2009 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS review: Not meeting expectations…and that’s good

2009 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS

2009 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS

There are some vehicles that don’t quite meet expectations. The Mitsubishi Outlander we tested is one of those. It wasn’t what we thought it would be. It was different. And better.

We thought the Outlander would be a non-descript, ordinary set of wheels, competent but ultimately boring. Its basic paper specifications were well within par, even for our top-of-the-line XLS model. Unlike the 4-cylinder ES and SE trim level Outlanders, the XLS is powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 220 horsepower and 204 lb-ft of torque, fairly routine, though the Outlander has a six-speed automatic transmission with magnesium paddle shifters.

Our Mitsubishi Outlander had optional all-wheel drive—the Outlander is as expected nominally front-wheel drive—available with both engines. A stability and traction control system are standard on all Outlander trim levels, something not on all competitors, as is electronic management of the all-wheel drive system. The all-wheel drive system, incidentally, just that. It has a locking center differential but no low range, thus despite its SUV-look styling the Outlander is really more pavement loving crossover than heavy-duty off-road boonie buster.

2009 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS

2009 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS (click to enlarge)

The Outlander’s asphalt orientation isn’t a shortcoming for its selected application, however. Fully-independent suspension provides the cherished car-like ride that was tuned, at least in our tester, for agile if not wholly car-like cornering. Considering that the Outlander is based on the same platform as the acclaimed latest iteration of the Mitsubishi Lancer and Lancer evolution, that really shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Outlander is taller than the Mitsubishi compacts and there’s only so much that can be done with vehicle height. But Mitsubishi has equipped the Outlander with an unexpected aluminum roof that lowers the center of gravity, reducing that tendency of tippiness common to SUVs. We find that rather nifty and more than one should expect in this vehicle class.

The Outlander XLS comes standard with three row seating—it’s a smidge larger than most compact SUVs—a feature available on the four cylinder model for 2009. That’s more than expected though one shouldn’t expect too much from that. There is still only so much room available within the Outlander’s outer dimensions and any adult consigned to the third row will find that comfort, well, takes a back seat. The seat stows under the cargo area floor, however, so it’s not in the way when abusing adults (or more likely accommodating a pair of young ’uns for expanded carpooling).

2009 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS

2009 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS (click to enlarge)

What really surprised us about Mitsubishi’s Outlander, however, was the feel of quality, not just its appointments but also the comprehensive and beyond stuff on the center stack. A proximity key is standard on the SE and XLS, allowing keyless entry and pushbutton starting. Our tester was equipped with the $1,850 luxury package that includes xenon headlamps, leather seating, heated front and power driver’s seat, rain-sensing wipers, auto on-off headlamps and flat aero windshield wipers. It also had Mitsubishi’s “Sun and Sound” package that combines an advanced Rockford Fosgate audio system, Sirius satellite radio, a 115-volt AC power outlet and, for the sun part, a sunroof, all for $1,810.

The Outlander’s Premium Navigation system really goes beyond just telling a driver where to go and includes an advanced “music server” and other functions, plus a rearview camera. We liked the satellite spotting feature (just where are those satellites anyway) of the nav system—fun but ultimately useless—and the longitude and latitude feature is entertaining, at least for a little while, but for those of us who driving in hilly areas where elevation may be a weather feature, we’d like to know just how far above sea level we are. Long ago Mitsubishi included elevation in its instrumentation package on certain models—though it was based on barometric pressure, something most of us don’t track on a daily basis, so it never was particularly accurate. With GPS it’s a snap and should be added.

The options add to the base equipment of the XLS that includes the usual power stuff, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever, floormats, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights and heated side rearview mirrors and more, for a remarkably reasonable base price of $25,780. Add the options and $715 destination charge for a total price of $31,705. That’s hardly chicken feed—which we assume is cheap because we’ve only bought feed for two chickens and that was a long time ago—but its very competitive and particularly surprising for everything included.

Of course, the three-diamond logo may not instantly impress your friends and neighbors. But like us, we suspect the Mitsubishi Outlander XLS will exceed their expectations as much as it did ours.