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Driven: Mitsubishi resets Outlander

Out and about: The refreshed Outlander range features the new Dynamic Shield styling that will soon find its way on to all Mitsubishi SUVs.

Competitive mid-size SUV market prompts early changes to Mitsubishi’s Outlander

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Mitsubishi logo16 Apr 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

MITSUBISHI Motors Australia has launched the heavily revised Outlander just weeks after its official debut at the New York motor show where the mid-sized SUV previewed the car-maker’s latest design language and ushered in improvements in ride comfort, handling and fuel economy.

The facelift is the most expensive and extensive mid-life update in Mitsubishi history, and comes little more than two years after the launch of the third-gen version that was criticised for its conservative looks and average ride and handling.

Speaking with GoAuto at the revised model’s media drive in New South Wales this week, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) executive director of marketing Tony Principe admitted that Outlander did not have the impact the company was hoping for when it was launched in December 2012.

“This is the most they have ever spent on a mid-life facelift,” he said. “They were quite successful with the previous-generation Outlander. This one here (pre-facelifted model) didn’t quite hit the mark.

“We did OK. We are still selling in record levels, but we could have sold a lot more if we had have had something that had maybe a little bit more styling appeal.”

Mr Principe said the company was confident of increased interest in Outlander with the overhauled model.

The current version trails the big hitters in the sub-$60,000 SUV segment, including Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail and Subaru Forester.

“The market is growing pretty strongly – that market is probably sitting on about 10,000 a month,” Mr Principe said.

“We would like to think we could get at least a 10 per cent share, which would mean 1000 a month.

“We are sitting on about 800 a month. It’s not pie in the sky. Hopefully we can do better.”

As part of the upgrade, Mitsubishi has tweaked variant names, ditching ES and Aspire, with the base Outlander now called LS (formerly the mid-spec version), XLS for the mid-range and the top-spec Exceed.

The pricing of some variants has risen, others are static and a couple of Outlanders drop in price, with the range kicking off from $28,490, plus on-road costs, for the LS manual. This represents a $750 increase over the outgoing model.

This makes the Outlander more expensive to get into than the segment-leading Mazda CX-5 ($27,190), Nissan’s X-Trail ($27,990), the Honda CR-V ($27,490) and Ford’s Kuga ($27,490).

The LS is the only Outlander with a manual gearbox – it is also a five-seat only proposition. Replacing the manual with Mitsubishi’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) costs $2000, bringing the price to $30,490 – a $500 jump.

Adding all-wheel drive to the LS also brings the more powerful 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, along with a $33,490 price-tag – $500 more than the old model.

The mid-range XLS is offered in two-wheel drive, five-seat, 2.0-litre petrol guise from $33,490, and 2.4-litre all-wheel drive seven-seat configuration for $36,490 – the same price as the equivalent outgoing variants. The XLS diesel remains static at $39,490.

Buyers looking at the pricier end of the range can opt for the Exceed with all-wheel drive and seven-seats as standard and a choice of petrol engine from $43,490 and diesel at $46,490, which is a drop of $400 apiece.

There is no sign of the updated plug in-hybrid PHEV for now, but MMAL said it will appear later in the year when it is likely to carry different styling elements to the standard facelifted model.

Until then, the pre-facelifted PHEV version will continue to sell alongside the rest of the range.

MMAL says about 60 per cent of buyers will opt for all-wheel drive, and 15 per cent will choose the diesel powertrain.

The changes to the Outlander start with the dramatic new face that ushers in Mitsubishi’s Dynamic Shield design that will appear on all future SUV models.

The bold new look includes new headlights – LED on high-spec variants – a chrome and silver-plated grille, LED daytime running lights, new fog-lights and skid plates at the front and rear.

At the back, there is a new LED tail-light combination and more chrome and silver flourishes, while the whole range gets new 18-inch alloy wheels from the base variant up.

Mitsubishi is trying for a more premium feel with the cabin this time around, with a new steering wheel with a gloss black bezel, new door and dash trim, stitching on the instrument panel, new headlining material, a softer centre console and gloss black inserts for the instrument panel in Exceed.

Mid-spec versions gain new cloth trim and the seats receive better lateral support and side bolster stiffness, while an auto-dimming interior mirror and sunglasses holder are also new.

Mitsubishi says engine noise, cabin boom, wind and road noise have reduced, thanks to 39 noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) improvements such as noise-isolating windscreen glass, new tyres, a modified air-intake system, better weather stripping, modified suspension mounts and damper tuning.

Changes have even been made to the structure of the door seals to improve the door closing sound.

The CVT, which is available on petrol Outlanders – the diesel has a regular six-speed auto – has been revised for better acceleration response across the rev range, improved launch feel, improved downshift response, transmission shift quality and better fuel economy.

Powertrains are unchanged, starting with the 110kW/190Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit in entry versions, but fuel economy is improved by 0.1 litre per kilometer to 7.0L/100km for the manual and 0.2L to 6.7L/100km for the CVT.

Fuel use is also down in the 124kW/220Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol from 7.5L to 7.2L/100km, but the 110kW/360Nm 2.2-litre diesel appears to have blown out from 5.8L to 6.2L/100km.

Other changes under the skin include tweaks to the steering calibration and a more rigid suspension set-up for enhanced ride and handling dynamics and straight line stability.

There are larger diameter rear dampers and retuned front dampers, while reinforcements and bracing have been introduced to the rear sub-frame, rear wheel-house, front firewall and front top cowl.

In LS base guise, standard gear includes Bluetooth with voice activation and steering wheel controls, display audio, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, climate-control air-conditioning, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, cruise control, an Eco mode, front and rear fog-lights, reach and height adjustable leather steering wheel and leather gear knob.

Upgrading to the XLS adds touchscreen sat-nav, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone air-con, digital audio, electric folding and heated exterior mirrors, auto-dimming interior mirror, and a cargo blind.

Finally, the Exceed features a power tailgate, smart key, sunroof, heated leather seats, headlight washers, powered driver’s seat, and active safety gear including adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation.

All Outlanders have hill-start assist, a tyre-pressure monitoring system electronic brake-force distribution and they carry a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating.

Mitsubishi Outlander pricing*
2WD LS$28,490 (+$750)
2WD LS (a)$30,490 (+$500)
2WD XLS (a)$33,490 (no change)
4WD LS (a)$33,490 (+$500)
4WD XLS (a)$36,490 (no change)
4WD Exceed (a)$43,490 (-$400)
4WD XLS DiD (a)$39,490 (no change)
4WD Exceed DiD (a)$46,490 (-$400)
*Excludes on-road costs.

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