-V and Forester alone account for 70 per cent of all compact SUVs sold in Australia, a market segment that’s experienced a compound annual growth rate of almost 30 per cent since 1995 and now comprises 18 entrants from 12 manufacturers.
While the top-selling compacts regularly crack the 1000-per-month sales mark, however, the underpowered, auto-only Outlander has failed to meet Mitsubishi’s own sales targets, with average monthly sales in 2004 of just 240 vehicles – less than half the company’s original forecast of 550/month but still well up on the figures posted by the Pajero iO it effectively replaced.
Stung by its poor showing, Mitsubishi is less bullish with its sales estimate for the higher-performing MIVEC Outlander, which still lacks a manual transmission option. The new, “realistic Mitsubishi” has targeted sales of 470 per month– split between LS (230 units), XLS (210) and VR-X (30).
Mitsubishi counters its lack of a manual transmission for Outlander with the fact that the dominant (57 per cent) and fastest-growing sector of compact SUVs is petrol-auto, while the addition of a VR-X variant – not due on sale until September – aims to capitalise on strong growth realised by sports-luxury SUVs, which now comprise 20 per cent of the compact segment.
But the reason for the ZF Outlander’s being is its 2.4-litre 16-valve SOHC multi-point fuel-injected four-cylinder with MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve lift and timing Electronic Control).
Direct from its debut in the Grandis people-mover two months ago, Mitsubishi says the new engine addresses the “significant criticism” directed at the outgoing Outlander’s previous 100kW/205Nm engine.
Bettering CR-V and Forester and matching Rav4 but falling short of X-Trail’s class-leading 132kW output, the new long-stroke engine delivers a far healthier 120kW at 5750rpm, while 220Nm of torque at 4000rpm (95 per cent of which is claimed to be available from 2500rpm) is in the ballpark of all but X-Trail 245Nm.
Of course, Mitsubishi also counts SUVs like Tribute, Escape and Freelander as secondary Outlander rivals, while mini-SUVs like Cruze will also compete with Outlander.
Using MIVEC – a variable valve timing system first seen here in the Mirage Cup production race cars - to increase intake valve lift and duration as revs rise, the 2.4 offers a 20 per cent increase in power, along with seven per cent more torque.
Featuring a total of five cam lobes per cylinder, the clever variable cam timing system employs a hydraulically operated oil control valve to raise and lower a piston within the valve gear, lifting one inlet valve 4mm and the other 9mm at low engine speeds.
At higher engine speeds (above 3500rpm), both inlet valves open 10mm wide. Inlet valve lift duration is also varied, again aiming to increase low-speed torque and response and high speed performance.
Apart from the MIVEC cylinder-head and a 5mm larger cylinder bore, the new (but still 4G69-codenamed) engine now features a new block, sump, crank, conrods, pistons, dual exhaust manifold, crank angle sensor and new injectors.
An accelerator pedal sensor, as part of the MIVEC engine’s new electronic throttle system, is also said to meter fuel delivery more accurately, improving throttle control.
According to Mitsubishi, the result is improved acceleration, with 0-100km/h pace down from 12.1 to 10.5 seconds (13 per cent better), 80-120km/h acceleration down from 8.9 to 7.9 seconds (11 per cent better) and 0-400m acceleration down from 18.3 to 17.6 seconds (four per cent better). The ADR81/01 combined fuel economy figure remains a respectable 10.8 litres per 100km.
Outlander’s beefed up engine continues to be mated exclusively to Mitsubishi’s INVECS II Smartlogic four-speed auto with sequential-shift manual override, while final drive remains 4.625:1 and Outlander’s Lancer Evo-based centre viscous coupled full-time AWD system with variable 50/50 torque split continues unchanged, as does Outlander’s impressive 205mm ground clearance.
Other technical improvements include an upgraded alternator (from 90 to 120A), larger radiator and stronger fan motor (80 to 120W), but biggest change is the addition of upgraded rear brakes. Discs are now standard all round, the front pair being 15-inch ventilated items and the nine-inch rear drums being ditched in favour of 14-inch solid rotors.
Three-channel, four-sensor ABS with EBD is now standard across the range, while the standard safety kit continues to include twin front airbags, twin side airbags (optional on base LS), front seatbelt pre-tensioners, seatbelt force-limiters on all five belts, an emergency door unlock on impact function and childproof rear doors.
Outlander scored a creditable four-star result (out of five) during the Australian New Car Assessment Program’s recent crash testing of compact SUVs.
Outlander’s MacPherson strut front and trailing arm rear suspension systems (both with anti-roll car) continue unchanged, although VR-X receives its own specific, sportier tuning.
The base LS continues with plastic-hubbed steel wheels measuring 16x6.0-inch with 215/60 R16 radials – with seven-spoke wheel caps – while XLS features identically sized five-spoke alloys and VR-X gets 17x6.5-inch unique-design five-spoke alloys with 215/55 R17 tyres. All Outlanders score a full-size spare wheel.
On the styling front, subtle changes aimed at bringing Outlander into line with other Mitsubishis are the result of the local arm’s newly formed MRDAus engineering group. They include, for all variants, diagonal bars in the grille, projector-style headlamps, front and rear bumper garnishes, bee-sting-style radio antenna and a colour keyed rear spoiler with clear-lens high-mounted stop light.
The rear tailgate has also been redesigned by MRDAus to incorporate a larger rear window and larger tailgate handle, while a new-look Outlander badge has been moved to the lower left-hand side of the tailgate. The entry level LS variant also gets roof rails.
The XLS gets front and rear fender flares, privacy glass on the rear doors, rear quarter and tailgate glass, a side sill garnish with colour coded inserts and revised red (previously clear) tail lamp assembly.
VR-X, meantime, is distinguished by darkened headlight surrounds, 17-inch alloys, clear tail-lights, a monotone exterior paint treatment, unique badging and a chrome exhaust extension.
Inside, power window switch panels are now metal-look, the remote central locking device is incorporated into the key fob, the driver’s seat back now has a map storage pocket and the instrument cluster sports a white face.
XLS variants receive new decoration on the dash insert, chrome scuff plates on the front doors, chrome tailgate garnish and new seat fabric, while VR-X features unique leather and suede seat trim, unique carbon fibre-look garnishes, chrome interior door handles, sports-profile front bucket seats, VR-X embroidered carpet mats and a Fujitsu 10 Eclipse premium audio system.
The revised Outlander rises in price by $500 at base level, with LS up from $31,990 to $32,490, while the mid-spec XLS is now $36,390 – down $1100 from its previous $37,490 sticker price. Completing the three-variant range is the $37,990 VR-X.
The only LS option is a $1300 package including side airbags and a six-CD audio system, while an electric sunroof is optional only on XLS and VR-X, for $1600.
According to Mitsubishi, at base level Outlander represents $2000 better value than Forester, Rav4 and CR-V, and $1500 better value than X-Trail, none of which offer a sports mode automatic function.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
Did you know?Base Outlander colours include solid white, black and a new Effect grey, plus metallic red and silver, while VR-X will be available in a solid black, Effect and a new Code red, plus metallic silver
All car reviews
Click to share