This week, we’re driving the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the smaller version of big brother Outlander available in three trims, ES, SE and GT. Outlander Sport ES with a five-speed manual starts at just $19,595 and then moves up to the GT model, which begins at $23,595 in CVT automatic trim. All models offer a 10-year/100,000 mile drive train warranty and new this year is the availability of a more powerful 2.4-liter four cylinder if the base 2.0-liter isn’t enough for your needs.
Available in either front or all wheel drive, Outlander Sport is Mitsubishi’s five-passenger SUV/Crossover that delivers excellent fuel mileage and roomy interior surroundings. Although the larger Outlander rides on the same 105.1 inch wheelbase, the difference comes via longer body length and seating arrangement for seven instead of Outlander Sport’s five.
For 2015, Sport is a virtual twin of the 2014 model sans the bigger engine option. Our tester SE AWC (all wheel control) base price came in at $24,195 powered by the smaller 148-horse, 145-torque 2.0-liter inline four. The power plant mates to a CVT six speed Sportronic automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters for those seeking more control of the CVT’s distinct ratios. All this works in tandem to deliver very good 24 city and 30 highway MPG estimates. If you choose the 167 horse 2.4L engine, you’ll pay for the extra 22 horses at the gas pump as fuel mileage shrinks to 23 city and just 26 highway in 4×4 form. Thus, I recommend the 2.0-liter as it offers a much better return on investment unless you really need the extra ponies.
Outlander 4×4 mechanicals feature Mitsubishi’s electronically controlled active front differential with a “flip of the switch” 2WD to 4WD automatic mode. There’s also a 4WD Lock setting allowing for more rear tire traction. Underneath sits a fully independent suspension good for highway comfort and some off-road ventures, too.
A few negatives.
Interior noise from the engine and tires is noteworthy and was noticed immediately when we hit the highways. I’d like to see more sound deadening insulation, but that won’t happen until a new generation comes our way.
Corporately, it’s been a rough ride for Mitsubishi lately. They went from one of the most dominant niche market manufacturers from 1989 through 2011 when it collared the youth market with the Mitsubishi Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder, meaning if you went to high school, college or your first job in anything but an Eclipse, you were probably in the minority. Additionally, if you bought an Eclipse badged as an Eagle Talon/Plymouth Laser/Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Stratus through 2005 at Chrysler dealers, you were accepted into the Eclipse fraternity. Currently, the only car in the Mitsubishi lineup that is worthy of great reviews is the Lancer Evo, a high performance beauty we’ve tested this year. Hopefully, Mitsubishi can re-organize its car manufacturing and regain some of its lost luster.
Back to the Outlander.
Numerous standard features include extra high-density headlamps, 18-inch tires on nice alloys, safety backup camera, 12-volt outlets, air, cruise, touch start, all the powers, heated front seats with manual adjustment, sporty instrumentation and a 140 watt stereo Sirius/XM/CD/MP3/USB with Fuse hands-free Bluetooth.
Built in Normal, Illinois, Sport’s exterior is dominated by a large front grille featuring a chrome surround. If you don’t like the grille, you can opt for the larger Outlander that starts at $23,195 and delivers a more serene front end theme. Me? I got used to the big Sport grille and now I like it.
Our tester came with one option, a $4,900 Touring Package that adds a high tech Navigation system with seven-inch display, panoramic sunroof, enhanced Rockford Fosgate 710-watt Dolby nine speaker stereo with a 10-inch subwoofer, auto dim rear view mirror, power driver seat, leather seating surfaces and black roof rails.
Crash worthiness is noteworthy, with four and five star government safety ratings throughout all tests thanks to seven air bags.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 105.1 inches, from 21.7 to 48.8 cu. ft. of cargo space, 3,274 lb. curb weight, 8.5-inches of ground clearance, and a 15.8 gallon fuel tank.
Outlander Sport still delivers good reliability ratings while current dealer incentives routinely slash $3,000 to $4,000 off the retail price. If you can get into a brand new Mitsubishi Sport for under $24,500 well equipped, or even the base model for under $18,000, I’d say you got yourself a good deal.
Mitsubishi Outlander does a lot right, but with our tester’s 148 horsepower 4 cylinder engine connected to a CVT transmission, the drive train is wrong.
Sorry Mitsubishi, but I’m not seeing the plus side to having 148 horsepower in a 3,300 pound SUV. While admittedly Outlander does fall on the lighter side of the SUV equation, it needs another 60 horsepower at minimum to provide an enjoyable driving experience.
The lack of power contributes heavily to the aforementioned noise problem. At 60 miles per hour, even the smallest of hills will require 4,500 rpms or more to hold speed. Pair this with a CVT transmission and you have what seems to be an endless drone complimenting your driving experience.
Aside from this negative, Outlander is a solid offering at an amazing price. With a $19,595 starting point for two wheel drive models, it definitely deserves consideration from budget minded families looking for an SUV that will give good gas mileage and transport the kids to after school activities.
The interior is impressive for a vehicle with its price tag. We’ve always enjoyed the cockpit ergonomics of Mitsubishi vehicles, which tend to have a great balance between comfort, ease of use, and sporty offerings. It didn’t take much adjustment to transition from relaxing behind the wheel to a more spirited driving style.
Ride quality can also be described as a mix between an emphasis on comfort and sport handling. Outlander feels comfortable driving along the highway at 55 mph or being tossed around through turns, although the vehicle isn’t designed for such usage.
Being a bit of a car purist, it’s rare for me personally to recommend pricey option packages, but after looking over the Touring Package, which weighs in at $4,900, it does appear to be a bargain.
The leather seats only add to the impressiveness of the interior design while the navigation system is slowly but surely becoming a must have in every vehicle. I’m not one for expensive audio systems, but the Rockford Fosgate system did wonders in drowning out excessive engine noise.
All in all, Outlander has just one flaw. And while the under powered engine would probably be a deal-breaker for me if I were in the SUV market, it may not be for you. Give it a try and decide for yourself.
Entry Price: $19,595
Price as Tested: $29,945
Lots of standard features
Lots of road noise
Needs more horsepower