It’s football season as this goes to press, so perhaps a football analogy is appropriate in our review of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT. The one we’ll make is there are different phases in your team’s game. There’s the defensive line, pass defense, the offensive line, the quarterback, the receivers, et cetera, and so on. Ideally, you’d like to dominate in all of them, but if you can make a couple of them really click, that can be good enough to win some games.
We’ll posit that a car company’s model line is a lot like that. A full line is best, but you can get by with several pieces, if they’re the right ones. In that regard, Mitsubishi is in a bit of a quandary. It has only bits and pieces. Having once had close to a full line, from sedans to pickups to sports and sporty cars and all gone for some good reason or another, Mitsubishi has recently concentrated on the small Lancer sedan, the high-performance Lancer Evo, a diminutive electric, the Mitsubishi i, a.k.a. the MiEV, and added the Mirage five-door hatchback and the Mirage G4, a four-door sedan, this spring as 2017 models. And two SUV models, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Outlander Sport.
The Outlander debuted as a 2003 model as a five-passenger four-cylinder SUV. That lasted only four years before being replaced by a larger seven-seater with a standard V-6 engine, a four-cylinder added a year later. A complete refresh arrived for 2010, complete with a gaping “jet fighter” grille, and for 2014, Mitsubishi debuted an all-new Outlander.
Just to confuse things, Mitsubishi added a smaller five-passenger compact SUV-crossover for the 2011 model year, the Outlander Sport. A competitor for the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, it hasn’t been as successful as its big brother.
And that brings us back to the Mitsubishi Outlander. The 2016 Outlander is a major refresh, most noticeably swapping out its jet fighter grille for, well, we’re not sure what to call the new face, but it’s big, it’s bright, and it’s like nothing else on the road. There’s no mistaking it for your neighbor’s Ford Edge or Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain.
It also stays with seven seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. The Outlander is an outlier in that regard. The Edge and the Kia Sorento are slightly longer, and Hyundai Santa Fe and the Equinox/Terrain have even more vehicle between the bumpers, but the Outlander is the only one with three rows of seats.
The Outlander is a remnant of the era of cramming as many seats as possible into a vehicle, regardless how impracticable or uncomfortable they might be. The Outlander isn’t as bad as some were, but the third row seat is thin and hard and not very far off the floor. The second row does slide forward, however, adding more legroom in the back but at the sacrifice of those in the middle. Well, those in the middle are sacrificing legroom, not being sacrificed.
The second row seats not only slide forward but also tip up against the back of the front seats, and with the third row folded flat into the floor, the whole back of the vehicle has a flat cargo surface. Have a big box to take home? It moves all the way forward without the bend in the floor like most SUVs, regardless of size. Score big for the Outlander.
The third row seats have ginormous headrests that must be removed to fold the seatbacks, but the headrests don’t have to rattle around loose. There’s a covered bin under the cargo floor where they can easily be stored.
The front seats are big and long-drive comfortable, and in our test 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT had an abundance of soft touch surfaces and an overall high-quality feel. The Outlander is an older platform so stuff is in places where it was a few years back with the traditional zig-zag shifter and pull-up parking brake handle on the center console.
Mitsubishi has always provided its SUV drivers a lot of information and the Outlander isn’t any different. In addition to the complete driver’s information center between the tachometer and speedometer, the Outlander goes overboard with data on the multi-information screen. How extensive is it? Our favorite was the “environmental” display that shows, in line graph form, temperature and elevation. Out testing was in a locale where it’s hilly enough to make a difference, enough so that we could see the temperature go down as we went up. And your car have outside temperature gauge (also known as a thermometer)? The Outlander has a barometer. Beat that.