BUYERS GUIDE - SOFT-ROADERS
The Outlander has always been one of the best softroaders, although Mitsubishi’s sometimes radical front end styling alienated many loyal customers over the years. The plug-in Hybrid model is a standout and was updated for 2020.
The 2013 Outlander was the first of the line to be engineered for multiple powertrains. Two petrol engines and a new diesel were offered and a plug-in petrol hybrid EV was scheduled for later release.
All variants came with class-leading five-year/130,000km warranty and 60,000km capped price servicing.
Outlander ES 4WD had a 2.4-litre, 124kW/220Nm petrol engine, continuously variable mechanical transmission (CVT), 16-inch steel wheels, five-seat layout, single-piece tailgate, automatic-folding door mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear-shift knob, steering wheel controls for audio and Bluetooth, reverse sensors, single CD audio system with six speakers, tilting and telescoping steering wheel and climate control air-conditioning.
The LS 4WD models were powered by the 2.4-litre petrol engine, with CVT, or a 2.2-litre, 110kW/360Nm turbo-intercooled diesel, with six-speed auto transmission, 16-inch aluminium wheels, five or seven seat layout, front fog lamps, privacy glass, colour LCD display, dual-zone air-conditioning and rear-view camera.
Outlander Aspire had the LS petrol or diesel powertrain choices, 18-inch aluminium wheels, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlamps, smart key with button start, leather seats (fronts heated and the driver’s is power adjustable) and wood-print accents on the front door trims and instrument panel.
A Premium Pack for the Aspire included Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM). ACC maintains a safe distance between the vehicle in front even at very low speeds and FCM detected obstacles on the road ahead and automatically applied the brakes to help avoid a collision.
The Premium option also included a power tailgate and seven-inch colour display/touch panel. Audio was upgraded to a Rockford Fosgate Premium system with nine speakers.
For 2014 the Outlander range received upgrades to equipment levels and some price adjustments.
Specification changes from 13MY included 18-inch five-spoke aluminium wheels fitted across the range, along with black roof rail detail.
Base model ES gained approx. $1500 worth of extras such as Mitsubishi’s display audio system with reversing sensors and reversing camera.
Outlander LS received the top spec Mitsubishi Multi Communication System (MMCS) as standard, utilising a larger seven-inch colour touchscreen and added satellite navigation with 3D mapping functionality and SD Card input. Also fitted as standard were rain sensing wipers and dusk sensing headlamps, offering an additional $2500 value.
Aspire variants benefited from the inclusion of an electric sunroof as well as many of the previous models ‘premium pack’ option items fitted as standard for 14MY, adding approximately $5750 worth of added value. Items included HID headlamps with washers, a power tailgate as well as the MMCS audio and satellite navigation system, along with the Outlander’s advanced safety technologies – Forward Collision Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Petrol or diesel
Mitsubishi mightn’t be the slickest marketing organisation on the planet, but the company’s automotive engineering is as good as it gets.
The Three-Diamond boys didn’t make the common mistake of shoe-horning a diesel into a petrol driveline, but approached the two powertrains as clean CAD-screen exercises.
A petrol engine needs to rev faster than a diesel engine for a given power output and produces less torque at higher revs as well. In the case of the Outlander engines the 2.4-litre petrol needed to sing at 6000rpm for its 110kW, where the turbo-filled diesel loped at 3500rpm for the same output. The diesel grunted out 360Nm of torque in the 1500rpm-2750rpm band, where the petrol engine did no better than 220Nm at a heady 4200rpm. These characteristics were reflected in the Outlander powertrains.
The 2.4-litre MIVEC petrol engine mated to a purpose-designed CVT with a ratio spread of 2.35:1 to 0.39:1. Obviously, such a tall overdrive needed a special final drive ratio, so it’s no surprise to see 6.47:1 diffs fitted to the petrol 4WD Outlander.
The 2.2-litre diesel mated to a torque-converter, six-ratio automatic transmission with a gear spread of 4.20:1 to 0.69. This conventional powertrain linked to front and rear diffs with typical 3.36:1 final drive ratios.
Despite the differences in engine outputs and transmission ratios the petrol and diesel Outlanders performed similarly, as our on and off road testing showed. We expected the diesel to be king off-road, but that’s not what we discovered. Both vehicles handled our mild off-road course with ease.
On-road there was very little mechanical noise, vibration and harshness in either vehicle and none of our passengers could distinguish the diesel from the petrol. From the driver’s seat the diesel model’s steering wheel effort was slightly heavier.
We’ve driven several passenger cars with CVTs and found some to be jerky and harsh in action, but Mitsubishi had no such issues with the Outlander CVT.
However, in all conditions the diesel used two to three litres less fuel per 100 kilometres than the petrol vehicle did. Another plus for the diesel powertrain was a trailer rating of two tonnes, compared with the petrol’s 1.6 tonnes.
If we were buying an Outlander we’d have chosen the diesel, because of its torque and economy edge, and its greater towing capacity, but for people who wanted a town vehicle that occasionally went off road the petrol machine would do the job.
For bush travel we’d have a set of steel 16-inchers, fitted with 215/75R16 LT tyres.
Living with the Outlander
Our two test vehicles were top-shelf petrol and diesel Outlander Aspires, both fitted with optional Premium Packs. Thus kitted, the petrol model had a RRP of $49,000 and the diesel, $51,000. (If that was a big ask the LS spec’ was mechanically identical, for around nine grand less.)
We’ll get a gripe out of the way first: the Aspire’s Smart Key – the stupidest thing to be called ‘smart’ since Donald Trump’s college graduation – meant you could start the vehicle with the key in someone else’s pocket; drop him or her off somewhere and then be stuck with an engine you daren’t turn off. The sooner this ridiculous push-button-start craze fades away, the better. The ES and LS Outlanders had conventional ignition keys – hurrah!
The other Aspire goodies were great: auto wipers and headlights; reverse camera; easy to use nav system; remote, powered tailgate and heaters to take the chill off the leather seats. The paddle shifts looked cool, but you’d need to be pressing-on to warrant using them.
The features that all Outlanders share worked well: voice-activated Bluetooth pairing; steering wheel audio and cruise controls; reversing sensors; climate control and tilt-telescopic steering wheel.
The Aspire’s seven seat layout worked simply, thanks to a second-row seat that slid to aid third-row entry. That said, the back stalls are still best for a couple of kids.
Softroaders by their nature have a lower centre of gravity than ‘real’ 4WDs, so handling is car-like and the Outlanders behaved well on sealed roads, with flat cornering ability and precise steering. Many softroaders dislike even mild corrugations, but the Outlanders felt quite comfortable on gravel roads.
We checked out the Aspire Premium Pack’s adaptive cruise control and emergency braking and found both systems very effective. The ACC system incorporates
three levels of distance between the Outlander and a vehicle in front, allowing the driver to select a comfortable cruising position.
The Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) system is designed to monitor the closing distance between the Outlander and a vehicle or object in front. When it detects a potential collision FCM pre-loads the brake pressure and, if the driver fails to react, automatically applies moderate braking pressure. If the driver still doesn’t brake, the system ramps up pressure to emergency level.
While we trust Mitsubishi’s technology, we didn’t perform a field test of the FCM system!
Both vehicles had ‘Eco’ dashboard buttons that sent the driveline into front wheel drive, with automatic 4WD engagement available automatically when road conditions became loose or slippery. In this mode and with a light load on board we recorded 8.6L/100km from the petrol Outlander and 6.3L/100km from
The other drive options, available via successive button pressings, were 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock, that we used on our bush trail course. In Lock mode and with the vehicles’ traction control systems operating the two Outlanders did all that most owners would expect of them on bush trails. We didn’t venture
onto beach sand, because that’s a much more risky destination, where low range gearing and fat tyres are necessary: many softroaders come to grief on the waterfront.
When trail driving and rock shelf climbing at low speeds the petrol Outlander consumed up to 13.3L/100km, while the diesel sipped 10.1L/100km.
The 2016 Outlander was launched in May 2015, with improvements to noise levels, ride, handling and throttle response.
For us, the downside was yet another front-end styling change, just when we thought Mitsubishi had sorted its family styling. The new front aped Lexus, yet managed to be even uglier, if that’s possible!
A new generation Continuously-Variable Transmission (CVT) offered improved acceleration, performance, shift feel and torque delivery on petrol models, but the diesel retained a conventional torque-converter six-speed auto box.
The Outlander had greater structural rigidity, stiffened suspension design with larger-diameter rear dampers, new electric power steering calibration and less vibration and harshness. A modified engine air intake system for petrol and diesel engines combined with noise-isolating windscreen glass and improved weather stripping to help reduce noise.
A renamed three model structure saw entry level LS, mid-range XLS and top-of-the-range Exceed variants.
Chrome grille, silver skid plate and LED daytime running lamps appeared up front and a new bumper, skid plate and LED combination lamps distinguished the rear end. New 18-inch aluminium wheels were fitted.
The Exceed model gained LED headlamps.
Pricing ranged from $33,490 to $46,490.
For 2020 the Outlander scored a Super-All Wheel Control system with SNOW and SPORT drive modes.
The Mitsubishi softroader had five-star ANCAP safety rating; Forward Collision Mitigation standard on ES; automatic headlamps; rain-sensing wipers; reversing camera; seven airbags, including driver’s side knee airbag; LED daytime running lights and an electronic parking brake with auto-hold.
Adaptive cruise control was part of a $1000 option.
Exceed picked up LED fog lamps and LED high beams; rear Cross Traffic Alert; Blind Spot Warning with Lane Change Assist; Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System; Multi Around Monitor; Lane Departure Warning, Automatic high-beam and Adaptive Cruise Control.
New Outlanders received a 200mm Smartphone Display Audio system (SDA); two USB charge ports in the centre console; power lumbar support on the driver’s seat; driver and front passenger seat heater and new fabric trims on seat and door for ES model.
We didn’t test the 2020 petrol Outlander, but we did check out the 2020 Hybrid version.
The Outlander Hybrid 2014-2020 models
We first saw the current-shape Outlander bodywork at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, although it was displayed then as a hybrid concept vehicle called PX-MiEVII. The concept vehicle’s bodywork had a production-ready look about it: confirmed when the new Outlander was launched a year later.
The 2013 Outlander Hybrid was Mitsubishi Motors’ first plug-in hybrid production vehicle and was a true electric vehicle in that two front and one rear electric motors propel it. Power from the motors was split 60kW at the front wheels and 60kW at the rear with peak torque of 137Nm front and 195Nm rear.
A 12kWh/300V lithium ion battery provided enough juice for a 50+km range on electric power alone.
The Outlander Hybrid had a two-litre petrol engine that acted as a battery charger when the voltage level dropped – series hybrid operation – or as the principal powerplant, with electric motor backup – parallel hybrid operation. The Hybrid automatically selected the optimum drive mode, but the driver could elect to override that selection should more performance be required.
The plug-in charging system was said to be capable of performing a full charge, via a 15-amp power supply, in around 4.5 hours and a quick charge, to 80 percent of battery capacity, in as little as 30 minutes. The combined petrol/electric operating range was estimated at 880km.
Fuel economy is claimed to be 1.9 litres/100km in the Combined Cycle, but that figure relied on full contribution from a battery that’s fully charged by mains supply.
For 2020 the Outlander PHEV was given a facelift – unfortunately, in some people’s minds – and power improvements. Petrol engine size went up to 2.4 litres and outputs to 94kW and 199Nm. The electric motor torque figures remained the same, but the rear motor was increased to 70kW power.
Battery capacity also went up, to13.8kWh, from 12kWh. Interestingly, the plug-in charger was 10-amp household-compatible, not requiring a 15-amp power point. (The original charging cord had a 15-amp plug with a large earth terminal that wouldn’t fit into a normal 10-amp socket.)
The original 15-amp plug-in charging system could perform a full charge in around 4.5 hours and a quick charge, to 80 percent of battery capacity, in as little as 30 minutes. The 2020 10-amp charger took around seven hours for a full charge, three hours on a type two charger and as little as 25 minutes on a DC fast charger.
Living with the Outlander PHEV
We found the 2014 and 2020 PHEVs little different from conventional Outlanders, other than for the additional weight – 280kg – of the associated battery, electric motors, wiring, charger and control units. They felt heavier on and off road.
Economy is the main driver of hybrid vehicles and that’s where we concentrated our testing.
We confirmed Mitsubishi’s claim of 50km operating range on battery and front electric motor alone, following overnight charging from a mains power point. This test was done without traffic, on gently undulating roads.
When driven in Sydney peak hour traffic conditions we managed an hour and a half driving for 50 kilometres with very little petrol engine contribution, for an average of 0.8L/100km.
Stretching the drive to 150km, following an overnight full battery charge, with a combination of some traffic and open road touring, we managed 6.7L/100km in 2014 and 6.1L/100km in 2020.
When driven over the same route, but starting with a flat battery, the fuel consumption worked out at 8.4L/100km in 2014 and 8.1L/100km in 2020.
The reduced petrol consumption we recorded in 2020 is probably down to increased engine efficiency in the newer 2.4-litre donk.
Our conclusion was that the Outlander PHEV was ideally suited to the daily commute, where it could do most distance on battery power alone, followed by weekend jaunts that could include some mild firetrail work.
Check out our video test of the 2014 PHEV: