When most people think about SUVs or crossovers they think of things like terrific utility, plenty of space for the family, that feeling of invincibility when you can see over other drivers and occasionally they think about how well a particular vehicle will perform off-road.
Okay, most people are probably more concerned with how well their SUV will handle a grocery store parking lot but in all of these preconceived notions lies a sad truth. Most SUVs are just no fun to drive. It’s sad but true that most of them have too much body roll in corners, their steering racks are sloppy and their acceleration can be termed nothing short of truly lackadaisical.
Even worse, many SUVs have the nerve to be slow AND return abysmal fuel economy numbers. While they may look cooler than your average minivan, many SUVs still return a very low “smiles per mile” average to whomever is forced to drive one. But there are a few exceptions with luxury models like the BMW X5, Acura MDX and Audi Q5 all proving to be hugely capable driver’s cars. But what if you don’t want to spend that kind of money?
Well, Mitsubishi may have the answer for you in the form of its 7-passenger 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander which offers EVO-levels of steering feel, terrific handling, the option of a rip-snarling V6 and one of the most advanced All-Wheel Drive systems in the industry. And it starts at just $20,480 for a model with the 2.4 liter 168 horsepower MIVEC 4 cylinder and tops out at $32,250 for a fully loaded Outlander 3.0 V6 GT S-AWC model like the one I tested.
Car design is always such a subjective judgment (unless you are talking about something like a Pontiac Aztek) but I would have to venture that the 2010 Outlander is the best looking small SUV on the market today. Models like the VW Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue all look very nice but they lack the chiseled menace of the Outlander.
Perhaps it is because Mitsubishi Motors shamelessly lifted the front end off of their Lancer EVO super sedan and are now using that gaping mouth design as their corporate design signature. Either way, the effect is both elegant and a little bit macho. Alright, I’ll be blunt: this is a Cute-Ute a guy wouldn’t be embarrassed to drive. I guess we will have to change the name to Macho-Ute then, right?
Interior, Features and Build Quality
I have often read in the mainstream auto press that Mitsubishi vehicles have “cheap feeling” interiors simply because they don’t cover every surface with inch-thick soft touch plastic a la Audi. While those touchy feely interiors may feel nice in the dealership showroom, they simply tell you nothing about how well those parts are going to stand up to daily abuse.
My test Outlander GT V6 came equipped with very impressive leather upholstery (better than most mainstream manufacturers offer) and an impressive Navigation system/40 GB Hard Drive system to store all of your music. The Navigator can also double as a TV screen for something like a Playstation 3 as there is a Video in port in the center console. That’s perfect for anyone who has easily bored children. On that same note, Mitsubishi does offer a built-in rear seat entertainment unit that is installed by the dealer. It costs $1,847 but it is money well spent if you ever plan on taking a family road trip in your Outlander.
From the driver’s seat all of the ventilation controls are easy to decipher and reach and there is an absolutely terrific full color trip computer display between the speedometer/tachometer gauges. In fact, it is the inherent simplicity of the Mitsubishi Outlander’s interior that truly makes it so endearing.
There are, however, a couple of niggles. First off, when you get the Leather/Navigation Package you lose a volume control knob for the 710 watt Rockford Fosgate audio system. With the navigation you can either use a button on the steering wheel or a button next to the Nav screen.
Now I know that I enjoy listening to music at full volume but most people don’t so I have scared more than one person when they got into the Outlaner and the adio turned on. A knob, simply put, is just easier and quicker to use when your Grandma needs a ride and you were just blasting Ozzy Osbourne.
The last issue is with the design of the third row seats which really lack much legroom or body support. Really, this SUV should be looked at as a five passenger vehicle with an occasional “rumble seat” like they had in years gone by. It should be used strictly for transportation emergencies. I still don’t know how I set it up but I did have to read the owner’s manual closely. These seats are perfect, though, for those times when you have to take those two extra Little Leaguers home from practice.
The most impressive aspect of the 2010 Outlander GT S-AWC was the precise yet compliant manner in which it steered, road and handled. I tested a Mitsubishi Lancer GTS earlier in the year that was just a laugh riot to drive and the Outlander shares a lot of the grin inducing feel of that sedan. This really is a family SUV that you won’t mind driving to soccer practice or on that windy mountain road leading to your favorite beach.
The 3.0 liter 230 horsepower V6 is smooth and lets out a nice metallic howl when pressed to the redline. This is a feat easily done with the paddle shifters that come standard with the GT model. Shifts in regular auto mode are well timed and smooth but the engine did return a rather disappointing 16 miles per gallon considering its EPA ratings are 18 city/24 highway. But then, that could also be due to my led foot driving style.
The full time All Wheel Drive system in the Outlander GT is also very impressive as it includes Hill Descent Control, an active front differential and a Terrain Select knob on the center console where you can put it in Tarmac, Snow or Low Range Mode. So, if you do decide to off-road or hit the ski slopes this Outlander should definitely be able to handle it. Or, if you hit the shopping mall you can take heart knowing this SUV will never require a three point turn thanks to a very tight 34.8 foot turning radius.
How Dog Friendly is the Outlander?
I always like to think that SUVs are perfect modes of transportation for dogs whereas minivans are the perfect vehicles for children. Either way, family is family and the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander has plenty of room for Fido to make himself comfortable. Although the leather in the interior is of good quality and appears dog-proof, some of the plastics seem less than scratch proof.
So it might be best to keep your dog in the hugely spacious cargo area which can measure up to 72.8 cubic feet with the second row of seats folded. One negative is that, despite having a monstrously huge dealer installed options list, the 2010 Outlander is not available with a Mitsubishi designed cargo area separator for dogs. Sure, there are plenty of aftermarket units available but many owners prefer buying something designed specifically with their vehicle in mind.
Is This the Right SUV for You?
If you are shopping for a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Nissan Rogue or Hyundai Santa Fe you definitely should put the 2010 Outlander on your shopping list. If, however, you are looking for a vehicle that can regularly seat seven then perhaps you should look to something larger in this segment like a Kia Sorento.
The 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander really is an excellent package in top of the line GT S-AWC form but it is also a terrific value when ordered with the 4 cylinder which returns an amazing 21 city/27 highway. Either way, you will wind up with an aggressively stylish and roomy SUV that is easily the most fun to drive in its class. Really, how much more can you ask for?
Vehicle Tested: 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 V6 GT S-AWC
Base Price: $20,840
Price as Tested: $32,250 plus destination/handling
Options on Test Car: Leather and Navigation Package: $3,000
Engine: 3.0 Liter 230 Horsepower/215 lb. feet of torque V6
Economy: 18 city/24 highway
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (standard)
Warranty: (Bumper to Bumper): 5 years/60,000 miles
(Powertrain): 10 years/100,000 miles
Vehicle Provided By: Mitsubishi Motors of America
0-60: 7.9 seconds (Edmunds.com)