Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Outlander - range
Style, space, performance, steering, handling, 4WD system, price, warranty
Room for improvement
No stability control on 2.4 until late 2007, some road noise intrusion, super-cramped third-row seating
29 Nov 2006
AT last... a Mitsubishi to really make you sit up and take notice.
By our estimates, this hasn’t happened since 1996, when the Australian-developed TE Magna, and then the Japanese CE Mirage, instantly redefined their respective large and light-car segments.
Now, with the second-generation Outlander upon us, the embattled, Adelaide-based company has a car that others must play catch-up with, and not the other way around – which has been the way for far too long.
Completely unrelated to the worthy but dull earlier Outlander, the ZG certainly looks the part, boasting a strong and attractive presence that appears to combine the useful length of the Nissan X-Trail, with the large geometric wheel arches, clean surface tension and plenty of distinctive detailing, a la Mazda CX-7.
In other words, it’s a best-of-both-worlds scenario.
Step inside, and you will find the best Mitsubishi cabin in recent memory, as well as one of the most pleasant in any SUV this side of an Audi or BMW. Smart trim and a nice overall ambience abound.
The front seats seem comfortable and supportive. Basics like ventilation, access to all switches and controls, and general ease of driveability all check out. And the usual space and utility virtues of an SUV also apply.
A feature unique in this end of the segment is the BMW X5-style (or Holden EJ wagon-like, the choice is yours) split tailgate function that allows for easier loading, as well as a spot of rear-of-car seating.
However, in the seven-seater versions, the third-row seat is no place for teenage-sized people, let alone adults, with virtually no space for legs, a lack of ventilation and difficult entry and egress all contributing to claustrophobia. Erected, the seats also feel flimsy.
In this regard, a Ford Territory or Hyundai Santa Fe beat the Outlander convincingly.
We also noticed varying amounts of road noise being transmitted inside, although the rest of the car impressed us with its civility and refinement, while that scourge of most modern vehicles – vision-restricting pillars – blighted close-quarter reversing attempts.
As far as the driving is concerned, the latest Outlander is in with the dynamic can-do crowd, with surprisingly responsive steering, neutral handling and plenty of grip on offer.
Precise cornering abilities, controlled high-speed manoeuvrability and effective braking reveal the car-like nature of this particular SUV.
As you might expect, the 3.0-litre V6 makes a smooth and powerful statement, but the 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine is not completely overshadowed in either department either.
It launches off the mark briskly, overtakes with reasonable speed and will cruise at highway velocities steadily and without complaint, and all using one of the best examples of the CVT automatic gearbox we have ever encountered.
Don’t forget, most of the four-cylinder competition are still slugging it out with four-speed automatic gearboxes, let alone five-speeds. The Outlander 2.4’s CVT has six steps to play with.
Mitsubishi’s new on-the-fly 4WD system also seems to work well, enabling secure and unflustered high-speed open road driving, combined with composed and predictable dirt/unsealed road progress, with the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive modes at a twist of a knob.
Topping off a very competent dynamic package is a ride that neither jolted nor jarred regardless of whether the 16 or 18-inch wheel and tyre set-up was used.
Mitsubishi is on a great thing with the latest Outlander, and it should be commended for making the price so affordable.
Feature-for-feature, the class-leading Toyota RAV4 has a ferocious rival on its hands, while on-road or off, the Outlander seems to out-manoeuvre it dynamically.
If there ever was a vehicle to show that Mitsubishi still has plenty of fight left inside of it, the highly impressive Outlander is the one.
Compact and medium SUV buyers, as well as people searching for an affordable, family-sized wagon, would be foolish not to consider its many virtues.
It’s taken us a decade, but we are very pleased indeed to be able to say that about our local diamond-studded underdog.
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