2014 is going to be an interesting year for car manufacturers and local distributors alike. Competition in the compact SUV market is white hot; dealers are having to work extra hard to complete a sale with buyers reaping the advantage with dollar savings sweeteners.
While some carmakers have elected for total facelifts and, in some instances, redesigned their offerings completely, Mitsubishi have made few external changes to their Outlander SUV range. The somewhat bland exterior styling introduced in 2013 has been retained but the addition of 18” five-spoke alloy wheels plus black roof rails is now featured on all models.
But it’s the extra unseen features right across the Outlander range that are the really big news, such as Active Stability Control, but before we delve into this aspect a quick look at engines and power plants is in order.
Mitsubishi has wisely maintained the stance on alternate engines and power trains for both petrol and diesel engine derivatives. In recognition that these engines require entirely different gearing to offer best performance, Mitsubishi wisely maintains the different power plant/drive system for each class of vehicle.
Rather than simply shoe horn alternate engines under the Outlander’s well-shaped bonnet and link them to identical drive trains, the company retains the 2.4 petrol engine’s link to a CVT unit while the 2.2 diesel engine comes mated to a smooth shifting 6-speed auto. This is a smart strategy, as the petrol engine needs more revs to reach its performance power band, while the diesel punches out more torque at reduced revs, and with reduced fuel consumption.
Both models feature steering column paddles that allow manual selection of 6 ratios for those who enjoy selecting gears, but my view is that D for Drive is the way most drivers will go.
The main changes involve upgrading of equipment levels within Outlander’s base ES, mid spec LS and the top of range Aspire flagship.
The resulting additions now see the ES gaining $1,500 value in extras, examples being the display audio system with its link connectivity to radio, CD player, MP3, USB and iPod, Bluetooth connectivity. A large reversing camera and linked sensors is also part of the value-added package.
The mid range LS gains $2,500 value according to Mitsubishi. There’s a top spec Mitsubishi Multi Communication System with 7” touch screen, Sat Nav system with 3D mapping functionality. SD card input is also standard. Rain sensing headlights and dusk sensing headlights also tempt the LS buyer.
The 4WD Aspire, as reviewed, gains the most goodies with an extra $5,750 value added to an already feature-packed package, including: an electric sunroof is press button controlled, HID headlights with washers, power (closing) tailgate Forward Collision Mitigation System, Adaptive Cruise Control, leather trimmed seats, heated front seats, driver’s sports electric adjustment, and virtually every major system is electrically operated and passenger and driver have separate climate control air conditioning.
The 7-seater also comes with hill-start assist, auto brake assist, plus a bag full of safety features. The sound system is simply brilliant, one of the best.
The 2.4L 124Nm/220Nm petrol engine Aspire test vehicle was a 7-seater, access to rear seats via a sliding centre row seat section. The Aspire’s interior exhibited a high standard of fit and finish, although I’m not quite certain what the small panels of simulated timber were there for. Upholstery had neat stitching all round, ample storage space plus a plethora of cup holders. Up front had a large expanse of soft touch dash that was off set nicely by the Multi Communication System’s wide screen with intuitive Sat Nav system, crystal clear and well-calibrated reversing camera.
A leather trimmed gear selector was prominent on the centre console with a button shift selector for 4WD Auto – used where drive might need to involve rear wheels as well as front rubber, plus 4WD Lock when all wheels are required to drive in order to maintain traction.
Lock mode would be handy for paddock or bush trail work, not the beach. The Outlander is too low, and tyres somewhat skinny for soft sand.
I found the Aspire’s four-cylinder petrol engine/CVT gearbox an ideal set up. Noise and vibration levels were remarkably low, with only some tyre noise intruding, with Mitsubishi having geared the engine and drive train to work in perfect unison. Cut and thrust traffic work was a breeze, the petrol engine making very easy work of anything required of it. Cruising on the M1 at 110km/h saw the adaptive cruise control earning its keep with comfort. Fuel consumption on a mix of city and extensive highway work was noted as 9.2L/100km.
The Outlander features an interesting Eco display within the main instrument cluster. When selected, this display monitors fuel consumption in an enticing game-like manner. In standard Eco mode all drive is via the front wheels.
The Outlander Aspire is a very comfortable vehicle in every respect. The car-like ride is smooth over virtually all surfaces with little body roll intruding, thanks to its low centre of gravity. Hard cornering can produce a hint of understeer if the wagon is pushed too hard but is easily corrected with a touch of brakes complementing the Active Stability Control system. Seating is supportive, perhaps not the best in its class, but an improvement on the pre 2013 model. Second row passengers enjoy excellent legroom plus a tall rear seat that offers panoramic views all round. Third row seating is for youngsters, agile ones at that.
There’s no shortage of load space at the rear. With third and second row seats lowered, there is 1800mm of long load cargo space available. With second row seats upright it is reduced to 1100mm in length, which is still quite useful.
Tow capacity is rated at 1.6 tonnes for a braked trailer, which will see ample boats and campers on the draw bar, and runs to the tip with the net enclosed box trailer on a Saturday morning just as easily accomplished.
In summing up, the 2014 Outlander is a capable and comfortable SUV with car-like road holding and drive characteristics. It can go offroad to a degree, and certainly swallows up enough cargo to make a weekend camping or fishing trip a lot of fun.
The Aspire has all the bells and whistles and certainly pampers the driver and passengers. Mitsubishi’s 5 year 300,000km warranty applies to the Outlander that enjoys a 5 star ANCAP rating. Cost of the Aspire is $43,790.Reads: 1555