Originally published June 3, 2016 on autoTRADER.ca
Cars are more than the sum of their parts. Cars are not metal and plastic and rubber and fuel and air. Cars are not the engine, the wheels, the seats, the radio or even the steering wheel. Cars are not conveyances, appliances or any other scoffed term of disdain uttered by car haters and enthusiasts alike. It doesn’t matter how “bland”, how utilitarian or even flawed a car is – the family that brings it home will fall in love with it, each and every time.
It’s how your child came home from the hospital that first week, it’s what takes you to practice, to work – and most importantly – back home again.
For so many of us, the car is how we holiday: packing up, trekking off on a road trip. It’s kind of impossible not to fall in love with a car when you take it on a journey like ours.
“Are we going to Magic Kingdom?!” – we were at the gates.
Two minutes ago we’d asked my five-year old daughter, Maddie, what the sign above us said. “Disney World,” she’d replied kind of sadly. Her little brain had assumed we wouldn’t be actually going there, just driving past. Then we asked her to read the next sign, the one that said, “Entrance”.
That’s when all hell broke loose. Maddie’s joy-filled screams and laughter and giddy cackling will resonate with my family for decades. Magic Kingdom always seemed like a gimmick before. All of a sudden I got it.
You know what else is burned in our brain? The Mitsubishi Outlander we were sitting in. Even now, months later, when Maddie sees the three-diamond logo her face brightens. She remembers.
Hitting the Road
Our mission was simple. Leave as early as we could – 5 pm in the afternoon. Drive to Florida as hard as we could. Spend a weekend at the beach, in the motel pool and taking in the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Florida – then drive home with an unannounced detour to Disney World on the way.
Our five year-old daughter wasn’t to know we’d be visiting the Magic Kingdom. We let that be a surprise. All she knew was she had 10 hours in a car immediately after a long day at school.
We’d prepared though. The Outlander was fitted with Maddie’s car caddy – toys, snacks, books all in a container next to her. The back was full – a generous 968 L cargo area easily accepting our week’s worth of luggage. Maddie’s first impression was positive. “Wow, it’s big back here!”
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander gets a rough trot in the automotive press. It rated third-lowest in raw scores of 43 vehicles during the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada TestFest last October, ahead of only the Smart ForTwo and the Toyota Tacoma.
This is the exact car in the test: a mid-trim ES AWC with the 2.4L four-cylinder engine and an as-tested price of $33,798.
When that price was factored into AJAC’s scoring, the Outlander shot up the overall list and vaulted into mid-pack in its category. If the class-leading warranty was taken into account, it might have been even higher.
Mitsubishi itself is a bit of a whipping boy for the automotive press. It’s Canada’s smallest manufacturer, with only five distinct nameplates sold here, yet its dealership network is currently growing. They recently opened a 100th dealership. The Outlander, then, isn’t one of the industry’s darlings, so how did I fall so in love with the thing?
D’oh! A Deer!
It’s 2 am and my wife is becoming anxious even with the LED headlights (one of 100 improvements since last year’s model) cutting through the dark. “That’s the sixth deer we’ve seen in five minutes, Jacob.” My attempt to drive from Toronto to St. Pete, Florida through the night in one straight hit is looking less and less wise. My daughter, five years old, is asleep in the back. The gentle hum of road, wind and engine noise, so much more quiet than I’d expected, had lulled her finally to sleep about five hours earlier. My wife’s phone gets signal and she uses the opportunity to search for a hotel. There’s one 10 minutes ahead, and we’ll be stopping there for a break.