By Bob Plunkett
TICONDEROGA, N.Y. -- A curvy road stretches northward through Silver Bay and Hague to Ticonderoga along the ragged western shore of Lake George, where the run-off of melting snow combines with a mist coming off the lake to create a slippery route ideally suited for testing the non-skid traction capability of Mitsubishi's 2013 Outlander Sport crossover utility vehicle.
Hunkering low against the road and hugging hard through each tight curve, our Outlander Sport carves a crisp and controlled line through each curve of the Adirondack road at a rather fast clip.
The 5-door compact-class CUV seems well armed to combat any type of weather -- even residual snow and ice -- because it offers an optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) system which distributes power selectively yet automatically to any of four wheels with grip.
Designers at Mitsubishi cast the wagon on a rigid unibody platform with front-wheel-drive (FWD) orientation, then stock it with lively independent suspension elements to fashion a ride quality that's smooth and comfortable for passengers yet also responsive.
The platform supports the 105-inch wheelbase and a wide wheel track of 60.6 inches front and back. Pushing wheels to edges of the chassis brings stability to the stance and enhances the CUV's agility when cornering, while the long wheelbase forges the smooth ride quality.
Mitsubishi's triangular marque mounts dead center in a redesigned wide-mouth front grille and angry-eye headlamps defining 2013 editions of Outlander Sport, which score a variety of enhancements for the 5-seat passenger compartment plus numerous mechanical improvements.
As the best-selling vehicle in Mitsubishi's North American model mix, the 2013 Outlander Sport trims out as a price-leader ES with choice of FWD or AWD traction, the sporty SE issue with FWD and AWD modes, and new LE (limited edition) also in FWD or AWD.
Production of all 2013 Outlander Sport models moves from Japan to Mitsubishi's USA assembly plant in Illinois.
Each Outlander Sport trim issue totes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder aluminum-block engine with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and the Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control (MIVEC) equipment.
The plant produces 148 hp at 6000 rpm plus 145 lb-ft of torque at 4200 rpm and regulates the output through an advanced continuously variable transaxle (CVT) with Sportronic sequential shift control via resin paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel.
Base trim ES also shows a 5-speed manual transmission option.
Fuel consumption numbers for the MIVEC engine with CVT and FWD traction add up to 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
Select the AWD option and fuel burn scores reach 24/29 mpg city/highway.
The cabin design for Outlander Sport shows two buckets up front, a back bench split 60/40 with room for three, and the aft cargo area accessed via a tail-side liftgate.
Outlander Sport's dash is clean and uncluttered with the instrument panel tucked below a cowl and binnacles housing the analog tachometer and speedometer.
Passengers are surrounded by air bags, including multi-stage frontal air bags and side air bags for front seats along with curtain-style air bags tucked in the ceiling for all outboard seats. There's even an inflatable air bag ahead of the driver's knees.
Electronic hardware for safety aboard Outlander Sport ranges from an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD) to active stability control (ASC) with traction control logic (TCL), hill start assist (HSA) and a brake override system that slows the CUV to a complete stop if both the accelerator and brake pedal are depressed at the same time.
The 2013 Outlander Sport ES issue is an exceptional value with a load of standard equipment that includes air conditioning, power controls for windows and exterior mirrors and door locks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, LCD information display, remote keyless entry device, the rear seatback split 60/40, Mitsubishi's Fuse hands-free link system for audio voice control and a 4-speaker 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB kit.
Outlander Sport SE edition acquires more standard gear such as high-intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlamps, foglamps, One-touch Start/Stop (OSS) engine switch, rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate system, upgraded cloth seat upholstery, heated front seats, sliding armrest between front seats, backseat armrest with center pass-through, and a six-speaker audio system with satellite radio.
There's a long list of gear options including 10 packages for upgrades in cabin equipment, seat upholstery, premium audio kits and backseat entertainment systems.
The Premium Package, for example, adds a panoramic glass roof with adjustable LED mood lighting, black roof rails, auto dimming rearview mirror, rear camera system and a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system with 9 speakers and a 6-disc CD/MP3 changer.
And the Navigation Package installs a 40-gb HDD navigation system with music server and Real-Time Traffic.
Price points for Mitsubishi's 2013 Outlander Sport series begin at $19,170 for the ES FWD model with manual transmission. MSRP for Outlander SE FWD is $22,295 and the LE FWD lists for $23,495.