It’s amazing the direction in which compact 4WD vehicles are going these days. And I'm not referring to points of the compass either! They are larger, have better specifications and performance, and are able to carry more passengers in even more comfort. A quick look at Mitsubishi’s new Outlander reveals that this compact vehicle is nearly as large as some of the earlier mid-sized wagons. And with its revamped styling it certainly does look smart.
I always considered the original Outlander to be quite a good vehicle. It was limited by its 4-cylinder buzz box style engine but the new model, the ZG, has undergone some very pronounced design changes to give it far more presence. There’s more size, a contemporary design and the choice of a 4-cylinder or V6 engine. There are now eight vehicles in the Outlander range, including a seven-seat variant which forgoes rear luggage space.
Most noticeable about the new ZG Outlander 5-door wagon is the exterior; the look being remarkably similar to its big brother Pajero. The angled grille, headlights, fog lights in the bumper and alloy guard curving under the vehicle are all similar to the Pajero.
The Outlander’s smart easy-loading tailgate system deserves top marks. The top section of the gate lifts up higher than the roof and there’s also a well-designed drop down section with a lower tailgate that is 850mm in depth. The edge of the tailgate is only 600mm from the ground when lowered – I'll bet most Landcruiser owners would love this!
The test vehicle for this review was the 4-cylinder LS five seater. The 2.4L DOHC 16-valve engine is a new power plant for Mitsubishi and does have their acclaimed MIVEC feature (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) designed to offer best fuel efficiency and lower emissions while improving power and torque.
The engine turns out 125kW of power and 226Nm of torque. When combined with the 4-cylinder model’s continuously variable transmission, the engine proved extremely smooth and flexible throughout the entire rev range.
Mitsubishi claim fuel economy figures of 9.5L per 100km – a whole lot better than the previous model – and while I could not match these figures I did go close with a mix of city and country driving achieving 10.4L per 100km.
Inside the Outlander it’s not hard to spot the changes. The driver will find the dash layout is sharp with a very well laid out and easy-to-read instrument binnacle glowing a fine shade of red at night. Big dials for the speedo and tacho are prominent while a central electronic display provides an up to the minute readout of temperature, fuel and the like.
The centre console is set up with AM/FM/CD sound system and air conditioning is standard. Ergonomically, this is one very tidy car with storage areas aplenty, room to move and comfort for both front and rear passengers. As we have come to expect, there’s power operation for everything.
Owners will enjoy the keyless ignition system, which allows you to enter and even start the car so long as the vehicle’s transponder is nearby. I also liked the controls for both sound system and cruise control being on the leather bound steering wheel. Furthermore, the 6-speed sports mode, made available by kicking the gear selector to the side, proved handy for overtaking. The 2.4L engine is zippy, and the ability to drop a cog to overtake quickly is very useful.
Mitsubishi seem to have increased the size of driver’s and front passenger’s seats too. Driving the Outlander is very straightforward in the city and the ride is top shelf.
The new Outlander also features an on-demand All Wheel Drive system. The engine drives the front wheels until the console-mounted selector is flicked to AWD or AWD On Demand. The system works via an electronically controlled coupling at the rear diff; put simply it’s a clutch that locks up to supply drive to the rear wheels as required, either full time or as detected by sensors connected to the front wheels.
Country road driving in the 2.4 Outlander was a bit of an eye opener. Travelling on a bad bit of road with washouts and corrugations, I found the Outlander’s suspension was able to cope with the rough stuff. However, with the transmission in Auto AWD mode the centre weighted steering was inclined to follow loose surfaces, which meant that I was fighting the wheel at times. When I selected ‘Lock’ mode the problems ceased immediately and the car settled down to its usual well-mannered self. This small issue aside I really enjoyed my drive of the Outlander and look forward to a run in the V6 later.
With its ultra modern looks, good performance and family-orientated versatility, the ZG Outlander must be a contender for a family in need of a smart vehicle to suit their active lifestyle. The price, around $31,990 for the LS five seater (plus on roads), is very competitive and the 5-year warranty is a bonus too.Reads: 1987