Nissan partnership helps upgrade Outlander, fuel sales …
Pardon Mitsubishi if it feels like strutting a bit, chest out, chin up, wide grin.
You see, the Japanese automaker is on a roll, recording its eighth straight year of upwardly mobile sales in the giant U.S. market and its fourth in a row of 100,000+ sales. That’s still tiny by comparison with, well, just about any other make. But it’s still party time for a company with just four vehicles in its U.S. lineup.
Mitsubishi sells well around the world, but it has struggled over the past 20 years in the U.S. market until this recent uptick. Its products all have improved substantially in that period as the parent company has hooked up with Nissan to share platforms and hardware.
That brings us to the extremely attractive, new, and slightly larger 2022 Outlander SEL that will soon be Mitsubishi’s No. 1 seller. It rides on the Nissan Rogue chassis and features its powertrain. Rogue, by the way, is Nissan’s sales leader.
Using the Rogue as a platform for success while going ooh-la-la on the nose styling featuring giant three-tier headlights below slim modern slit headlights is bound to push Outlander far forward in the sales sector. Folks notice this one and the nose is a primary reason although the profile is smoothed and modern and the tail as handsome as SUV tails ever are.
Looks certainly can’t hurt, ask a Kardashian. But solid mechanicals and useful family transport are what will fuel word-of-mouth consumer cred. The Outlander has all that.
Its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine supplies ample power to the 3,681-pound SUV. Acceleration is smooth and satisfying for entering a highway, the automatic CVT doing a nice job of imitating a direct-shift model with 8 pre-programmed steps to mimic the feel of what we all think of as normal transmission shifts.
While not overly stout, the Mitsubishi will still tow 2,000 pounds of trailer and without the weight of a V6 the Outlander delivers excellent fuel economy. The EPA rates this at 24 mpg city and 30 highway and I can confirm the upper end as I cruised the highway about 80% of the time and logged 30.2 mpg.
This one will go off road some too, if needed. There’s 8.4 inches of ground clearance and 6 drive modes (Normal, Tarmac, Snow, Mud, Gravel and Eco), so slopping around a bit is acceptable. That Tarmac setting appears to be a Sport mod that stiffens the steering effort and aids low-end acceleration. Fine if you need it, but mostly you won’t.
Handling is easy and just responsive enough to feel well suited to either city or highway driving. The SUV is easy to keep in its lane on the highway, even on a blustery summer day. And while there is a wee bit of lean in turns the body remains well centered and the SUV simple to control.
Ride is quite pleasant on the highway but can be a bit stiff on bumpy city side streets. Never a severe ride, there is a bit of jiggle on big pot holes and pavement creases.
Yet the interior is so comfy and quiet that the family won’t squawk much.
The test SUV was a bright Alloy Silver Metallic with a light gray semi-aniline leather interior that looks fancier than the pricing indicates. The seats and door panels are quilted with a soft diamond patterned leather. That and the double-pane side front window glass help cut road noise and create a hushed quality to the interior.
The dash and door tops are black and there are brushed chrome look door releases, trim and air vent covers. A carbon fiber-look trim tops the door arm rests, along with more leather and there’s a tweed textured chrome trim and gloss black atop the console, which is a little wider than most so you may find yourself leaning your accelerator leg against it regularly.
Seats are well shaped and soft so quite comfy too, especially on a highway drive. The front seats also are heated.
Front and second row space is generous, plus there’s a third row seat for short hops with small ones snuggled in back. That third row neatly folds down into the cargo floor to create generous storage space and while row three may help for around town trips, it’s not really for a lengthy road romp. Loading cargo is easy as the SEL comes with a power hatch and there are remote seatback releases in back too.
Other interior details to consider?
- The driver’s seat is powered and there are two seat position memory buttons on the driver’s door.
- The shift knob on the console is quite wide and includes a push button for Park. And there’s a wireless phone charger in front of that, under the center stack.
- This top-end SEL upgrades the standard 8-inch infotainment screen to a 9-incher. That seems just the right size and this one was easy to operate while driving.
- Climate controls are handled with two large knobs and then buttons for fan speed and directional adjustments.
About the only thing lacking here is a sunroof. Many utes and crossovers now offer panoramic ones standard on top-level trims. One is an option here as part of the $2,700 Touring package. That adds a head-up display, manual rear side sun shades, a Bose premium audio system with 10 speakers and heated steering wheel. Up to you Rockefeller.
Mitsubishi smartly includes its Mi-Pilot safety package as standard on all Outlanders. That packs a smart cruise control system, lane keep assist and lane centering, road sign recognition and a Stop & Go system to aid fuel economy.
The SEL also adds automatic high beam headlights, blind-spot warning and lane change assist, front parking sensors, driver attention alert, and rear cross-traffic alert and emergency braking.
More good news comes from the marketing department, in that Mitsubishi keeps Outlander affordable and a high-value family friendly small SUV. The base ES starts at $27,290 including delivery while this high-end SEL with AWD lists at $34,940. That’s still way below the average new vehicle starting price these days.
The test unit added just a Welcome package that includes carpeted floor mats, a touch-up paint pen, and a console tray mat) for $160, and a retractable cargo cover for $195 to end up at $35,295. That’s a bargain, especially considering Mitsubishi’s 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
For the record there are currently 7 trims for Outlander and all are standard with front-wheel-drive. Adding AWD is a $2,000 option. A plug-in hybrid is available too, but is a carryover of the former Outlander model, at least for now.
FAST STATS: 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC
Hits: Sharp looks, especially the nose, plus AWD, good power and easy handling. Pleasant highway cruiser with good MPG and a third row seat. Roomy interior, big info screen, 6 drive modes for off-roading, dual climate controls, heated front seats, supportive seats with quilted leather, wireless phone charger, power rear hatch plus good standard safety devices.
Misses: No sunroof, ride can seem stiff on bumpy side streets and console is wide.
Made in: Okazaki, Japan
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, 181 hp/181 torque
Transmission: CVT automatic w/Sport
Weight: 3,681 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.5 in.
Length: 185.4 in.
Cargo: 33.5-63.3 cu.ft.
MPG: 30.2 (tested)
Base Price: $34,940 (includes delivery)
Welcome package (carpeted floor mats, touch-up paint pen, console tray mat), $160
Cargo cover, $195
Test vehicle: $35,295
Sources: Mitsubishi, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage