2014 Mitsubishi Outlander
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Justin Pritchard

The new Mitsubishi Outlander is a crossover SUV – and like virtually all of its competition, it offers five- or seven-passenger seating, four- or six-cylinder power and two- or four-wheel drive bolted to the floor-pan.

Feature content, pricing and technology in this segment are close between the big players. The spec and pricing sheets of Outlander and its market-mates are incredibly similar as a result – so I thought I’d focus on a number of things that help set Mitsubishi’s entry to the overcrowded crossover scene apart.

First, the engine. The new single-cam 2.4L four-cylinder unit standard in Outlander uses Mitsubishi’s MIVEC valve timing system to turn in optimal fuel efficiency or performance, depending on the driver’s right foot. Test drivers will likely find the new power plant’s low-end pull and eagerness impressive, as well as its overall refinement. Though output is rated at 166 horsepower, the tester felt peppy, eager and willing to get up to speed in a jiff without protest. Even opened up, the engine pulls admirably while keeping vibration and noise to a minimum. It rarely feels or sounds strained, and smoothness is impressive.

The power plant is attached to a Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT. This isn’t anybody’s favorite type of transmission because it has no gears and typically makes engine revs run away at every poke of the throttle. Hammer on it in most CVT-equipped vehicles, and you’re treated to an escalating drone – similar to the noise a cranky three-year-old makes just ahead of a full-out crying tantrum. Then, the acceleration feels funny, weird and disconnected.

But thanks to a do-over of the greasy-bits and computer brain of the Outlander’s CVT by Mitsubishi engineers, this gearless gearbox has moved past these typical gripes. Not only do you get smooth, endless power with no pauses to shift, but the transmission and engine collaborate effectively. Take off from a light with a moderate throttle-poke, and the CVT whips up ratios that allow the engine to lock into a steady RPM as you accelerate, rather than revving up endlessly. The CVT transmission and the engine’s MIVEC system work off of each other’s capabilities – the transmission enabling low and locked-in engine revs while the cam timing system optimizes low end torque. You can accelerate from a standstill up to perhaps 90 km/h in near silence without seeing more than 2,000 RPM on the dial.

If you’re going to sell a CVT, this is how it should be set up.

So, Outlander’s got an engine and gearbox combination that work very well together when it comes to making the best use of the power available, delivering that power with smoothness, and even performing a bit better than you’d probably expect.

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander2014 Mitsubishi Outlander2014 Mitsubishi Outlander
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

There’s more on the powertrain to like. The ‘Eco’ button, among other things, alters throttle and transmission calibrations to reduce responsiveness slightly when you aren’t in a rush. By consciously telling your Outlander you’re willing to give up a little bit of performance, it helps make it easy for drivers to save on fuel.

Then, there’s the four-wheel-drive system, which Mitsubishi calls All-Wheel Control or AWC. Fairly standard stuff here – but a large 4WD button allows drivers to call up several modes which cater to the conditions at hand, toggling between standard, fully automatic operation, and a preemptive lock mode for added preemptive traction. Further, a 4WD E calibration tells the system to engage only for the most slippery of conditions, helping cut fuel use further.

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