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2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWD

Outlander Sport still under the radar … 2018 Mitsubishi Outback Sport

            Mitsubishi continues to fly under the radar among the Japanese car makers in the U.S., with just a few models and those don’t change often.

But the Outlander Sport has been one of its success stories, as it spun off from the larger Outlander SUV a few years back. This is a small ute, or crossover, about a foot shorter in length than Outlander.

It’s handsome, easy to maneuver in a parking lot and an automotive bargain. But it’s no benchmark to be sure.

The body is tidy and looks a bit sportier than many mainline small utes. I tested a pretty metallic red almost top-level SEL with AWD. The later is a bit of a misnomer in that you must engage the 4-wheel-drive system while cars and wagons such as Subarus are AWD all the time. Still, that’s easy because there’s a big button on the console. Press it once and you go from 2WD to 4WD.2018 Mitsubishi Outback Sport

Price though is what sets it apart. You can easily pay $30-35 grand for a decent AWD crossover or small ute, but the SEL model starts at $26,835, including delivery. Even with its pricey Touring Package, a $2,000 option, the test vehicle checked in at just $29,110. That’s a certifiable bargain.

That AWD works fine once engaged, and the Outlander Sport SEL now comes with a bit horsier 2.4-liter I4 engine. This one has 168 horsepower compared with 148 in earlier models and lower cost trim levels. Continue reading 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWD

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2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD

Juke the latest oddball design from Nissan 

Odd nose and those lights atop the hood are great at holding snow and ice.
Odd nose and those lights atop the hood are great at holding snow and ice.

Nissan’s Juke is unusual looking!

You’ll probably substitute your own word for “unusual”, but there will be no argument that it looks like no other car on the road, but then neither did the Nissan Cube, which has been discontinued, or the late Pontiac Aztek.

For lack of a better descriptor, I’d say the Juke has bug eyes, or possibly a frog-faced nose. Some call it youthful, some funky. But it’s no Kia Soul, which exudes cute and trendy.

Plus the unique Juke has been around now for several years, so it’s not a newcomer to the market. It does offer all-wheel-drive, which is a plus in its favor, plus decent gas mileage and in the tested SL AWD model, heated front seats. That was especially nice on several sub-zero days during my drive.

This is the purplish blue of my test car.
This is the purplish blue of my test car.

Its other major plus, other than being a hatchback, is its lithe nature and easy sporty handling. It’s fun to drive with mild steering effort and responsive handling with little lean in turns. In that way, it feels much like a Jeep.

Sadly it feels Jeep-like in ride, which is to say choppy over Wisconsin’s rough roads. The front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension, both with stabilizer bars, shocks and springs, delivered a bumpier small sport-utility truck type ride than many folks may enjoy and I found myself trying to dodge any road imperfection to ease the jostle. Blame much of that on Juke’s short, 99.6-inch wheelbase. Continue reading 2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC

Outlander remains a middler in SUV marketoutlander1

Mitsubishi’s new Outlander is a handsome SUV, but remains a middler.

Its performance falls in the middle of the crowded small to mid-sized sport-utility market. Little stands out.

The tested “rally red” ute was the 3.0 GT S-AWC model, meaning it’s loaded with Mitsubishi’s more desirable V6 engine and all-wheel-drive. This model’s base price of $28,195 isn’t bad, but not the lowest cost on the market either.

Trust me, you’ll want the 3.0-liter V6 version because it generates a decent 224 horsepower. Although torque is a modest 215 so you’ll have to jam the accelerator to get it to jump up to passing speed or to hustle onto the freeway. The base model touts a mild 166-horse 2.4-liter I4, not a great choice to haul around a 183.3-inch long sport-ute that can weigh between 3,200 and the test unit’s 3,571 lbs.

While power is decent in the test ute, its forte is handling. Steering is relatively quick with very minor play in the wheel. Handling is good with only modest lean in high-speed turns. It’s a pleasant highway cruiser and easy to control.

Ride though is relatively firm, with the Outlander’s tail seeming to jump and bump readily over sharp road creases. While not uncomfortable, the jolts are more noticeable than in many utes of this stature. For instance the Nissan Rogue and Subaru Forester’s rides feel more compliant. Continue reading 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Outlander Sport SE AWC = smooth looks, ride

mitsu1Maybe I’m becoming more tolerant as I age, but I liked the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport better than I had the first time I drove it three years ago.

What I liked was its looks, a smooth sophisticated body, and its smooth well controlled ride, something one comes to appreciate in Spring-thaw Wisconsin when the frost heaves rise like moguls, and the washed out potholes resemble fox holes.

The Outlander Sport’s MacPherson struts up front and fine multi-link rear suspension give it a comfortable ride, never jolting, as I maneuvered around the road enragers that pretended to be pavement.

Sport is a compact sport-ute or crossover, a full 14.6 inches shorter than the Outlander, while riding on the same chassis and sharing Outlander’s 105.1-inch wheelbase. Sport’s shortcoming though remains its weak 2.0-liter 148-horse 4-cylinder engine that’s linked up with a lackluster CVT (continuously variable transmission). Acceleration remains less than exhilarating, actually slow and pokey. Torque is disappointing when you get on the gas pedal say, getting onto the freeway. There is no low-end oomph and the vehicle’s acceleration fades and fumbles between 25 and 35 mph.

Sadly, when you do demand some power, the CVT and engine moan and groan louder than a teenager being asked to clean his bedroom. I’d prefer the larger Outlander’s 168-horse 2.4-liter I4 engine.

Continue reading 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport