The good news for Japanese manufacturer, Mitsubishi, is that the tsunami of 2011 had little, if any, effect on their manufacturing facilities. “We were one of the lucky ones,” explained Mitsubishi Canada senior manager of product planning, Don Ulmer, at the launch of the new Outlander, in Oregon. “It was not a factor for our company.”
Just as well; Mitsubishi is still a relatively small player in Canada, with fewer model offerings than pretty much everyone else. Established here in 2002, it’s the youngest mainstream auto manufacturer in the country, and, by its own admission, will be focusing on “sustainable growth” in the markets it’s already in, as opposed to breaking new ground and expanding its model line-up.
One of the mainstays in that line-up is the Outlander, which debuted in Canada in 2003, and for 2014, gets a host of refinements and upgrades. It may look similar to its predecessor, but this is a brand-new version, with very few shared components, other than the platform and one engine. New exterior and front-end treatment, new drivetrain engineering, and new interior.
Engine choices are a 2.4 litre four cylinder and a 3.0 V6. While the latter is carried over from the previous generation, the former, despite having the same displacement, is an all-new powerplant, featuring a single overhead camshaft, and Mitsubishi’s variable valve system. The previous four-banger was a dual cam arrangement, and the new unit will deliver better fuel economy, says Don Ulmer.
Power output is set at 166 for the four cylinder, while the V6 delivers 227 horses. The V6 is available with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, but you’re stuck with the CVT with the four cylinder.
After a few hours of tootling around the back country of central Oregon, it became obvious that available power is still an issue with the four cylinder version. Take-off snap and reserve passing power is in short supply, mainly because the transmission, a third generation CVT, simply robs this engine of its vitality. Fuel economy is pretty decent: 7.8 L/100 combined rating, but if you want performance, the V6 is the only choice.
Which kind of sets the Outlander apart. Now that Toyota has dropped its V6 from the RAV4, that limits the number of choices buyers have if they want something other than a four –banger in this market. With the ever-increasing cost of fuel, compact SUVs with V6 engines may become an endangered species.
Speaking of which, the Outlander has an “eco” mode, with a real-time consumption meter on the instrumentation cluster. This lets you know exactly how much gas you’re consuming and is “driver activated”, so that you can switch it on or off yourself.
Like the previous version, the new Outlander can be had with either front or all-wheel-drive. The base SE is propelled by the front wheels only, but can also be ordered with Mitsubishi’s latest AWD system, known as All Wheel Control (AWC). In a nutshell, the base version of this set-up has an Eco mode that will activate the rear driving wheels when things start to deteriorate, road-wise. It’s meant for around-town usage….in snowy weather, for example. You don’t get the full power transfer here, just enough to get you through the rough patches.
The next level is AWD Auto, which will deliver more power to the back wheels, sooner. This one will take you off-road, as long as you don’t get carried away. For the really rough stuff, there is also an all-wheel-drive “Lock” setting that adjusts engine throttle settings, gear ratios, and steering angle. Most entries in this market don’t take 4WD very seriously, offering just enough to get by, but the Outlander will take you through the boonies….to a point. It’s no Jeep, but better than many of its contemporaries in this regard. The V6 version also has a 1587 kilogram towing capacity.
Mitsubishi has also added some electronic safety features in the form of a collision mitigation system, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning. The mitigation system will automatically apply the brakes when it senses an impending collision and gives the driver a warning that he/she is headed for trouble. Volvo and Lexus both have similar arrangements, and in this case, the impending crash is sensed by radar. Adaptive cruise control uses the same radar system and maintains a safe distance between you and the car in front….again, fairly common throughout the industry. Lane departure sounds a beeper if you stray off your side of the road, but only at speeds over 65 km/h. These three are all optional.
No prices for the 2014 Outlander had been released at time of writing, but Mitsubishi officials promised that it won’t cost substantially more than the current version.
AT A GLANCE
Price Range: TBA
Engine: 2.4 litre four cylinder & 3.0 litre V6
Horsepower: 166 hp & 227 hp
Transmission: Six-speed automatic / CVT
Drive: FWD / AWD
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 8.2 city; 6.3 hwy (FWD w. four cylinder engine & CVT). Regular gas.
Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-7, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Edge, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, GMC Terrain, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester.