2014 Mitsubishi Outlander

The Mitsubishi Outlander is a seven-passenger crossover that straddles the line between the compact and midsize segments. Comprehensively redesigned for the latest model year, the 'ute is blander outside than its attractive predecessor but improved in nearly every other way, boasting a more refined interior, better fuel economy and new high-tech safety features.

Recognizing the importance of a practical and high-quality cabin to crossover buyers, Mitsubishi created a simple, functional dashboard with user-friendly controls. Gloss-black trim, woodgrain accents and soft-touch materials impart an upscale aesthetic, as do optional features like a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate stereo and a navigation system with weather, fuel price, and real-time traffic info.

An available FUSE infotainment system lets drivers use voice commands to stream music from their MP3 player, place or receive calls and store contacts via Bluetooth.

The Outlander is one of the few crossovers in its competitive set to offer three rows of seating. The third row is handy for carrying children or smaller adults in a pinch, although it can seem cramped for longer journeys. Cargo space measures 10.3 cubic inches with all the seats in place; fold down the rearmost row, and there's 32.4 cubic feet, while 63.3 cubic feet are available with just the front seats upright.

An aerodynamic exterior and low curb weight - the latter aided by extensive use of high-tensile steel - help the Outlander make the most of its somewhat underpowered engines, which largely carry over from the previous model.

The standard motor is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that pairs with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and produces 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. While many rivals have turned to more potent turbocharged fours for upgrade mills, the Outlander uses a 3.0-liter V6 with 224 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque.

Four-cylinder Outlanders come standard with front-wheel-drive and offer all-wheel-drive as an option, while the V6 comes exclusively with all-wheel-drive. The AWD system, which Mitsubishi dubs Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), runs in 2WD mode to save fuel until road or weather conditions call for AWD traction and features brake-based torque vectoring that helps to quell understeer.

In its most efficient form - the FWD four-cylinder model - the Outlander returns 25/31 city/highway mpg, while adding AWD lowers the four's fuel economy to 24/29 mpg. The V6 Outlander is rated at 20/28 mpg.

Trim Level Breakdown
The Outlander is offered in ES, SE and GT trim levels.

The ES comes standard with the four-cylinder motor, front-wheel-drive, automatic climate control, full power accessories, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system, cruise control, heated side mirrors and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.

The SE adds dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, Bluetooth smartphone connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, a six-inch touchscreen entertainment display, a rearview camera, foglamps and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The range-topping GT brings the V6 motor, AWD, automatic windshield wipers, automatic xenon headlights and wood grain trim.

Extra-cost features include leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system, a navigation system, a power liftgate and adaptive cruise control.

Occupant Safety
All Outlander models come standard with dual front, front side and 1st/2nd row side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag, traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Optional safety systems include a forward collision mitigation system that uses radar to detect obstacles ahead of the Outlander and apply the brakes to prevent or lessen the severity of a crash, and a lane departure system that warns the driver if the crossover wanders into an adjacent lane.

Key Competitors
If seven-passenger seating is a must for your future crossover, then the only similarly-sized alternative to the Outlander is the stylish Kia Sorento, which isn't as efficient as the Mitsu but offers more space and power. If two rows of seating will do, then the list of rivals grows to include a plethora of excellent models such as the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5 and the Subaru Forester.