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Future models - Mitsubishi - Outlander

Outlander outward bound

Out with the old: Mitsubishi's next generation Outlander looses its polarised front-end in favour of cohesive sporty SUV styling.

Mitsubishi's all-new Outlander has great potential - but still needs some work

5 Oct 2005

IF THE all-new Mitsubishi Outlander is any indication of the revival spirit surging through the executive corridors of the struggling Japanese car manufacturer, then bring it on.

Fresh on the heels of the Australian 380 launch, and on the eve of the Tokyo motor show which opens later this month, GoAuto can now reveal that it has driven a number of new Mitsubishi vehicles including the Outlander, Triton one-tonner and the all-wheel drive Grandis people-mover.

Of these, only the Outlander and Triton are slated for an Australian arrival, with the Triton due around April and the Outlander late next year.

GoAuto spent several hours last month on Mitsubishi’s test track at its research and development centre near Nagoya driving the Outlander, which shares its platform architecture with the next-generation GS Lancer.

The all-wheel drive wagon is bigger in all dimensions than the existing vehicle and the polarised front-end styling of the current model has been axed in favour of a sportier crossover SUV appearance that looks cohesive and smart.

The Japanese-spec Outlander tested was fitted with a 125kW/226Nm 2.4-litre MIVEC four-cylinder engine, mated to a smooth, sequential CVT "six-speed" automatic with steering wheel paddle shifts.

Despite the bigger dimensions, and the (still to be confirmed) extra weight onboard, the new Outlander managed to deliver acceptable performance.

By the time it reaches Australia, the vehicle is likely to offer the 2.4-litre engine as an entry model and a top-spec version featuring a 3.0-litre MIVEC V6 engine, stability and traction control and a leather interior.

The current all-wheel drive system, which features a viscous-coupled centre differential and full-time four-wheel drive, is expected to carry over.

The United States-bound Outlander is expected to have a seven-seat option and a 3.5-litre MIVEC V6, which like the Australian-issue 3.0-litre (and a 2.5-litre V6 bound for other markets) is part of a new V6 engine family for the Japanese marque.

Visually, the vehicle has a more integrated design and Ford Territory-like front-end treatment, a spacious cabin and a horizontally split tailgate similar to the BMW X5.

The vehicle has an aluminium roof panel for lightness and a lower centre of gravity, while other interesting mechanical details include mono-tube shock absorbers and suspension components borrowed heavily from the Lancer Evo.

21 center imageCompared to the current model, the new Outlander has grown in most dimensions except height, which remains at 1680mm. Overall length is 4640mm (up from 4550mm), width 1800mm (up from 1750mm) and wheelbase 2670mm (up from 2625mm).

Inside, the cabin gets 60/40 split and sliding rear seats, plenty of storage space and a deep, stylish dashboard.

The overall quality and fit and finish on the early Japanese production models were high.

Although Mitsubishi’s own internal test track is a long way from Australian road conditions, the Outlander nonetheless acquitted itself well in high-speed open-road touring and in sharp, swerve-and-avoid manoeuvres.

The Japanese suspension settings were biased for comfort, making it feel less agile than the current car and the stability control system did have a tendency to kick-in too early.

However, Mitsubishi Australia’s engineers are likely to give the car the once-over before going on sale, so things like the soft suspension and over-assisted steering should come in for review.

If they can work some magic into the vehicle’s Australian-spec suspension, the Outlander has the potential to move from an also-ran to leader of the pack.

The trouble is, we’ll have to wait more than 12 months to sample it on Aussie roads.

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