2010 Mitsubishi Outlander
2010 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

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2010 Mitsubishi Outlander

Lac Sacacomie, Quebec – As hardy as Canadians are, most of us don’t spend a lot of our time intentionally driving on ice. But in demonstrating the upgrades to the newest edition of its Outlander SUV, that’s exactly what Mitsubishi has me doing, out on the surface of a frozen lake.

It’s all for a look at what’s hidden from view on the 2010 Outlander’s makeover: a new all-wheel drive system that incorporates an active front differential. Called Super All-Wheel Control, or S-AWC, it’s found only on the top-line XLS model, where it’s standard equipment. You might think it’s handy solely for such challenging conditions, but it also makes for more stable cornering on dry roads as well.

2010 Mitsubishi Outlander
2010 Mitsubishi Outlander
2010 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

The first thing you notice on all models (trim lines are ES, LS and XLS) is the face. Mitsubishi has decided to leverage the brand recognition of its Lancer lineup, specifically the legendary Evolution, and has grafted that signature gaping grille onto the Outlander, along with an extra chrome surround on the XLS. I find it overpowering, but it’s certainly unmistakable, and standing out in this busy segment is essential. It will probably also play well to the vehicle’s target market of family men in their late 30s to late 40s – buyers whose desire to own Mitsubishi’s ultra-hot performance sedan may be at odds with how they’ll fit child seats into it or bring home the 144-pack of toilet paper from Costco.

Other exterior changes on all models include new lower sills, rear quarters that better flow into the bumper fascia, new wheel designs, improved windshield washers, and a new short-post antenna. The LS and XLS have turn signals integrated into the mirrors, and the XLS receives xenon headlamps. Inside, the seat upholstery is upgraded, the vanity mirrors light up, the available Rockford Fosgate premium stereo is boosted from 650 to 710 watts (as if we need a louder distraction in a vehicle), the optional navigation radio has a 10-GB music server, and the security system, which previously only warned about trespassers opening the doors, now detects glass breakage, jacking and motion as well. The dash and door pads are redesigned on all models, and the HVAC controls are improved. The XLS also receives upgraded gauges and a colour multi-information display.

Prices have risen accordingly over the last-generation 2009 models, by as little as $500 more for the base front-wheel drive ES (now $25,498) to an additional $2,300 for the XLS (now $34,498). Mid-range, the ES also comes with all-wheel drive for $27,998, while the all-wheel-only LS prices at $29,498. The ES AWD and LS can be optioned with a Sun & Sound package of premium stereo, sunroof, security alarm, six-CD and Sirius satellite radio for $2,500. Those are all standard on the XLS, which can be optioned only with a Navigation & Entertainment package of navigation radio with music server, lane guidance system, backup camera, and rear-seat DVD system for $4,000. The upgrades and pricing are part of a bigger picture for Mitsubishi, which is sending the Outlander upscale: a new compact crossover will be coming along to slot under it.

2010 Mitsubishi Outlander
2010 Mitsubishi Outlander
2010 Mitsubishi Outlander. Click image to enlarge

Both Outlander engines are carried over from the 2009 model. The ES uses the 168-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder. The LS and XLS contain the previous 3.0-litre V6, but some fine-tuning with the engine mapping raises it from 220 horsepower to 230, and torque from 204 lb-ft to 215. The four-cylinder uses a CVT, the V6 a six-speed automatic with manual shift mode, including big metal paddles on the steering wheel.

The all-new S-AWC is not offered across the board. The previous all-wheel drive system, a “slip-and-grip” that transfers power to the rear wheels when required, carries over from 2009: it’s optional on the otherwise front-wheel drive ES, and is the sole choice on the LS. The XLS alone uses the S-AWC – the model can’t be ordered any other way – and since Mitsubishi was showcasing the system on this relatively short ride-and-drive event, it was the only trim line I drove.

The system is a toned-down version of the S-AWC found on the Evolution. As with the on-demand all-wheel system on the lower trim lines, the XLS moves torque seamlessly to a maximum of 90 per cent between the front and rear axles when needed, taking its cues from the anti-lock brake and electronic stability control programs into which it’s integrated. The new front differential further splits torque between the left or right front wheel as needed. Unlike the Evolution, it doesn’t do the same between the left and right rear wheels. It would have been nice, but would have added to the price – a definite consideration for a mainstream brand.

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