Like an owner who resembles his or her dog, Mitsubishi’s 2014 Outlander is just as much an oddity as the brand itself.
Though the Japanese automaker sold more cars in the U.S. in 2013 than Porsche or Volvo (and just a few thousand less than Jaguar), Mitsubishi is a quirky company with a quirky lineup that flies well below the radar of many shoppers.
In addition to the midsize Outlander SUV that starts at $23,820, Mitsubishi also sells the Outlander Sport compact crossover; regular, hatchback and high-performance versions of the Lancer compact sedan; and the new Mirage, a tiny morsel of a hatchback that starts just under $14,000.
The Outlander and its funky design is not only king of the company’s condensed lineup, it’s also the one that most boldly eschews what others in its class are doing. This gives the SUV some interesting advantages, but also means the fully loaded $34,720 GT model we tested may be a tough sell to consumers.
While most of Mitsubishi’s Outlander lineup uses a small, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 166 horsepower, the company sent us the top-end V-6 model. With 3.0 liters, this engine makes 224 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. Despite the presence of six cylinders under our Outlander’s hood, those numbers are decidedly in four-cylinder territory.
And the V-6 drove like a four-pot too, in both power and sound. This model is rated by the EPA at 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. During a week’s worth of testing, we averaged a little more than 22 mpg, and found all those miles quiet and comfortable.
That’s not terrible gas mileage for a V-6, but given its size and power, this is to be expected. A relatively low curb weight also helps. One of this engine’s main advantages is the boost in towing it gives the Outlander. Four-cylinder models are rated at 1,500 pounds; our tester was able to lug 3,500 pounds.
This capability is wrapped in an exterior that Mitsubishi redesigned for 2014. Whereas the previous model’s angular look bore a strong resemblance to the Lancer and the Outlander Sport, the new model goes soft. The profile is sleeker, but the quirky front has a snout to it that gives the Outlander an unconventional look.
Because this Mitsubishi is hiding a small but standard third row of seats in the back, the Outlander is a bit longer than most (at 183.3 inches long, it’s roughly five inches longer than a Honda CR-V). But these are seats with a giant asterisk attached.
Adults barely fit back there, and kids who draw the short straw will need to enjoy cozy spaces. Still, it could be handy in a pinch, and those rear seats fold flat very easily and take up no noticeable cargo room when stowed. If only the middle seats folded as easily.
The rest of the Outlander’s interior is straightforward, practical, and plenty sturdy for a family’s worth of abuse. It’s also a safe place to spend some time. The Outlander was recently named a Top Safety Pick Plus by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees, are standard.
Getting into all this vehicle is plenty affordable, as the Outlander packs in an impressive amount of value. As mentioned, the ES base model begins at $23,820. But most buyers will want to make the $800 leap to the SE version. This nets you 18-inch alloy wheels, climate control, heated front seats, and a touchscreen audio display with backup camera and USB connectivity.
AWD is an additional $2,000. The V-6 AWD version is $2,000 more ($28,620 total). Our tester then added the GT Touring package, a $6,100 group of popular goodies. These included a 7-inch touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic alerts, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, leather seats, a moonroof and a 710-watt stereo system.
That’s a pile of features for a midsize SUV, and this makes the $34,720 price tag easier to swallow than it is at first blush. If only we could say the same about the styling.
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