Mitsubishi’s Outlander is back, bigger and boofier than ever — but all is not quite as it seems.
The latest Outlander hides a Nissan X-Trail, the first time the Japanese brand has released a badge-engineered car.
By the same token, it has just as much in common with the Renault Koleos, which also shares the same platform.
It’s all a reflection of the fact that Mitsubishi is part of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance and has been for a long time, although it rarely gets a mention.
What’s it cost?
Outlander is priced from $34,490 plus on-roads.
LS and above models get three rows of seating as standard.
Our test vehicle the Exceed (second from top) is priced from $47,990 plus on-roads.
The last time we drove this model it had a $42,990 price tag.
For two grand more, Exceed Touring adds two-tone paint and interior trim, along with massage for driver and front passenger seats.
The Japanese love a good acronym, especially when it comes to describing the technical features of cars.
Although it’s no acronym, you might be interested to learn Outlander was penned under the design language “I-Fu-Do-Do”.
Don’t laugh. It may be lost in translation, but means “authentic and majestic” in Japanese, and shows in the Outlander’s bold proportions, muscular fenders and the chiselled lines of the “Dynamic Shield” radiator grille.
Whatever, it looks pretty damn good, probably the best iteration yet of what we’ve come to think of as the ‘Decepticon’ look.
Until recently, even top of the line Mitsubishis sometimes missed out on satellite navigation.
Drivers were forced instead to rely on their mobile phones if they needed to find their way somewhere.
But there appears to have been a change of thinking at Mitsubishi HQ, because all models now come with satnav as standard.
Wireless Apple CarPlay is also now standard, while Android Auto still requires a cable connection.
Wireless smartphone charging is also fitted to LS models and above.
A stylish, responsive 9.0-inch touchscreen is standard across the range.
Standard kit includes dual zone climate control with rear air vents, front and rear parking sensors and traffic sign recognition — as in speed limit warnings.
Outlander ES and LS models also have 7.0-inch colour multi-information display as part of the instrument cluster.
Aspire and above, however, gets a 12.3-inch full colour digital instrument cluster.
By the time you get to Exceed, there’s leather, three-zone climate, 20-inch alloys, heated and cooled seats, 360 degree reversing camera, a panoramic sunroof and 10-speaker Bose audio.
Additionally, a 10.8-inch full-colour head-up display is fitted to Aspire and above models.
Depending on trim level, safety includes Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) with MMC first application of cyclist detection and junction assist, Blind Spot Assist (BSA), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Change Assist (LCA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Automatic High Beam (AHB), and a Multi Around Monitor camera system with moving object detection.
What’s it go like?
Replacing the previous 2.0 and 2.4-litre petrol and 2.2-litre diesel engines, is a one-size fits all Nissan 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol engine that generates 135kW of power and 245Nm of torque.
It’s paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), with paddle shifts and Sport mode that provides access to eight pretend gears.
The change lever itself feels more like a joystick, with a button for park.
Two-wheel drive models get five drive modes, all-wheel drives get six.
Power output is more than the 2.4 it replaces, but still somewhat average in the context of today’s sophisticated hybrid and turbocharged setups.
But performance is adequate providing you don’t have high expectations.
In fact, it’s about as middle of the road as it gets, not surprising considering the car’s target market.
Straddling the medium to large segments in terms of size, the previous model attracted young and growing families on a limited budget.
They were chasing size and price, and the Outlander nailed it.
The new Outlander is a better looker, feels more upmarket and will have similar appeal.
But with prices starting from $5000 more, it has lost some of its gloss.
It could see buyers start to look elsewhere, because to these people $5000 is an awful lot of money.
Drive-by-wire transmission combined with new CVT control logic is designed to deliver a feel more like a traditional auto and to some extent it does.
It’s generally more responsive and better behaved than we remember, but still has a tendency to become “zoomy” under load.
It’s hard to describe, but you’ll know exactly what I mean when it happens.
Steering is light and responsive, and the ride is very good considering the large 20-inch wheels and low profile rubber.
The re-engineered all-wheel drive system includes enhanced Active Yaw Control, now including rear wheel brake control for independent control of all four wheels, and the evolution of 4WD control with a new hydraulically activated direct coupling device for faster all-wheel response.
Impressive but what we don’t like is the twitchiness that marks the system.
It never really settles down, as the system continues to make tiny but frequent adjustments to maintain optimum traction — and needs to be dialled back.
The cabin has an upmarket look and feel, with its quilted leather seat trim, piano black console surround and quilting on the doors too.
The car is slightly longer than its predecessor, but more importantly wider and taller with a 36mm longer wheelbase that translates to more interior space — especially more rear legroom.
But the third row is still extremely cramped and suitable only for small children (how many times have I written those words).