Car Reviews: 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Test Drive

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The Cause Of My Recent Hearing Loss…

I was certain that the Mitsubishi Outlander was our new car, on paper. Whatever Mr. HBWT says about the optional third row (I called it a jump seat) I sat in it and could probably manage sitting there for a trip in a pinch. I love the fact you can flip a switch to full 4×4 (I never feared winter driving in our Cherokee). It’s not my favourite style-wise, but thus far I’ve felt the most comfortable driving this one – it’s the most SUV-ish and I guess I like that feeling of a Jeep . If it was a stick shift, I think I would have refused to return it. Mr. HBWT was not quite as enamored as I, but did appreciate it for more nerd-like reasons…

Read on for Mr. HBWT’s full review!

2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Review & Test Drive:

-Switchable 4WD modes
-7 passenger seating
-Rockford Fosgate sound system

-Fuel Economy (6 Cylinder)
-A tad ponderous
-3rd row seats

The Mitsubishi Outlander has always been on our short list of compact SUVs for numerous reasons – reliability reputation, switchable control over the all wheel drive (with their fancy-pants Super All Wheel Control), the option to have a 3rd row if need be, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, the amazing resemblance between the Outlander’s front grill and the mouth of a Cylon Centurion from the 1978 sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. It is an impressive list of feats for an entry into the small SUV / crossover platform that is home to vehicles like the CR-V and Rav 4.

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2012 Outlander

battlestar gallactica, cylon

1978 Cylon

The model we test-drove was the top-end XLS and it had the standard array of doo-hickeys and technical bobs that most of the other fully loaded small SUVs have with one notable difference – the sound system. The Rockford Fosgate stereo and subwoofer is, and there is no other word for it, BANGING – and ears be warned that they will not enjoy Cyprus Hill’s “Insane in the Membrane” at full volume. The stereo is a lot of fun and something you simply don’t see very often as first party options – especially in a vehicle of this class.

Other cabin pluses are a spacious interior in both front and back (with reclining 2nd row – nice!) and what felt like a nice layout of controls up front. My one beef is that the steering wheel, like that of the Rav 4, seemed small. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not expecting a steering wheel you would find one hunched over like that in a city bus – but the smaller wheel does seem to translate in to a more awkward driving position (particularly for me with the seat cranked all the way back). The leather seats were comfy – and 3 adults and 2 kids (in car seats) plus bags fit well for a small highway trip we did to Niagara.

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The Controversial Third Row – Headrests Not Up…

On the topic of comfy seats I now come to the highly contentious 3rd row in the Outlander. Yes, it is for kids only. Yes, it does not look particularly comfortable (it is not even a real padded seat). Yes, folding it demands every ounce of origami skills you may have. If you are looking for a 3rd row for every day use this is NOT the SUV you are looking for (a Star Wars reference – I am on a roll today!). With that said, the 3rd row on the Outlander may be ideal for some (including us). It stores away flat and there really is no compromise in cargo space (what pro reviewers seem to positively refer to as a “why not” feature) like other models in this class with 3rd row like the Rav-4 (most people do not take that option for this vehicle for that reason). While somewhat silly, it is handy for short trips where 5 seat belts will just not do (especially carting friends) and both of my kids actually liked it for the novelty of it being a kid-exclusive club. Now if there was only a privacy glass to come down in front of this row to limit the cacophony of standard car-trip squabbling it would be win-win for everyone. Hey – wait – you can just turn up the stereo – YAY!

One other neat-o feature of the Outlander is the 2-part tailgate – with the main hatch swinging up and the lower ¼ (or perhaps less) swinging down. People seem to find it handy for dogs hopping in the back and loading groceries etc but for me it was another “why not” feature.

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Not A Bad Looking Car. 10 Year Warranty Looks Even Better…

Outside I enjoy the looks of the Outlander (and aforementioned cylon characteristics) – styling is good and it is definitely a solid built machine. You sit high, and visibility is definitely above par for this class of SUV. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to test its all weather capabilities and S-AWC (imagine that – sad there is no snow) but a friend who has a 2011 has a lot of good things to say about its performance in Canadian winters.

Performance. That is the key to this car and it was here that the Outlander fell short for me. In the city this vehicle sucks the gas – we never did much better than around 16L/100km and for me this is damn close to a deal breaker. I am, of course, talking about the 6 cylinder version – apparently the 4 cylinder gets much better fuel economy but does not have the 3rd row option. For an SUV in the compact class it was much too thirsty – more thirsty than the mid-size CX-9 and Kia Sorento – vehicles that actually have useable 3rd row seating. I basically look at cars in 2 ways – it better be good on gas or it better have lots of room if I am going to get hit on fuel – and unfortunately the Outlander is neither. I accept I drive with a bit of a lead foot but in the city I am typically mid pack and am not constantly weaving in and out so it is not extreme. Highway mileage was better, but not great. And on top of this, I didn’t find the Outlander particularly nimble – if you had to hit it on the highway a couple of steamboats went by before the six kicked in.

I don’t know why the Outlander sucks on gas and isn’t particularly peppy – the Rav 4 in the 6 cylinder felt like a rocket and was to me a fair compromise on gas economy from the stock 4 cyl. (they are very similar). The CRV and Rav 4 felt light and nimble – and perhaps there is something to the Outlander’s build that adds to that. It has heavy doors, and feels a bit like a tank when you drive it, perhaps that is what an extra 250 or so pounds to its gross weight feels like between it and the CRV.

Corinne liked it very much – particularly the tank-like feel (a hangover from the Cherokee I presume) and I thought I would too but after getting a taste of light with the CRV and RAV I don’t think I do any more. It’s still on the short list – the 4 cylinder without the 3rd row option that is – but it is up against some pretty strong competition in the five-seater SUV world (though if they had a red eye that swooped back and forth above the grill they may convince me).


It sounds dumb, but I was SUPER-bummed about the Outlander’s fuel economy – at least the XLS version we drove. The four-cylinder version is a possibility for us, but if you could combine the better fuel economy with the *use in a pinch* jump seat, we would have found the perfect car for us. But maybe it’s for the best… I may have permanently damaged my hearing with that stereo and I may or may not have already frightened nearby drivers with my renditions of Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2U and Jay-Z & Alicia Keys’ “Empire State Of Mind”. Up next – the brand spanking new Mazda CX-5, and the Kia Sorento. Also on the list is the Suzuki Grand Vitara – now that their newer models are four cylinders, the switchable 4×4 option is also very appealing.

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