For 2007, the Mitsubishi Outlander is all-new. It’s based on the company’s new GS platform, which also underpins the new Lancer, Evolution and a Japanese model called the Delica D:5; the basic architecture is also used for the 2007 Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass.

The previous model’s inline four-cylinder has been discontinued in favour of a V6 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sport mode, and with wheel-mounted magnesium paddle shifters in the XLS model. The LS trim line is available in front-wheel drive or with driver-selectable all-wheel drive, which can be put into FWD, AWD (which runs primarily in front-wheel until it detects slippage and sends power to the rear) and Lock, which keeps the torque split consistent but is only meant for loose surfaces. The XLS is strictly AWD.

The LS seats five, while the XLS includes a pop-up third row; it’s very uncomfortable and suitable only for small children, but it disappears entirely into the floor, which remains flat for cargo space. The liftgate is two-piece, with a glass hatch and a low gate with plastic sliding cover for easy cargo loading.

Features on the LS include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, auto-off headlamps, black power mirrors, intermittent rear washer/wiper, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, tinted glass, cloth seats, 60/40 rear fold-and-tumble seats, anti-lock brakes, side and curtain airbags, active skid control system, tire pressure monitoring system, cruise control, and CD/MP3 player.

The XLS adds 18-inch alloy wheels, colour-keyed power mirrors, fog lamps, rear privacy glass, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped wheel, leather seats, compact third-row seat, 12-volt accessory outlets, power sunroof, cargo cover, floor mats, FAST-key keyless ignition, Bluetooth hands-free telephone interface, and six-CD Rockford-Fosgate stereo with subwoofer.

Available options on the LS include a Convenience Package including 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, privacy glass, leather-wrapped wheel, cargo cover, floor mats, Bluetooth-ready kit and 12-volt sockets; and a Sun & Sound package of the premium stereo, auxiliary input jack and sunroof. The XLS can be optioned with a navigation package that includes a 30GB hard disk drive satellite GPS navigation system with music server function, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, wireless headphone, auxiliary video input jack and 115-volt accessory outlet.

The new Outlander is a well-done evolution of the model, with a powerful engine, smooth-shifting transmission and updated styling (although the clear taillights are love-or-hate-it). Larger than the model it replaces, the new Outlander is roomier and more comfortable, both in the front and second seats; the XLS’s third row won’t get much use from most buyers, but it’s there when needed.

The new model is stiffer than the old one, which translates into better handling, although the ride is firm and noisy over rough pavement. Shop it against the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe, where it handles itself very well and offers a very long warranty.

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