DETROIT – I wasn't all that impressed when I first encountered the Mitsubishi Outlander. The crossover utility vehicle didn't have a lot of panache, engine punch or much of anything else. It was a pretty mundane crossover.
But after 18 months of escalating gasoline prices, a sinking economy, some upgrades for the 2008 model year and the Mitsubishi Outlander is looking pretty good. First, the numbers:
The Outlander has a respectable EPA rating of 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the hwy. Mitsubishi says the average driver can expect to get 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the hwy.
Powered by a now popular four cylinder engine, the Outlander is mated to a continuously variable transmission (no gears) and generates 168 horsepower and 167 pounds-feet of torque. With a base price of $24,330, the Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 is a very affordable utility vehicle. It comes in two-wheel drive or four wheel drive configuration.
A 220 horsepower V6 with a six speed automatic transmission is also available.
Our test vehicle had a black fabric interior that was functional but bland. Still, the layout was good. Controls were on the center stack with audio atop climate controls and the climate controls were rotary dials. This was pretty straight forward stuff.
And that's what made the Outlander very attractive for the times. There wasn't a lot that could go wrong. I envisioned the vehicle being an everyday driver, hauling kids, toting stuff and running errands.
It just seemed like it could take a lot of wear and tear. Rear seat space was good. I think the Outlander could hold two sizable adults in the back seats without much trouble but three adults would be cramped. It had a dual glove box. There was also a storage compartment on top of the dashboard. And there was another storage compartment beneath the floor behind the second row of seats.
The Outlander can be equipped with a third row of seats but I can't imagine them being able to comfortably handle more than a small child.
Moreover, it seemed like the Outlander would be comparatively inexpensive to operate. Mitsubishi estimated that fuel cost would be about $1,911 annually. However, the estimate was based on gasoline priced at $2.80 a gallon and driving 15,000 mile per year. It'll no doubt cost more than that to operate the Outlander for one year.
Driving characteristics weren't bad. The Outlander got up to speed quickly enough when entering expressways and acceleration was acceptable in the all important 55 mph to 70 mph range. However, we did note a bit of torque steer when powering through a tight turn.
And though the suspension was okay it seemed not to take quick bumps all that smoothly. It's hard to put into words, but the Outlander seemed light when going over a sharp bump. Coming in at 3,500 lbs. it wasn't a heavyweight.
There was no navigation system or much of anything else. Still, the Outlander was comfortable. There were no power seats but there was a moon roof. And the vehicle did have a keyless operation. As long as I had the FOB, a pull of the handle and the vehicle would unlock and a turn of the ignition switch would start it.
In normal operations, the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SE had front wheel drive. But with a knob on the center console four-wheel drive could be selected or all four wheels could be locked to work in unison.
Rather than truck-based sport-utilities, crossovers vehicles like the Mitsubishi Outlander are growing in popularity. They are relatively inexpensive to purchase as well as to operate. And in today's world, those two points alone are enough to purchase one.