DALLAS, November 17, 2015 – Once thought to be on the brink of pulling out of the North American automobile market, Mitsubishi has had a bit of a comeback in the last year. This sales increase was primarily due to two models; the Mirage and Outlander Sport. For 2015, Mitsubishi has significantly upgraded power with the addition of a 2.4-liter engine, better sound insulation, and an upgraded continuously variable transmission (CVT). Does the updated Outlander Sport have something new to cause the jump in sales for this small crossover sport utility vehicle? Let us explore what is causing people to run to their local Mitsubishi dealers and commit to the 45-year old brand.
The front end of the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT reminds one of Audi and lends a sophisticated air to a design that otherwise blends in with the rest of traffic. In our GT model, the Mercury Gray metallic paint and the LED running and tail lights. Octane Blue (pictured) is an attention getting color that calls out for attention, while not risking scorn from the valet at Morton’s Steakhouse. The 18-inch wheels could do with a bit edgier look, as they are rather ordinary. That would fit in better with the Audi vibe they have going. The relatively small size of the Outlander Sport GT makes for parking without worry, but is not indicative of the interior space.
Inside, one finds a roomy cockpit and cabin that almost seems like a magic trick. The panoramic sunroof with LED illumination adds to that airy feeling and was loved by passengers and driver alike. Heated leather seats that are more comfortable than an expensive ergonomic chair result in little driver fatigue during long drives. The side bolstering and sporty contrast stitching hold the driver in well during vigorous driving. It was easy to get comfortable in the Outlander, with a power driver seat adjustable for height, and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The leather wrapped steering wheel, with convenient infotainment and phone controls was a pleasure to grip. Piano black trim, sporty aluminum pedals, soft touch materials, and controls straight out of the German book of control feel add to the urbane feel.
The infotainment system in our tester included a seven-inch touch screen, navigation with real time traffic and 3D mapping was easy to use. Only slight lag was encountered and it did not hinder or frustrate, like on other infotainment systems. The nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with 10-inch subwoofer, DTS surround is a welcome addition to the experience. Expected features such as satellite radio are here as well.
The only quibbles were with volume that was universal across all sources. That issue most noticeable when switching from sources with varying levels of sound, such as satellite to FM or Bluetooth. Bluetooth phone conversations went through a single speaker. This was a bit odd, but speech was intelligible on both ends. Navigation also went through one speaker instead of the whole sound system, but the highlight of the navigation was a visual 3D representation of the next turn. That was very helpful in case the audio directions were missed. One final bonus of the navigation is it shows the speed limit of the street on which one is driving. That could help one keep on the friendly side of local law enforcement.
Driving the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT is not a heart raising affair, but also not an unpleasant place from which to explore the country. The power from the 168 horsepower engine is adequate and will get up and move when one wants it to, but it is attached to a weakness. As with many manufacturers of late, Mitsubishi has become enamored with the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The reason for this affinity is the never ending hunt for better fuel economy. When driving in a relaxed state, the CVT feel is not noticeable and it even has fake gear shifts integrated. However, once the accelerator pedal hits the floor, the rubber band feel and engine noise make it apparent this is not a regular automatic.
A test drive will help one determine if this is something with which one can live. An engineer with sporting nature in their blood thought a vehicle with Sport GT in the name should come with aluminum shift paddles. While it is true that just about any vehicle with sporting pretensions and no clutch pedal should come with these love handles of speed, one will rarely find need for them in the Outlander Sport. That leads us to the less sporting part of the vehicle.
We wish the attention that was laid on the shift paddles was instead lavished on the suspension. If we did not know this was a Sport GT model, going around a corner would not convince us otherwise. The suspension tuning was truly the weakest point of an otherwise decent vehicle. The wallow when the wheel was turned with the hint of urgency would have passengers reaching for something to hold onto. The positive spin is, the highway ride was not jarring and faired pretty well. Only once did I feel the suspension bottom out, transmitting a loud thud into the cabin. I only note this, because quite a few other recently review vehicles did not react that way on the same spot in the road. Now that the EVO is a defunct model, we humbly suggest Mitsubishi quickly assign the suspension engineers to work their magic on vehicle.
What the Outlander Sport GT lacks in sport, it makes up for in utility. This is one of the few vehicles in its class to come with locking all-wheel drive that even works at higher speeds. That is definitely something those in northern climates will appreciate, along with hill start assist, rear heater floor ducts, and the heated front seats/side mirrors. All-wheel drive auto and front-wheel drives modes are also available for diverse conditions.
Our review vehicle also did not leave out safety from the equation. The bevy of air bags is expected, but the HID headlights is a nice touch. The Outlander Sport earns a quite respectable Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with an acceptable rating in the small front overlap test, and good scores across the other tests. Feeling safe in the Outlander Sport GT will not be a worry for the owner.
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport GT provided by Mitsubishi for our review came with the GT Touring Package. This left it with a $30,495, including destination charge. If the upgraded sound system, leather, and navigation is not necessary for your happiness, one can find it for a sticker of $25,845. Deals beyond that will vary by region. The roominess, thoughtful touches on the interior, crash safety, and tech make this vehicle one to check out. We enjoyed our time with the vehicle and recommend giving one a spin if in the market for a compact crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV).
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