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Out and about in the Outlander
  |  First Published: June 2003



MITSUBISHI’S Outlander is yet another contender in the rapidly growing compact all-wheel-drive market. Considering that in the last year alone some 54,000 such wagons were sold, any new entry to the market is going to be considered on its merits.

Replacing the neat but small Pajero iO, the new Outlander offers a lot more room. And while it might not have the extra set of low range gears as an option that the iO was equipped with, the Outlander can take you for comfortable drives along forest tracks, paddocks, or up or down the beach – providing care is taken with the areas of softer sand. The idea is to keep that momentum going!

EXTERIOR

A lot has been said in regard to the styling of the Outlander, especially that fairly obtrusive ‘nose’ up front. It’s merely cosmetic though, having no bearing on the capability of the vehicle.

The Outlander is longer than most of its rivals, has a ride that is every bit as good as most of them (and better than some), and it’s right up there with most regarding ground clearance. A 100kW, 205Nm of torque, four-cylinder engine is linked to the all-wheel-drive system.

The new Mitsubishi features a four-speed automatic gear box with the renowned 'tiptronic' transmission. If you want to select a lower or higher gear instantly, all you need to do is to flick the gear lever to the side to kick up or down a cog. Down is left, up is right. Too easy.

The gearbox is Mitsubishi's acclaimed 'INVECS' II smart logic unit which quickly adapts to a driver's style as well, making the gear changes in response to the way the accelerator is depressed.

INTERIOR

Creature comforts in the Outlander include air conditioning, CD player/ radio, power windows, lots of cup holders, and storage areas which include a massive between-seats storage compartment in the front. While most cars of this sort have their gear selector mounted on a console over the transmission hump, the Outlander actually offers enclosed storage space for valuables and the like.

There is also a large amount of rear storage space behind the passenger's seat. Provisioning for a weekend up the beach would be easy with the Outlander, given the amount of space available in this section of the vehicle. What's more, there’s also a good amount of storage space below the floor of the rear cargo area, where there’s also full-sized spare tyre.

TEST DRIVE

On the road the Outlander is a delight to drive. Roomy and comfy up front thanks to wide bucket seats, and with a lot of space for three passengers in the rear (this seat split folds in 60/40 style) those rear seat passengers will find a lot of leg room at their disposal as well. Seats are deep and very supportive. The Outlander is a very quiet car, too, with an almost total lack of road noise able to find its way into the cabin – even on gravel.

The Outlander features a revised MacPherson strut and multi link rear suspension package which Mitsubishi say is re-worked for our conditions. The bottom line is that the Outlander passed my standard ‘bump’ test in fine style. A gentle drive off my front foot path onto the road always reveals the degree of suspension travel available, and the Outlander has plenty by the feel of things. This is not always the case with this class of vehicle.

On a very loose and steep bit of gravel road I purposely allowed the Outlander to slide from the mark after a standing start, and the manner in which the viscous coupling rapidly kicked the 16” wheels (Yokohama Geolanders) that did have traction into use was impressive. Yes, you could get into trouble in the Outlander, but only if you take the car into territory that the makers never intended it to venture into in the first place. It's wise to remember that all-wheel-drive isn’t the same as four-wheel-drive with its all-important set of extra gears.

I did find the car responded well to driver input on steeper sections of winding road. Left to its own devices the auto gearbox tended to make the Outlander a bit of a slug, but some enthusiastic driver input via the right foot and judicious use of the tiptronic gear selector kept her humming along very well. From 3000rpm onwards the four-cylinder engine responds with gusto once you take charge of things.

The driving position is great – plenty of head room, leg room and the all-important foot rest. Instruments are easy to read, with dominant twin dials of speedo and tacho in stark white against the much darker background. A neat silver dash insert, with clock, completes the stylish layout.

I found both the dash-mounted gear selector and the intriguing foot parking brake very easy to use. Kick the foot brake once and it's on, another kick and it's off. What could be easier?

In all, the Outlander is an easy car to get to like. Ride comfort and road holding are first class, the range of appointments included as standard is impressive, and it’s competitively priced at around $32,000.

1) Roomy, soft riding, and with many creature comforts, the Outlander is an all-wheel-drive wagon with a lot of appeal.

2) The cargo space in the Outlander is impressive.

3) The dash layout of the Outlander is uncomplicated. Dials are easy to read and the gear selector is within easy reach.

4) The upwards opening rear door of the Outlander gives access to a good sized cargo space.

Reads: 415

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