First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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Second opinion and photos by Jil McIntosh

Photo Gallery: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander

Santa Barbara, California – An upbeat-looking Larry Futers, Director, National Marketing, MMSCAN,
greeted the assembled auto writers in Santa Barbara, California recently with the following statement: “Ninety-eight percent of Canadians do not consider a Mitsubishi when buying a car.”

So why is this man upbeat, you might ask? Because his company is launching a new Outlander compact SUV and Lancer compact sedan to the Canadian market over the next few weeks, both of which are significant improvements over the vehicles they replace. Mr. Futers is hovering over them like a proud parent of newborn twins, eager to show them off to everyone interested in a new car, impatient to get them (and news of them) to market.

In many ways, these are the kind of vehicles Mitsubishi should have offered three years ago, when the company first entered the Canadian market – but better late than never.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

Starting at $25,498 for the front-wheel drive LS version, and climbing to $36,998 for the top-line four-wheel drive XLS, the 2007 Outlander takes an honest but somewhat uninspiring initial effort and replaces it with a much more appealing product.

The former four-cylinder engine is upgraded to a smooth, 3.0-litre, 220 horsepower V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, which provides the kind of power and responsiveness that you hope for in a vehicle of this type. Torque is a healthy 206 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm.

The 2007 Outlander also features an all-new platform (shared with the Lancer) which increases body stiffness considerably. The LS gets 16-inch steel wheels with covers (alloy optional), and the XLS comes with big 18-inch alloys. The new look and several clever and unique features round out the package.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

Front-wheel drive is standard in both trim levels, but if the four-wheel drive option is chosen (it’s available on LS and XLS), drivers can select between 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock from a knob located in the centre console. Also part of the XLS 4WD package is column-mounted paddle shifting for those who want a sportier driving experience. Fuel consumption is rated at 12.0/8.1 L/100km for the XL 2WD, and 12.2/8.5 L/100km for the XLS 4WD.

The new Outlander is slightly wider, taller and longer than the outgoing model, and features an aluminum roof which contributes to a lower centre of gravity, and better handling. A longer wheelbase increases rear seat legroom and improves the ride.

Safety equipment is comprehensive, including standard anti-lock brakes, active skid control, side curtain airbags, front thorax airbags, active head restraints and seat belt pretensioners.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

The most innovative feature is the fold-flat tailgate. Mitsubishi designers and engineers have lowered the cargo floor by 201 millimetres compared with the outgoing model. This considerably increases cargo capacity (you can wheel a bicycle into the cargo area with the second row seat folded) and permits the inclusion of a small, useful, tailgate whose 200-kilogram capacity can be used to support large, heavy, objects as you slide them into the truck; or you and a couple of friends can sit on it.

Even though the floor is considerably lower, Mitsubishi engineers have figured out a way to package a slim, third-row seat in the XLS, which can be used occasionally to transport an extra pair of passengers (children, presumably). A space saver spare tire fits below the third row seat.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

The interior of the Outlander is patterned after a sports sedan, according to Mitsubishi designer Dan Sims. It is indeed more car-like than you might expect from an SUV, which is consistent with current trends in this segment. To maximize cargo space, the 60/40 rear seats fold flat and tumble forward, as well as sliding and reclining.

A navigation system that comes bundled with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available in the XLS for a somewhat hefty $4,000. The navigation system is hard-drive based, and six gigabytes of its 30-GB capacity can be used to serve music. A Rockford-Fosgate “Punch” audio system, along with a sunroof, is standard on the XLS, and available as part of a “Sun and Sound” package on the LS model.

Other available interior amenities include Bluetooth cell phone compatibility and keyless remote entry and starting.

The exterior of the Outlander is distinctive without being quirky, but the rear is perhaps more boldly rendered than the front. From either end, though, its pleasant lines complemented by angular accents make this a vehicle you can readily identify.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

On the road, power comes on smoothly from standstill, and pulls the Outlander to highway speeds with authority. On the twisting roads through California’s Santa Ynez mountains, the paddle shifters quickly engaged selected gears as required, and usefully maintained chosen gears on ascending and descending grades.

The suspension, while described as “sport-oriented” is not aggressively firm, and nowhere near as firm, in my opinion, as found on other “sport tuned” vehicles like the Mazda CX-7. The downside is that body roll is noticeable when slaloming through tight turns at speed. The upside is that handling is moderately sharp, and passengers don’t experience a jarring ride over bumps and other road imperfections.

The availability of paddle shifters is a performance-oriented touch, but these are fixed to the steering column, which means that in some situations when turning the Outlander, you can’t reach the shifter to change gears. It would be better if the paddle shifters rotated with the steering wheel.

I didn’t get to experience the Outlander over rugged terrain, but towing capacity for the 2WD Outlander is 2,000 pounds, while 4WD versions can tow a trailer up to 3,500lbs.

Despite innovative features, and Mitsubishi’s laudable seven-straight victories in the tough (extremely tough) Dakar Rally, the Outlander faces some stiff competition in this segment. Vehicles like the Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-7 and Toyota RAV4 are very strong contenders. This new Outlander, however, is a significant improvement on the model it replaces.


Pricing: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander

  • LS FWD: $25,498; 4WD: $30,198
  • XLS FWD: $32,998; 4WD: $36,998
  • Available now.


Manufacturer’s web site


Second Opinion: Jil McIntosh

One of the fastest-growing vehicle segments is the so-called “crossover” segment, and with good reason: they’re generally roomier than sedans and offer the cargo-carrying capability of SUVs, but their car-based platforms give them a smoother ride than trucks, and their smaller size makes them easier to park and better on fuel than their full-sized cousins. To that end, Mitsubishi recently unveiled the newest incarnation of its Outlander.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

The Outlander debuts alongside the equally new, next-generation Lancer, as both are underpinned by the company’s new GS platform (an architecture that also appears under the 2007 Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass). The GS is a global application and is also used in Japan for a people-mover dubbed the Delica D:5.

Available in two trim lines, and in front- or all-wheel drive, the Outlander uses a new 3.0-litre V6, which replaces the 2.4-litre inline four-cylinder of 2006; horsepower increases to 220 hp from 160, while torque climbs to 204 lb-ft, a considerable improvement over the 162 lb-ft in the 2006 version. Of course, you don’t get something for nothing, and while the 2006 version had a combined fuel economy average of 9.3 L/100 km (30 mpg) in FWD configuration, the new FWD model averages 10.0 L/100 km (28 mpg). The base price climbs by about $1,500 over 2006, but there are numerous improvements, including standard curtain airbags and stability control that were unavailable on the previous model, and a six-speed automatic in place of last year’s four-speed autobox (order the XLS trim line, and it comes with a Sport mode shifted through wheel-mounted magnesium paddles).

I drove the lower-line LS in AWD configuration. Like many all-wheel vehicles in this segment, it isn’t true four-wheel drive, but it includes a dial on the console for switching the system. In 2WD, it runs the front wheels exclusively; switch to 4WD, and while it’s still mostly front-wheel biased, it will transfer power to the rear wheels should it detect slippage. A third Lock option keeps consistent power to all four wheels, but is only meant for loose surfaces such as dirt roads or mud, and shouldn’t be used on hard surfaces.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

I was always fond of the old Outlander, which I found nicely-sized, comfortable and pleasant to drive. The new version is a fine evolution of the vehicle, with more mature styling and better road feel. I very much like the front end, but I’m not so taken with the rear; the aftermarket crowd abandoned clear taillights a while ago (and rightfully so), and Mitsubishi is late to the party with the Outlander’s blanked-out lenses. Only the outer portion lights up, which looks even odder when you realize that the inner portion is just dimpled plastic.

Inside, the Outlander boasts comfortable seats, both front and back; the rear seats fold and tumble forward at the push of a lever, to increase the cargo space. The XLS model has a third row of seats, but it’s in name only: the pop-up seat is suitable only for small children. Still, it’s useful if you’ve got an extra couple of tots to tote, and while its thin cushions are extremely uncomfortable, the whole thing folds up into a thin package under the floor, so it steals none of the Outlander’s storage area.

I had some issues with interior fit and finish – a cubby cover in the centre of the dash was crooked on several examples – but company officials said the vehicles were very early production, and should be much improved by the time they get to market. I was also less taken with the exposed rear seat hinges, which are given a little flap of carpet in an attempt to cover them; they make the floor area look unfinished.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

I have no complaints about the rear gate, though, which is a brilliant design. The glass hatch lifts up, while the gate drops down, clamshell-style; an integrated plastic panel slides out to cover the hinges and provide a flat panel for easy cargo management. The gate is also very low – pretty much around my knees – making it very easy to load heavy items. It’ll hold 200 kg, and can be used as a seat when putting on boots or skis.

The Outlander’s drivetrain is impressive: the engine is powerful, and the automatic transmission shifts so smoothly that it’s almost imperceptible at times. The body has been beefed up, to the point that it’s 39 per cent stiffer in flexural rigidity than the model it replaces (and, Mitsubishi notes, 139 per cent stiffer than the Honda CR-V). The ride is firm and it’s noisy over rough pavement, but on a particularly twisty mountain road, there was far less body roll than expected. Extra bracing and a strut tower bar help with the handling; Mitsubishi also credits an aluminum skin over the vehicle’s steel roof rails, which it says reduces the roof’s weight and so lowers the centre of gravity.

First Drive: 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander  mitsubishi first drives
2007 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

The Outlander has always been a fairly low-volume seller in the Canadian marketplace, no doubt due to Mitsubishi’s own low profile. But with the release of this new model, and of the equally all-new Lancer, the company appears to be moving forward: it added nine new dealers in 2006 and will have twelve new ones in 2007, and is ramping up its television advertising budget by 200 per cent this year. It has a good product in the Outlander, which it says it is pricing five to ten per cent under its rivals, and it has quite the ace in the hole with its warranty, which runs five years/100,000 km on basic items, and ten years/160,000 km on powertrain. I’m expecting more than a few buyers to cross over to this crossover once it hits the showrooms.

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