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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Outlander - range

Launch Story

Mitsubishi logo29 Nov 2006

By CHRIS HARRIS

HOT on the heels of Mazda’s CX-7, Mitsubishi has launched the all-new ZG-series Outlander in Australia, priced from an intensely competitive $31,990 – automatic included.

Now on sale, the Japanese-built compact SUV is probably the company’s most promising passenger vehicle since the TE Magna and CE Mirage debuted in 1996.

Completely redesigned throughout, the ZG is larger, longer, roomier, safer, stronger, better equipped and more versatile than its ZF predecessor.

Mitsubishi intentionally upsized the Outlander to broaden its appeal against competitors as diverse as the Ford Territory, Subaru Outback and Nissan Murano, although Toyota’s rampaging RAV4 is still the bullseye.

To this end, the Mitsubishi is 20mm longer, 90mm wider and 60mm higher than before, yet – at 1560kg – it weighs about 10kg less, the upshot of an aluminium roof, some moulded resin body panels and lighter drivetrain components.

At 2670mm, the wheelbase is 45mm longer. All main interior dimensions have increased, as has cargo volume, now rated from 1119 to 2056 litres when the novel one-touch mechanism for the sliding and reclining rear seat is deployed.

A BMW X5-style split tailgate opens down to below bumper level, facilitating easy loading and acting as a picnic seat with a 200kg rating.

The ZG Outlander also scores a new switchable 4WD system (bringing on much better off-road abilities than before), the option of seven seats, a V6 powerplant (from January 2007) and a plethora of safety and equipment level upgrades.

Yet the new Outlander is still priced to sell, challenging even the South Korean competition with dual front airbags, rear-ducted air-conditioning, ABS brakes, power windows, cruise control, MP3/WMA/CD/radio audio with steering-mounted controls, and a trip computer. On all models.

A sub-$30,000 five-speed manual LS is due by about August 2007, along with the availability of the V6 engine’s standard stability control (no four-cylinder models will offer it until then), as well as satellite navigation.

For now, Mitsubishi is fielding eight Outlander models, evenly spread across the two-pronged engine and seating configurations.

A 2.4-litre twin-cam 16-valve powerplant – the so-called "World Engine" devised with DaimlerChrysler and Hyundai – powers the four-cylinder LS and XLS models.

Significantly lighter than the ZF Outlander’s 120kW/220Nm 2378cc iron-block unit, this 2359cc engine (known as the 4B12) is aided by an aluminium block and MIVEC variable-valve timing on both intake and exhaust cam shafts, to produce 125kW of power at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4100rpm – with 170Nm available from 1000rpm.

Its claimed 0-100km/h-sprint time is 10.6 seconds, while the 9.5L/100km fuel-consumption average is 16 per cent better than what the old ZF Outlander could accomplish.

Until the manual models dock (development is claimed to be incomplete), the only gearbox available on the four-pot Outlanders is a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) dubbed INVECS III.

With six artificially ‘stepped’ ratios to mimic a conventional automatic’s behaviour, Mitsubishi claims that response times and transmission flaring – two CVT bugbears – are much reduced, allowing drivers to instead enjoy this gearbox’s peak-torque accessibility and inherent smoothness and efficiencies.

It joins the Murano as the only SUV to offer CVT.

Meanwhile, the 3.0-litre single-cam 24-valve V6, found in the Outlander VR and top-line VRX variants, is also totally new. Weighing just 6kg more than the old 2.4-litre engine (as well as 25kg less than the 3.0-litre V6 last seen in the TJ Magna), this 6B31 unit uses MIVEC, along with a two-stage variable intake manifold, to deliver 162kW at 6250rpm and 276Nm at 4000 – with almost 90 per cent of the latter available at half those revs. The V6’s average fuel-consumption figure is 10.9L/100km.

No manual is slated for the V6, as the Aisin-supplied six-speed automatic, known as INVECS II, boasts a Tiptronic-style sequential-shift function via both the gear lever and steering wheel paddle shifters.

In all Outlander variants, torque is distributed via an electronically controlled ‘Active Select’ 4WD system which is lighter and more compact than the previous system. The driver can choose – on the fly – between front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, with a 40:60 front/rear torque split or with AWD Lock (50:50 front/rear).

In the V6 and future four-cylinder Outlander models fitted with stability and traction control, the 4WD system works with these as well as the standard ABS brakes and electronic brake-force distribution function to improved security, anti-slippage and driveability.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts up front and a trailing arm multi-link arrangement and "rally-honed" monotube shock absorbers out back. For better handling and control, Mitsubishi has added rear suspension cross-member reinforcements, along with anti-roll bars at each end, and wider front and rear tracks (45mm and 35mm respectively).

Brakes are 292mm ventilated discs in the front and 300mm drum-in-disc at the back. Surprisingly, given that Mitsubishi’s Colt employs electric power steering, the Outlander persists with hydraulics for its rack-and-pinion set-up. The turning circle is 10.6m.

To help out Outlander off-road, ground clearance is a class-competitive 215mm, which is only 10mm shy that of the Pajero. Braked towing capacity is rated at 1500kg in four-cylinder models and 1600kg for the V6s, representing a 300kg and 400kg respective improvement over the ZF.

The seven-seat option costs between $2800 and $4800 depending on the model it is paired with, and, according to Mitsubishi, should make up about 22 per cent of all Outlanders sold in Australia.

Fitted as mandatory with seven seats are side and curtain airbags, which are otherwise a $1500 option on the five-seater LS, XLS and VR.

The XLS and VRX editions include Bluetooth connectivity, a keyless operation system, 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, roof racks, privacy glass and automatic air-conditioning.

Mitsubishi believes about 6600 Outlanders will be sold in its first full year, working out to 555 per month, or about 175 more than today’s model can muster up. About 55 per cent will be the 2.4-litre models, 30 per cent the base VR V6, and 15 per cent the luxury VRX V6.

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