2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT review: Hard to be

2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

It must be tough to be Mitsubishi in the U.S. It’s not that the Japanese car manufacturer doesn’t get respect. It’s that it just doesn’t get anyone’s attention. That’s despite building vehicles like the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT, a compact SUV-crossover with off-road credentials that for a crossover are quite impressive

The Outlander GT is the top of the line for the Mitsubishi Outlander line—not to be confused with the smaller, completely different crossover, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport introduced in the 2011 model year—and the only Outlander powered by a V-6 engine. The current generation of Outlander SUV-crossover debuted for the 2007 model year, built on the Lancer platform but overall much larger than the small Mitsubishi sedan.

2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT dash

The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT interior. Note the magnesium paddle shifters.

Until 2011, however, the Outlander was available only with an overworked four-cylinder engine, and the lower two trim levels—the Outlander ES and SE—still come with just four cylinder motors, with 168 horsepower from 2.4-liters. With all-wheel drive, the Outlander SE weighs in at just over 5,000 lbs. We didn’t drive an SE, but the numbers don’t work out for sprightly acceleration.

Welcome the Mitsubishi Outlander GT. Arriving as a 2010 model, the Outlander GT had a substantial increase in power with only marginally more weight. With 230 horsepower to tote about more than 5,000 lbs, the GT has better numbers than its smaller engined siblings, if not the best in its market segment.

In that market segment, however, a vehicle needs to have seating for seven and that the Outlander has. On the other hand, the Mitsubishi Outlander truthfully can’t be considered anything but a 4+1+2. That’s for four passengers comfortably, with one more a snug addition in the middle of the second row seat. The final plus-two should be in a smaller font size, however, because only smaller people will be able to fit. There’s little leg or foot room, the seat is hard and it’s a challenge for anyone of adult size to climb in over the folded second row seatbacks.

Raising and lowering the third row of seat is also a challenge, so much so that Mitsubishi has instructions posted at the rear and pull tabs numbers so you know which to pull when. The headrests also have to be removed and stowed for seat to go down. It’s not particularly clever and the weight of the various parts is not for pansies. It does, however, make a flat load floor in the far back.  Those third row headrests, incidentally, are huge canoe-paddle shaped things that excel at blocking the view through the rearview mirror.

The second row seats fold and tip up against the front seats. It steals a bit of length from the cargo area but it also leaves the rarest of rare fully-flat cargo area when they’re fully stowed.

Rather than the single liftgate typical of most crossovers and SUVs, the Mitsubishi Outlander has a clamshell-type opening—Mitsubishi calls it “flap-folding”—that has a large liftgate combined with a smaller lower tailgate. Mitsubishi says it makes loading easier. It looks like it adds weight because it has to be stout enough to hold the type of weight that might be placed on it.

With four passengers aboard, all are treated quite well, particularly anyone riding in an Outlander GT with the Touring Package. Our test vehicle had it and it includes leather for the first two rows (vinyl for the crumb crunchers in the third), a 710 watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system, sunroof, heated front seats and more.