SQUAMISH, B.C.—Step One on the comeback trail—play to your strengths.
After paring the deadwood out of a dated lineup over the past few years (Galant, Montero, Endeavor and Eclipse), Mitsubishi is concentrating on what they are currently doing best—compact cars and compact SUVs—before following a step-by-step schedule of new vehicle introductions.
The i-MiEV remains as a small-niche, electrical eccentricity. The Lancer is still the company’s bread-and-butter mainstay with a wide range of choices, from entry-level models to the esoteric Evo. And the RVR remains an affordable first-step offering for CUV intenders.
And now, a new 2014 Outlander rejuvenates the compact sport utility lineup with a new look, new levels of quality, improved performance, better fuel economy and a list of segment-first technologies packaged in a product that will sell for about the same price as its predecessor.
Mitsubishi boasts that the new Outlander will be among Canada’s first compact SUVs to offer advanced safety technologies like Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and a Forward Collision Mitigation system.
The 2014 Outlander is all new. Well, up to a point.
A study of the spec sheet shows a lot of common dimensional measurements shared with its predecessor. But chassis improvements for the 2014 model year include a re-tuned suspension and the extensive use of high-tensile strength steel to lighten the load.
An added sub-frame, key reinforcements and redesigned engine mounts contribute to a more refined ride with reduced noise, vibration and harshness.
That same emphasis on refinement is found inside the Outlander where added insulation and improved weather stripping complement redesigned mirrors and more aerodynamic structural lines for less noise and a quieter ride.
Passenger comfort takes precedence in the new interior layout. Second row seats receive 170 mm more fore and aft travel for additional legroom. Third row seats are 120 mm wider and also add 60 mm more legroom.
But, of course, this extra space had to come from somewhere, so cargo room is down significantly to 292 litres, with 968 litres behind the second row and 1,792 litres behind the first row (compared to 422 litres/1,025 litres/2,056 litres in last year’s model). A new power tailgate is available for easier loading.
New, high-grade materials inside include padded surfaces, soft-touch finishes, silver highlights and gloss black appliqués. The Americans opted for faux wood accents but Mitsubishi Canada elected for a higher-tech look with carbon fibre-like contrasts.
Available new conveniences include dual-zone automatic air conditioning, next-gen SD navigation and a premium audio system with 6.1-inch QVGA liquid crystal display and multi-function touch panel. Even the tilt/telescopic steering wheel has been redesigned to better match the uptick in quality and ergonomic design.
And the new level of sophistication carries over outside to a more refined, smoother-lined exterior.
The biggest change is the new front grille, slimmer and less open with a hint of Montero heritage, tied with chromed strips to new super-wide HID headlamps.
Personally, I liked the old gape-mouth grille—Evo-inspired, compared to everything from shark snouts to Sabre Jet air intakes and copied across the board by companies from Ford to Audi.
But Mitsubishi really had nowhere else to go, design-wise, so dialing back the styling emphasis from sporty to sophisticated was an inevitable turn of the cycle, and the softer, more contoured look contributes to a slightly slicker 0.33 cD of drag (a seven per cent improvement).
Under the skin, the 2014 Outlander two engine choices starting with a new 2.4-litre four cylinder and a reworked version of the 3.0-litre V6. Both engines are rated with about the same power levels as their predecessors but both have also been technologically tweaked for better performance and improved fuel economy.
The new 166 hp 2.4-litre SOHC four-cylinder replaces a more complicated DOHC design and its lightweight mass contributes to the 2014 Outlander’s 100 kg reduction in curb weight. This engine is mated to a CVT transmission.
The 227-hp 3.0-litre V-6 engine gets high-ignition spark plugs and an improved exhaust system for better fuel consumption and reduced emissions.
While other manufacturers are moving to turbo-powered four-cylinders, Mitsubishi feels they can appeal to some customers by retaining a V6 option. A six-speed Sportronic transmission mated to this engine has a new final drive ratio for improved fuel economy. Both engines pull adequately but the V6 offers a little more moxie and a 1,588 kg (3,500 lb) tow rating.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander lineup also offers five- or seven-passenger accommodation, two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive choices, and three trim levels—ES, SE and GT—that can be optioned further with various equipment packages.
All-Wheel Control (AWC) is available in ES and SE models and the new drive selection choices include 4WD ECO, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock. The top-of-the-line GT model comes with a Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system that splits torque delivery from side-to-side as well as fore and aft. Drive selection choices for S-AWC models include AWC ECO, Normal, Snow and Lock.
Customers can best explore trim levels online but it is worth noting that even the entry-level Outlander ES 2WD comes well-equipped with standards that include seven airbags (with a new driver’s knee airbag), four wheel ABS disc brakes with Brake-Assist, EBD and Brake Override System, Active Stability Control, Hill-Start Assist, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise and audio buttons, power locks, power windows and power heated mirrors, keyless entry and security system, heated front seats, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat with recline, and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with Bluetooth 2.0 hands-free cell phone interface with streaming audio and voice control.
That’s quite a package to build on and, along with the wide variety of configurations and choices in the new Outlander lineup, an indicator of just how serious Mitsubishi is about its rejuvenation plans.
There was some speculation about Mitsubishi’s future, especially after Suzuki’s pullout of North America.
But I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of those Suzuki dealers scrambling to join Mitsubishi Canada’s network, a network that they are planning to grow to 110 dealers from the current 85.
Step Two on the comeback trail—add product.
Mitsubishi Canada will introduce a thrifty new three-cylinder Mirage subcompact in the near future, and later this fall, the 2014 Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) will also offer an added alternative to an updated Outlander SUV lineup that has sold over 50,000 models in Canada since it’s introduction in 2002.
Stay tuned for more news about a brighter Mitsubishi future.
Body Style: compact five-/seven-passenger SUV
Drive Method: front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive
Engine: 2.4-litre SOHC MIVEC four-cylinder (166 hp, 162 lb/ft); 3.0-litre MIVEC V6 (227 hp, 215 lb/ft)
Cargo: 292 litres behind third row, 968 litres behind second row, 1,792 litres behind first row
Towing: 2.4-litre 680 kg (1,500 lb); 3.0-litre 1,588 kg (3,500 lb)
Fuel Economy: 2.4-litre FWD 8.2/6.3L/100km (city/hwy); 2.4-litre AWC 8.6/6.8L/100km (city/hwy); 3.0-litre AWC 10.1/7.1L/100km (city/hwy)
Prices: ES $25,998; ES AWC $27,998; SE AWC $30,998; GT S-AWC $35,998; GT S-AWC (Navi) $38,728