The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is akin to seeing someone who reminds you of someone you used to know, but can’t place in your memory. In this case, that’s because what designers call the “face” comes courtesy of its cousin, the Lancer. In fact, the Outlander Sport might be considered a Lancer set up for off-road use, since its underpinnings also come from the Lancer.
Configured to ride a bit higher in the saddle, the Outlander Sport is a perky looking little rig – shorter than its sibling, the Outlander proper by 14.5 inches, at 169.1inches -- that fits right into that recent automotive niche known as the “crossover.” The term was devised by some product planner as a way of differentiating small sport utilities that have more in common with automobiles than the traditional body-on-frame behemoths that were the favored rides of many Americans, prior to gasoline hitting four dollars a gallon, in the summer just before the fall of Lehman Brothers.
The hatchback rear of the Outlander Sport has a bit of a forward slope consistent with the theories of German aero dynamist and engineer Wunibald Kamm. Call it a kammback-hatchback. No word on what the drag coefficient of the Outlander Sport might be, as a result; but it certainly looks right.
The interior is comfortable and most everything falls readily to hand; however, the sightlines from the driver’s seat aren’t good and the rear-view camera, that actuates when the Outlander is put into reverse is very much needed.
While the Outlander is a front-wheel drive vehicle, there’s the ability to electronically change it into all-wheel-drive by using a “driving mode” selector, while the ignition switch or the operation mode is on. By pressing the drive mode selector, the drive mode can be changed from 2WD, 4WD auto or 4WD Lock. The drive mode is displayed as an interrupt display within the instrument panel. After being actuated, the information screen returns to its prior display. If that sounds confusing, be assured that after using it to go back to two-wheel drive, from four-wheel drive, it becomes as easy as using an ATM.
Vehicle dynamics on a round trip between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington seemed to compare favorably with the likes of the querulous looking Nissan Juke or the mini-utility Subaru Forester. The suspension architecture underneath is MacPherson struts, up front, and multiple trailing links, in the rear; both are assisted by stabilizer bars, 22 mm diameter, up front and 16 mm, rearward.
The only negative noted seemed to be a lot of road noise. A friend who’s a longtime service technician who came along for a ride noted it, after a short drive that included a loop from his shop, onto the freeway to test acceleration and back to the shop. Whether that’s something to do with the shock settings or underperforming engine mounts (as a friend in the San Francisco bay area who recently road-tested an Outlander Sport seemed to feel), is speculation. It’s about at the level which many front-drive automobiles used to evidence, back when manufacturers were still trying to dampen out the effect of having an engine and transmission, up front.
While too many consumers might not be aware of it, Mitsubishi has been building dependable, long lasting four cylinder engines for the American market, since its Astron series of engines debuted in rebadged Dodge Colts in the late 1970s. (The same in-line four cylinder engine within which Mitsubishi utilized Frederick W. Lanchester’s counter-rotating shaft, anti-vibration system and dubbed it the Silent Shaft; later to be used, under license, by Porsche for its three-liter, in-line four cylinder engine.) In fact, the Astron four-cylinder engine was competent enough to survive usage, in various Mitsubishi models, for 25 years.
The engine bay of the Outlander Sport contains a DOHC (double overhead camshaft), 16 valves, normally aspirated, all-aluminum four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 145 lbs. /ft. at mid-range (4,200 rpm). It’s plenty enough to power the Outlander Sport’s 4,343 pounds (gross vehicle weight) to freeway speeds, while achieving 27 mpg (noted in real time, thanks to the trip computer). Best of all, in these days when most of us have become fiscal conservatives, it runs on unleaded regular gasoline (87 octanes).
The Outlander Sport can be ordered with either a five-speed manual transmission or a CVT (continuously variable transmission); the latter allows shifting in what’s usually called “manumatic” mode and Mitsubishi calls “Sportomatic.” Moreover, for those who want to channel their inner F1 driver, paddle shifters pop off the steering wheel stalk.
When put into the left side of the shift-gate, the Sportomatic CVT transmission allows manual settings,up and down, six speeds forward; towards the plus symbol for upshifts and back to the negative symbol for downshifts. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)
Off-road testing was limited to the dirt roads of the University of Washington Arboretum; however, when you consider that there’s a four-wheel drive setting which allows for a locked differential, the Outlander can be considered a serious off-roader.
The Outlander Sport seems to be a decent alternative to more expensive crossovers, such as the Honda CR-V. The Outlander is easier to park, in the city, since it is fully 9 inches shorter than the CR-V; and it also offers a manual transmission, which the CR-V doesn’t. The tested version was the Sport SE AWC, which had an MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of $23,695.00 and was loaded with optional equipment that cost $4,050.00; those options included a navigation system with the aforementioned back-up camera at $2,000.00; a 710 watt Rockford Fosgate sound system and Panoramic glass sunfoof (part of the Premium Package at $2,050.00). Final tally, with destination/handling charge of $825.00, was $28,750.00.
A sub-woofer in the rear cargo area is part of the 710 watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system, that's part of the Premium (option) Package. It does reduce storage a bit; but it might not matter if you're in the demographic intended for a sub-woofer. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)
Equipped with a manual transmission, the Outlander Sport starts at $19,995.00. If you don't have a problem with using a clutch pedal and don't require a plethora of options, the basic front-wheel drive Outlander Sport ES offers a good alternative. -- Terry Parkhurst