Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Outlander - range
Performance, driveability, sports-shift auto, equipment, value, refinement
Room for improvement
No manual transmission, cheap LS wheel covers, fiddly VR-X audio system
22 Jul 2004
ONE brush of the revised Outlander’s accelerator pedal is enough to reveal this is a far more accomplished vehicle than its predecessor in terms of performance.
Gone is the previous car’s sluggish response - in its place solid and convincing urge right from idle that can startle those accustomed to the Outlander of old.
Torque delivery and throttle response are the most noticeable new attributes, particularly off idle, where Outlander really shines with effortless take-off performance.
The extra urge is apparent right across the rev range, however, with Mitsubishi’s cleverly adaptive four-speed auto offering healthy response in the midrange and no shortage performance all the way to its 6500rpm redline.
Granted, X-Trail still shades all of its compact SUV rivals in terms of outright performance, but Outlander is now probably next best – even in auto-only guise. But, importantly, driveability and tractability are now Outlander strong points, and its significantly improved 80-120km/h overtaking acceleration performance back this up.
Disappointingly, the pre-production Outlanders we drove at the Lismore (NSW) based launch weren’t fully indicative of the production cars we’ll see in August, with some lacking the correct tail-lights and instrument faces and, sadly, the new VR-X lacking its most distinctive feature, its specific sports suspension.
So we can’t tell you how the new, more firmly sprung Outlander VR-X handles, but in terms of styling and equipment it makes a pretty good image leader for the vastly improved Outlander range.
The leather and fake suede seat trim looks the part, as do the slightly chintzy carbon-look dash inserts and unique 17-inch alloys, and the premium audio system certainly raises the bar even if it is fiddle to use.
At base level, the addition of roof rails and white instruments is a big lift, but the plastic wheel covers still look a little naff. Overall, however, aside from the new engine there are significant improvements to the driving experience courtesy of better brakes, the addition of electronic brake-force distribution (which is also said to make a less noticeable difference in braking performance when fully loaded).
This is on top of the spacious Outlander’s impressive ride quality and well suppressed noise, vibration and harshness – along with a useful interior convenience and safety kit that includes five adjustable head restraints and a split-folding rear seat.
Only a poor, 11.4-metre turning circle lets the package down.
But more performance, more equipment and subtly improved styling are only part of the revised Outlander’s story. Although there’s no manual available (which is sure to restrict sales, given 45 per cent of the segment is manual), aggressive new pricing makes Outlander LS the cheapest of its base-level auto rivals by a fair margin.
And Outlander retains significant points of difference via a sequential-shift auto, a big 205mm of ground clearance and a proper and well-proven viscous coupling-based AWD system.
With a little more promotion, we’re sure the refreshed Outlander will attract the higher number of customers it deserves.
And while the new VR-X variant represents good value and fulfils its flagship role well enough, all Outlander seems to need now is an image-leading performance kingpin – such as the turbocharged Airtrek Ralliart version sold in Japan.
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