Mitsubishi USA did something in 2015 it hadn’t accomplished in seven years. It made a profit. And I think that the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is one of the reasons that happened.
Mitsubishi took a gamble and came out with a significantly updated 2016 model. It was a gamble because the previous model was only two years old. But obviously, there was something that the marketing folks felt was missing. The most obvious change is what Mitsubishi calls its “Dynamic Shield” front design. The carmaker says the concept came from the bumper side protection seen on generations of the Monteros. More importantly, it is a bolder design that looks like it belongs in the 2016 marketplace.
The Outlander is a compact SUV and that is a very competitive segment. So what does it offer to make it unique? How about a third row of seats? While it’s not the only compact SUV with three rows, it’s a small club. Now don’t get too excited about that third row. It’s not very big, and it also cuts into the leg room for the second row. Still, if you need to haul a bigger crowd of little people, the Outlander is a perfectly reasonable option.
You have your choice of two engines with the Outlander. My test car had the 2.4 liter, 166 horsepower four-cylinder motor. I’ll be honest and tell you that 166 is not a lot of power. Having said that, I was actually pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t blow me away with acceleration, but (and this may sound like a backhanded compliment), it wasn’t nearly as bad as I would have expected. In fact, before I checked the horsepower, I thought it had more. You do get 25 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway for combined number of 27 mpg which is respectable in this class.
So what about that other engine? It’s a 3.0 liter V6 that pumps out 224 horsepower. Unlike the smaller motor that comes with a continuously variable transmission, this one had a conventional six speed automatic. Interestingly, it only gets a mile less in the combined mileage department (26 mpg). It might be worth the upgrade. Mitsubishi says the improvements with this refresh include better handling with less noise and vibration.
Inside there are changes as well. the new Outlander gets a redesigned steering wheel, as well as a new navigation and display system. I liked the new interface. It was simple and easy to use, although the touch buttons did seem a bit small. I also liked the overall look of the dash. It had a nice clean design that incorporated the display nicely. I’m confused as to why some carmakers are still mounting it on the top of the dash like an afterthought. Mitsubishi also says the new Outlander has better accent trim and seating surface. I can’t say I noticed a huge jump in that department, but it did look nice.
My test car was the SEL model. It stickered at $31,095. That included $5,250 for the SEL Touring package. For that price it adds some important safety features like forward collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control. You also get goodies like a power remote liftgate and folding side mirrors.
Mitsubishi may not be selling as many Outlanders as the competition in the compact SUV category. But let’s call that a good thing. When you pull up to drop off your kids at school or some other event, you won’t look like all the other parents. And you can hold your head up high knowing that you helped Mitsubishi climb just a little higher on the ladder to financial stability.