Review: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

By Mark Elias
Monday, Jun 8th, 2015 @ 12:22 pm
Turning red into black. Red ink into black ink, that is. It's a crucial task that Mitsubishi Motors Corporation hopes to overcome but it is at the forefront of everyone's mind within the company. The brand from Japan hopes that the new 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander will help stem the tide with the first profits seen from the U.S. market since 2008.

We were curious to find if the new Zoolander was up to the task. Sorry, couldn't resist. Find out as we check out the new 2016 Outlander in that City by the Bay, San Francisco, California.

What's new
Built as a mid-sized five-passenger crossover vehicle with an emergency third row seat, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander undergoes several changes that attempt to bring it closer to its rivals, which include the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX5, to name just a few. Now in the mid-point of this third-generation product cycle, the Outlander receives more than 100 design and engineering improvements, with a special emphasis on the reduction of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness).

Two engine choices are available -- a 166 horsepower 2.4-liter MiVEC four-cylinder with 162 lb-ft of torque and a 224 horsepower 3.0-liter V6, which makes 215 lb-ft. The 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder is standard on all models except for the GT, which gets the three-point-oh liter MiVEC V6. All engines are mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), again excepting the 3.0 V6, which gets a conventional six-speed automatic gearbox.

In addition to engine choices, this mid-sized Mitsu SUV is available in four trim levels ranging from base ES 2WD, SE 2WD, SE S-AWC (all-wheel-drive), SEL 2WD and SEL S-AWC and GT S-AWC.

The Outlander's suspension features crossmember-strengthening tweaks that better it over the previous year's but still features a MacPherson strut set-up in front, with integral stabilizer bar. Larger shocks and a revised spring rate help improve the multilink independent rear suspension, as well. Electric power steering is also in the mix to curtail fuel consumption and hydraulic drag that was found in the previous steering version.

Before they looked within, Mitsubishi designers tackled the outside with a refresh to the very chrome-y grille and front fascia, via a design concept called "Dynamic Shield." In addition to the new below-bumper skidplate, the front fenders also received a remodeling session and now incorporate halogen headlamps, LED positioning lights and other bling to give the Outlander a more contemporary appearance. The rear fascia underwent a slight nip/tuck with new styling treatment that now includes LED taillights. As for grip, the Outlander rides on standard 18-inch alloy wheels, all around.

The 2016 Outlander has become more rigid through its use of a redesigned suspension, and high strength steel. A thicker, and more insulated windshield and side door glass, as well as more underfloor insulation, allow for a quieter interior where everyone can use their inside voices to communicate. The results of the changes in material were very evident via the solid thunk that was heard even when closing the doors.

In case they don't want to communicate, an available nine-speaker 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system can be ordered in the SEL model range, which happens to be standard in the GT. Among convenience features, the SEL and GT models can be ordered with an available MMCS Navigation system and seven-inch high definition touchscreen display. FUSE, the brand's hands-free Bluetooth suite, is now standard throughout the lineup.

SEL models can also make use of an available safety package with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision mitigation, among other features. Buyers can choose to incorporate all of the above features in the SEL Touring and GT Touring Packages, respectively.

Look inward
Interior refreshments, while not major, are still significant and include many touches that are a move in the right direction. New soft touch materials are included for an upmarket look, while a redesigned steering wheel, improved seating and headliner surfaces and the aforementioned Mitsubishi Multi Communication System (MMCS), round out the interior. Contrast stitching gives a pricier lilt to the dashboard, and improvements have been made to the 50:50 split third row seat, with headrest storage in the rear cargo area floor.

The flip-forward second row seating is now easily operated through the pulling of a tab which causes the seat bottom to flip forward, followed by a flipping down of the head rests and finally the folding forward of the seatbacks. It's an improvement over the previous version, which had an extra step or two to accomplish the same function. We hope the brackets on these pre-production models are modified for a more rigid and sure movement than what we saw on the demonstrator vehicles.

For those with moving (and cargo) on their minds, the Outlander has 10.3-cubic feet behind the third row seating. Drop those forward and that area grows to 34.2-cubic feet behind the middle row, which when they are folded, increase the total rear cargo capacity to 63.3-cubic feet.

Drive time
The 3.0-liter V6 is a strong carryover from the previous version and is well suited to the GT version of this mid-sizer. Standing on the accelerator saw somewhat quick getaways and the ability to tow up to 3,500-pounds. The six-speed automatic transmission was a quick shifter, made even faster still, by its steering wheel-mounted paddles, but still the lack of low-end grunt was problematic.

We think, however, that after spending the better part of an afternoon in the SEL version with its standard 2.4-liter, 166 horsepower inline four-cylinder, that most buyers (perhaps up to 90-percent) will find all the power they need. Sure, at 1,500 pounds, it has less towing capability, but the refinement and power from this smallish brute of an engine never left us hanging for want of more power.

The new-generation CVT transmission offered a simulated feel of gears changing, but the reality was they were continuously moving up through their range. We did like the ability to slide the shift lever over to sport gate for an engine remap that had it revving higher and holding a gear range longer for a more-performance-like drive style.

By the numbers for the 2.4-liter engine, Mitsubishi says they have clipped a second off the 0-60 mph time, which is now 10.2-seconds. And others have their say, too: The EPA says the 2.4-liter 2WD version is capable of 25 city/31 highway with a 27 mpg average, while the AWD model gets 24 city/ 29 highway with 26 combined mpg.

Although we didn't experience it long enough to confirm, the EPA also said the V6 achieves 20 city/27 highway, good for 23 mpg combined.

Steering was spot on with a firm feel throughout the range. The suspension on the 2.4-liter SEL offered a better ride quality, probably due to the lower amount of weight it was carrying when compared to the GT model. We felt the ride quality of the 2016 was nicely tuned to soak up road imperfections and the like, but also think the 2015 unibody's firmness more closely aligns with our personal tastes. Still, we agree that the 2016 Outlander's quiet ride showed off the NVH engineer's efforts nicely.

Leftlane's bottom line
Moving about with a certain swagger in their step, Mitsubishi is trying hard to overcome past obstacles, both internal and market-related. With this major mid-cycle refresh, an attractive pricing scheme, and hopefully more competitive products to come, the Outlander should be on many a compact SUV buyer's comparison list.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander base price:
ES 2WD $22,995
SE 2WD $23,995
SE 4WC $25,995
SEL 2WD $24,995
SEL 4WC $26,995
GT S-4WC $30,995
Destination: $850

Photos by Mark Elias.