Mitsubishi Outlander

Hot market segment dictates big upgrade

PETER McKAY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

MITSUBISHI has extensively revised its Outlander SUV and enhanced its value.

But has enough been done to shake up the hotly competitive mid-size SUV competitive mid-size SUV market segment?

Arguably more handsome on the outside, Outlanderís cabin also benefits from an upgrade in furnishings (including some pleasing soft-touch areas) and a new steering wheel, plus improvements to seat bolstering that guarantee your tush and torso stay happy on long trips.

The base LS variant looks and feels smarter with its new headlining and a sunglasses holder, along with new trim materials and stitching. However, the infotainment system is confusing and frustrating; phone pairing and audio streaming should be simpler. Nicer though the interior now is, itís not as premium as its Honda, Subaru and Mazda rivals.

But Mitsubishi has been generous with the Outlanderís level of standard gear, including a reversing camera and sensors.

The mid-grade XLS 4WD covered here now gets digital radio, electric folding and heated door mirrors, and electrochromatic auto-dimming interior mirror in addition to auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation.

Some significant engineering has gone on but, frustratingly, the 2.0- and 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engines donít benefit from anything beyond minor fuel consumption improvements. The XLSís torque-deficient 2.4 does its best work on the flat but struggles on hills and when overtaking.

The upgraded CVT on the petrol models has improved offthe- mark acceleration and fuel efficiency. Itís now less likely to drop into that annoying Ďslippy clutchí sensation that blighted many early CVTs, but itís still not as slick as Subaruís CVT.

Most noticeable is serious work done in the area of refinement.

The Outlander is certainly quieter overall, with muted engine and road noise. Redesigned door seals also give a solid, more expensive sound when closing the doors.

Bigger rear dampers and retuned electric steering have helped improve straight-line stability and ride comfort. While the front suspension can still be caught out on sharper bumps, Outlanderís ride/handling package is generally more agreeable.

A seven-seat option isnít widely available in this segment and should continue to be a popular feature with buyers.

The extensively rejigged Outlander represents a step forward in presence, comfort and refinement, but Mitsubishi needs to go beyond the basics if it wants its mid-size SUV to be anything other than an also-ran. s us ment

55 Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mitsubishi Outlander XLS 4WD 2360cc 4cyl, sohc, 16v 124kW @ 6000rpm 220Nm @ 4200rpm CVT automatic 1535kg 10.8sec (estimated) 7.2L/100km $36,490 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Petrol engines lack urge; confusing infotainment system; dull interior Quieter; smoother; improved seats; drives better; seven-seat capacity

Maxi shield

A DRUM roll, please, for the first Mitsubishi to showcase what the company calls its Ďdynamic shieldí corporate look, incorporating a new front and revised rear end.

The not-unpleasant restyling, which on the Outlander includes standard 18-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights and LED combination rears across the range, certainly lifts the thirdgeneration SUV visually.

Mitsubishi insists that bold exterior styling is a big priority for shoppers in the SUV segment.