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2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC. Photo by David Arnouts.
ART DIRECTOR CHERYL L. BLAHNIK: Wow. What does everyone think of this Laguna blue paint job on this 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE? Not sure I'm sold on the color with the alloy fuel door. I do like the 18-inch wheels wheels, and the overall sporty shape with the rounded back end and aggressive front fascia. I would like to see one of these in silver or red.
The interior is laid out nicely, and the panoramic roof was a nice surprise with the LED lights. There's good room for families, and there are premium touches such as a push-button start system, a backup camera and heated seats.
On the road, this engine is buzzy. And for all that noise there isn't much punch from this 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but it seems to do well on fuel. I logged 100 miles during my overnight and the fuel gauge hardly moved. The suspension absorbed potholes well and yields a solid ride.
So what's to like about this Outlander Sport? A lot with the all-wheel drive, good fuel economy and the roomy interior. I can imagine this being perfect for outdoorsman with a rack up top to carry bikes or snowboards. But the as-tested price of $28,570 does make you pause. That's more than I would be willing to pay for this.
ART DIRECTOR TARA KLEIN: Is it sporty? Is it cute? Is it stylish? Is it luxurious? The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport seems to be going through an identity crisis when it comes to the overall look and feel, and because of this, I don't think it thrives in any area.
The exterior, while teetering toward completely boring, did have a sporty edge to it. I also agree with Cheryl that I may have been distracted by the awful paint color that would have been more suitable for a Jolly Rancher.
The ride was stable for the most part; it got slightly irritated on our subpar Michigan roadways, but it was a total pain to get up to speed. There have been few vehicles where I could literally put my foot to the floor and not be nervous about the looming blast of power, and this Outlander is one of those few. When accelerating in this SUV, not only was I itching for more oomph, my ears were also being irritated with the sounds of engine, wind and road noise.
The brakes are also not as responsive as I would have thought. I found myself having to really push on them to get an instant reaction in rush-hour traffic when a gradual approach wasn't cutting it.
Inside of the Outlander, one of the first things I noticed was the massive sunroof. This is a feature I found some real value in, but when I caught a glimpse of the reflection of the limolike lighting scheme, I was confused. It doesn't coincide with the initial impression I got from the Outlander. The seats were also hard and uncomfortable, but the rest of the interior was composed well.
I think the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has some real soul searching to do before it can find its permanent niche in the SUV world.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR--AUTOWEEK.COM BOB GRITZINGER: The Outlander Sport--especially with this CVT tying it down--makes me sad, because I know there's a good car and a great Lancer chassis buried somewhere underneath this crossover get-up. You can feel it when you toss the Outlander into a corner, feel it start to roll and then check itself as the suspension responds and the tires bite for traction. The problem comes when you try to dial in more power and there's just nothing left in the tank, or the CVT's response is dull and lagging. The engine could use some help as well--don't these folks know a lot about turbos and such? The engine, as noted, is buzzy at best.
All of that aside, this a nicely equipped ute for the money, with AWD, navigation, backup camera, heated seats, automatic climate control, keyless entry and ignition, and that giant sunroof. There's a lot of equipment here to love, but somehow it feels like window dressing on a vehicle where I'd be a lot happier if Mitsubishi targeted transmission response and engine output before getting carried away with extras.
There's a great little ute in here somewhere. It'd be really great if Mitsubishi would let it out.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I don't have much to add to the above. The Outlander is close to being a good little ute, it looks good to my eye, but the powertrain lets it down. The CVT is just awful (as I'd have thought) and basically ruins an otherwise decent drive. And why bother with the paddles?
The four-cylinder is good, the car feels light on its feet and potholes are fairly well absorbed. In other words, it's not too soft or too harsh.
I'd love to see better materials inside, but the seats were decent and for this money, what do you want?
However, this is a competitive segment. Would I consider this over a Chevrolet Equinox or a Volkswagen Tiguan? Not with this drivetrain.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Knowing in advance that the Outlander Sport uses the old-world engine/CVT powertrain from the early Dodge Caliber, I wasn't expecting much. Turns out I was pleasantly surprised by this little runabout. Granted, the engine and transmission are far from satisfying, but walking into the gig knowing what to expect (the CVT's obnoxious moans and slipping-clutch driving dynamics), I found that it did its job fine. And the engine felt much stronger than its numbers and displacement would suggest, particularly since this was a 4WD model with the extra mechanicals. Finally, Mitsubishi did a good job of isolating the cabin from the worst of the powertrain racket.
In fact, the entire car was remarkably quiet and composed in every driving situation I encountered. It's a far more enjoyable place to spend time than either of the Scions that I drove recently. The dash is well laid out and covered in soft-touch materials, the thick steering wheel and good seating position help, and the Mitsubishi multimedia system is tolerable--not the best, not the worst. My only complaint is that the center armrest doesn't extend far enough forward. Oh, and the whole car smelled like a new Hyundai in 1988. I can't describe it, but you'd know it if you smelled it. It's like some kind of glue or plastic that no one uses anymore.
The glass roof was a very pleasant surprise, and it made a basic commuter car interior into a wide-open, airy space.
But would I pay $28,500 for a Mitsubishi? No way. The company doesn't have the brand equity to charge that kind of money for this vehicle. That's unfortunate, as there are the makings of an actual competitor here.
NEWS EDITOR GREG MIGLIORE: I had a weekend cruise in this Laguna-hued 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE, and I liked the looks and the glass-roof feature. It fit in well during one of the first truly warm weekends of the year in Michigan. The Evo-styled grille, lower fascia and detailed headlights are sharp, adding character to the Outlander Sport in a crossover segment that's devoid of it. The side panels look sporty, too, with impressive lines and contours that show plenty of design character. I was a little surprised at how nice this car looks in the flesh. It gets attention.
The CVT was what I expected--which was disappointing. Its operation is a bit awkward, especially low in the band, and it seems sluggish at times. Harder launches are slow, too, and this four-banger is adequate at best. The nicest thing I can say is at least the Outlander GT doesn't feel underpowered.
The chassis is considerably better than what lurks underhood. It's tight, well-sprung and offers little rebound when whacking road imperfections. It feels sporty, yet with the elevated ride height, it isn't abusive. I give props to Mitsu for keeping the curb weight relatively low (for a crossover with AWD) and the body is composed during most maneuvers. I found a comfortable driving position, and the front part of the cabin is plenty roomy. The materials are fine, and the dark plastics actually present rather well. Steering offers a bit of weight into turns but is still often on the light side. The interior lets in a good amount of engine noise as this four-cylinder whines and strains, and I detected a bit of wind noise on the expressway. Other random thoughts: The fuel economy is fairly solid and the rear camera is quite clear.
Overall, this is a nice effort by Mitsubishi. It looks great, drives decently, and is generally well done. But I would prefer a better powertrain.
2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC
Base Price: $23,775
As-Tested Price: $28,570
Drivetrain: 2.0-liter I4; 4WD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 148 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 143 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,263 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA/AW): 26/24.6 mpg
Options: Navigation with rearview camera including 40GB HDD navigation with music server and real-time traffic, rearview-camera system and auxiliary video input jack ($2,000); premium package including panoramic glass roof with LED illumination, black roof rails, 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate punch premium sound system with nine-speakers, 10-inch subwoofer, six-disk CD/MP3 in-dash head unit, Sirius satellite radio with three months' service ($1,800); exterior sport package including large rear spoiler, front corner extensions, rear diffuser garnish, alloy fuel door ($995)
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