VANCOUVER, BC – Mitsubishi Canada officials admit the interior of the current-generation Outlander isn’t exactly exciting. Although they’ve sold more than 52,000 of these compact SUVs since it was introduced in 2002 as an ’03 model, there’s been repeated feedback from consumers that the drab cabin needed some help.
Good news – Mitsubishi listened. The 2014 Outlander, arriving in dealerships now, has been given a complete redesign inside and out, but especially noticeable is the fresh, stylish new look inside the cabin.
The vast expanses of bland, grey plastic have been replaced by soft-touch materials. A meaty, leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard and the instrument panel has been given a functional but stylish look, with large, easy-to-read round twin gauges (tachometer and speedometer) in front of the driver and simple controls for the audio and climate control systems stacked efficiently in the centre.
Worthy of note is the fact that automatic climate control is standard on the base model, while dual-zone control is included in all other trim levels.
Splashes of brushed chrome/faux-carbon-fibre trim on the passenger’s side of the instrument panel and the upper door panels add a premium look, even in the base model.
The Outlander has taken a step into a more sophisticated world – and the results are positive.
Sleeker and lighter
The exterior of this third-generation Outlander also has a fresh new look. There’s a new, smoothly-rounded snout and the rear end has been reshaped for a more pleasing effect.
Reduced wind resistance helps improve fuel efficiency; it also reduces wind noise, helping make this the quietest Outlander ever.
In developing the 2014 iteration, Mitsubishi engineers and designers focused on improving three key areas: fuel efficiency, safety and a more sophisticated, premium feel. In addition to reducing its drag co-efficient to 0.33, the Outlander was put on a diet, slimming down by some 100 kilograms.
This weight loss was achieved despite the fact that considerably more sound-deadening materials were added to make the cabin quieter.
No compromise on safety
The lighter body and chassis did not compromise safety, however, as the Outlander has earned the maximum five-star collision rating in European testing. (North American crash testing has not yet been completed, but Mitsubishi expects those results will also produce a five-star rating.)
The solid structural integrity is the result of Mitsubishi’s RISE (reinforced impact safety evolution) body construction. It’s a combination of a front body section that absorbs impact and a cabin structure that’s extremely rigid.
A stringer has been added to the front floor to help resist distortion of the cabin due to impact. In addition, reinforcements and fundamental changes have been made to the initial impact points at the front, rear and side of the cabin to absorb more energy in the event of a crash.
Augmenting these structural changes are seven airbags, including the addition of a driver’s knee airbag, as standard equipment on all models.
The usual suite of safety systems is standard, including anti-lock braking, active stability control, traction control and hill start assist (new for 2014), but a trio of advanced technologies are now offered on the premium GT trim level: forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
New safety technologies
The forward collision mitigation system will issue audible and visual warning and, at speeds of 30 km/h or less, will actually bring the vehicle to a stop if the driver fails to react.
At speeds above 30 km/h, the system will apply the brakes and slow the vehicle, but can’t bring it to a full stop in time to avoid a collision. Its intervention will, however, lessen the severity of the impact.
The adaptive cruise control uses the same radar system to maintain a safe distance behind the vehicle in front. The driver can choose from three ranges or can revert the adaptive system to conventional cruise control if preferred.
Thankfully, the lane departure system can also be deactivated if the audible warning becomes too much of an annoyance. I coped with it for about 50 kilometres on our media drive up the spectacularly scenic Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish before pulling the plug.
Interestingly, while the Outlander does have this trio of advanced safety technologies, it does not offer a blind spot monitoring system. In fact, Mitsubishi does not have this safety system available on any vehicles in its portfolio. I’d gladly trade the lane departure package for a blind spot system in a heartbeat.
Two powertrain packages are offered for the 2014 Outlander: an all-new 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and an updated 3.0-litre V-6.
The four-cylinder now has a single overhead camshaft controlling its 16 valves with the help of Mitsubishi’s electronic valve-timing system (MIVEC.) This engine generates 166 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 revs.
It’s coupled to a new CVT (continuously variable transmission) with a new ratio management system that provides more responsive shifting while helping reduce transmission noise.
During our media drive, this package worked well, providing decent acceleration from a standstill as well as in overtaking. It also handled the steep climbs on the coastal highway and was noticeably quieter than many four-cylinder/CVT combinations I’ve driven.
The 2.4-litre is only available in the base five-passenger ES model, but can be ordered in front-wheel or all-wheel drive (AWC) configurations.
The V-6 engine, which surprisingly accounts for 70 percent of all Outlander sales, has been tweaked for 2014 with the addition of high energy spark plugs and changes to internal parts to reduce friction – both modifications designed to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.
The exhaust system has also been improved and a new high-efficiency catalyst system has been added. The 24-valve, single-overhead-cam, 3.0-litre six, also features the MIVEC valve timing system and smoothly produces 227 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 215 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 revs.
It is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with a new final drive ratio (3.360) and an updated torque converter to help improve performance. The six-speed includes paddle shifters as standard equipment.
This powertrain package is standard on the mid-range SE and upscale GT trim levels, both featuring seven-passenger, three-row seating.
All-wheel drive is standard on both the SE and GT models. The SE, like the base ES-AWC model, gets Mitsubishi’s AWC system which now features three settings: four-wheel auto, four-wheel eco and four-wheel lock.
In eco mode, torque is shifted to the rear wheels only when slippage is detected – a fuel-saving feature. In auto mode, torque is shifted front to back automatically, regardless of slippage, while in the lock mode the torque is split equally front to rear.
Automatic torque splitting is based on input from several new sensors that have been added to the system for 2014, resulting in more feedback delivered faster to the controller.
The GT gets Mitsubishi’s S-AWC (super all-wheel control) system, first introduced on its wickedly-quick Evo sedan. This system, which shifts torque side to side as well as front to rear, now offers four driver-selectable modes: normal, for daily driving; snow, for slippery conditions; lock, for off-road excursions, and eco, which sends power to the front wheels during normal driving to reduce fuel consumption, but can instantly revert to all-wheel drive if slippage is detected.
While the Outlander is not intended for severe off-roading, it can handle the rough back- roads you might encounter en route to a secluded cottage.
To demonstrate its capabilities in such conditions, we drove the Outlander up a steep, pot-hole-infested gravel road to the peak of Mamquam Mountain. It handled the challenge without a fuss – and the trip back down was equally impressive and uneventful. It proved it’s capable of such adventures, whether or not its owner ever contemplates such a drive.
If hauling stuff is a priority for you, both the four-cylinder and V-6 models are available with towing packages. The 2.4-litre four can tow up to 680 kg (1,500 lb), while the 3.0-litre can pull up to 2588 kg (3,500 lb), provided the trailer has its own electric brakes.
Reduced fuel consumption
Fuel consumption ratings for the new model reflect the impact the numerous changes have made: the base ES, with the 2.4-litre four and front-wheel drive is rated at 8.2 litres/100 km in city driving, 6.3L/100 km on the highway and 7.3 combined using regular-grade fuel, compared with the current model’s rating of 9.0 city, 7.0 highway, 8.1 combined.
The 3.0-litre V-6 with all-wheel drive is rated at 10.1L/100 km city, 7.1 highway, 8.8 combined, compared with the previous generation’s rating of 10.9 city, 7.8 highway and 9.5 combined. Premium fuel is recommended.
Pricing for the 2014 Outlander starts at $25,998 for the base ES – the same price as the current model, while the top-of-the-line GT with S-AWC starts at $35,998, an increase of about $800 but with considerably more standard features. A shipping fee of $1,450 is additional for all models.
Mitsubishi is hoping the significant changes it has made to the 2014 Outlander will broaden this vehicle’s appeal to Canadian consumers – and based on this day behind the wheel, those expectations should become reality.