Taking a page, or pages, from all your favorite SUVs.
There are two ways to approach a downturn (or in this case, pandemic): go into hiding or go into training. You can hide from the damage and try not to let it hurt you, or you can focus on getting stronger, better, and ready to go when things turn around.
Mitsubishi took the second option and is emerging from the last year with a newly fortified lineup. The newly redesigned 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander doubles down on the popular mid-size SUV market, delivering a well-appointed to fully-loaded SUV filled with popular features on buyers wish lists at a very affordable price (and though it’s the 2022 model, it’ll be rolling into dealerships soon).
Recently we shared how the company has redesigned and re-outfitted the Eclipse Cross mid-size crossover. Its sister SUV, the full-size Outlander got an even more complete makeover, adding truly high-end features like quilted leather seating, head up display and wireless Apple CarPlay but keeping its very competitive price, starting at $25,795 (all wheel drive is an $1,800 option) and topping out at about $38,590 fully loaded.
I was able to take a test drive and from the interior design details to the drive experience, this is what the redesigned Outlander has in store for buyers.
A New Design For a More Distinct Look on the Road
The problem with SUVs is they can start to all look alike, making it hard to find your own car in the parking lot. Not with this car (especially if you back it into your spot): its grille, lighting and bumpers, dubbed ‘dynamic shield’ by Mitsubishi’s designers, are distinct. The look incorporates an hourglass front grille flanked by stacked lights (head lamp/high beam/fog light) that are framed in body color metal and wide chrome. Slim daytime running lights wrap around to the sides of the car and the Outlander name is spelled out across the front of the hood (and yes, it’ll remind you of how Land Rover badges its SUVs). The overall effect creates the distinct new face of Outlander. From the side, you’ll see a more boxy shape, typical of an SUV; the front end is squared off and the roof is capped with a spoiler on the roof. Overall its size is larger, held up by 20” wheels and designed for a rugged, capable look and feel.
All the Truly Premium Features You Want in An SUV
With the redesign of the 2022 model, Mitsubishi’s goal was to give buyers what they want and need in an SUV without compromise. So, certain things are standard, like a 181 horsepower engine, a third row, the touch screen and safety features including forward collision mitigation, blind spot warning and rear automatic emergency braking.
Then, options were added at an affordable price, including leather seats, head up display, Bose Premium (for the first time ever) sound and a panoramic sun roof. Yes, this car has all of those features for about $38,000. It may be the only 3 row SUV priced under $40K to deliver premium features like these.
“This is the biggest segment,” Cason Grover, director of product planning at Mitsubishi North America told us. Delivering a solid mid-size SUV to buyers is the goal. “We want to keep it mainstream, make sure we’re targeting” what people want but still keep the price approachable.
More premium features include a smart key, wireless phone charger, multiple drive modes, a motion activated lift gate, heated front and rear seats and a USB-C fast charger (in addition to 3 standard USB ports).
The Mitsubishi Backstory: A Deep Heritage of Solid Capability
If you haven’t thought of Mitsubishi in a while, here’s a quick catch-up. The smallest automaker in North America, the brand has a demure lineup; it sells just 6 models under 3 nameplates—Outlander, Eclipse Cross and the compact Mirage. But the company is a vast 151-year-old conglomerate, noted by the 3-diamond logo, that builds heavy machinery and electronics, operates banks and even builds and sells Nikon cameras. This is not a struggling automaker, it’s a technology company that happens to have a line of cars, and their cars are known for being reliable, sturdy and well priced.
From An Alliance, Some Nice Benefits
A few years ago, to strengthen its automotive business, Mitsubishi joined an alliance with Renault-Nissan to build automotive components. The alliance makes sense; it allows Mitsubishi to jointly develop engines and other technology at a much lower cost and then customize it for their vehicles.
The Outlander builds on the Renault-Nissan partnership. As a result you might see a few common details shared with Nissan vehicles, like the distinctive size and shape of the gear shifter, but there are some not so obvious features, like the engine that was co-developed with the alliance and manufactured in Japan.
From there, Mitsubishi built the Outlander for its audience of young families and buyers who want a cutting edge SUV and need a third row only occasionally, giving it the drive feel, fuel economy and dynamics that buyers will expect. The result is an SUV that drives nicely, handles well and is fun on curvy country roads.
The feel is larger and more SUV-like than I expected; while it drives easily like a car, the Outlander has a nice hip height, or height of the seats from the ground, making it easy to hop in and hop out when running errands, one of the things we love about SUVs. And like large SUVs, there is plenty of head room and cargo space; even standing under the lift gate the space felt ample; I didn’t fear I would bump my head.
The Third Row, and All the Good Things That Go With it, Is Standard
The Outlander gets a standard 3rd row for 2022 and this is nice for a few reasons. Forget for a moment that this is a really small 3rd row that is best for small passengers, probably people 5’4” or under. But to accommodate the 3rd row, Mitsubishi did a few things that make this car overall better. First, the second row is on rails and can be moved forward or back. This means that even if you’re not using the 3rd row, you can move the center row back or forward. Parents with kids in car seats know the value of this—it’s huge. And, when you have passengers in the third row, you can move the center seats forward to create leg room.
Then, the mere existence of a 3rd row means large cargo space when the seats are folded flat (and, they fold flat). And, there is the challenge of 3rd row headrests; how to accommodate them? Mitsubishi’s answer is a bit clunky but also, a good one: they store in a space under the cargo floor. Yes, it’s cumbersome to install them when you use the seats but if you only use them twice a year, not so bad. And, that they have a built in storage space is fantastic. The space also houses the cargo cover, which is also a huge bonus.
The Outlander doesn’t have captains chairs but it does have a fold down cup holder/arm rest in the center row that gives a captains chair-like feeling to the cabin since essentially, the seat back folds down to form the armrest and opens up the space a bit. I kind of liked this.
Access to the third row is also best performed by small people who are limber and able to climb into small spaces. The center seats can move forward and the seat backs tilt, but not a great deal, leaving a small space to climb into. But again, this is for convenience and on those few days you need this it can be brilliant.
Ready to Roll, No Matter the Road
The Outlander’s rugged look and feel give it chops for off road and more commonly, in snowy and slushy weather. Drive modes allow the driver to adjust to the conditions on the road; modes include Gravel, Mud, Eco, Snow, Tarmac (sport) and Normal. The higher ground clearance and larger wheels add to the capability.
The test model we drove has a gas engine that is estimated to get 24 MPG city/30 MPG highway. There will be a plug-in hybrid version of the 2022 Outlander (which can be found on the 2021 model, too) that will improve fuel economy and allow all electric driving, but no release date has been announced yet.
We’ve always been fans of the Outlander for packing in a lot a great details at a great price. This brand is good at knowing what you want and delivering it. Personally, I can’t wait to see the PHEV version when it makes its debut. But for right now, the 2022 Outlander does a really nice job of delivering all the popular comfort, safety and even luxury features that you want in an SUV at a very stomach-able price.
Disclosure: I was Mitsubishi’s guest for this test drive, and all safety and Covid protocols were followed; all opinions are my own.