One of the sonic pleasures of our 2010 Outlander GT is that it comes standard with a 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with a honking 10-inch subwoofer in the rear cargo hold. (It's also available on the SE model with the optional $2,110 Sun & Sound package.)
Rockford Fosgate first earned its rep in aftermarket car audio circles among hardcore "sound-off" competitors, who used the company's Punch brand "cheater" amps to pound out a few more decibels. And it's one of a few car audio-only companies that crossed over to the OEM side to battle it out with mega consumer-electronics brands such as Sony, Pioneer, JBL and Infinity.
Judging from the packaging of the system in the Outlander GT, particularly that big ol' sub and the silver-highlighted tweeters in each corner of the front doors, Rockford Fosgate hasn't toned down its style and sass by going stock. And it also hasn't dialed back its reputation for in-your-face bass and sound.
The Set Up
The Rockford Fosgate system consists of nine speakers powered by 710 watts. In addition to the 10-inch sub in a sealed enclosure in the rear and the aforementioned 1-inch soft-dome tweeters in the front, the system also includes a 6-inch midbass driver in each front door and a 6-inch full-range, two-way speaker in each rear door.
We evaluated the system using the method and test tracks detailed in the Edmunds.com article Sound Advice. Naturally, the Outlander's system excelled at pumping out low bass, even if it was a bit boomy by audiophile standards. And this was with the Punch (bass) level at it's lowest setting.
Two of our standard test tracks showed why a car audio system needs a large, dedicated subwoofer if you want to go low: The thick bass throb that kicks off Joan Armatrading's "In Your Eyes" was deep and undistorted, while the brutal bottom end of Outkast's "Ain't No Thang" could hang with almost any aftermarket system with a sub of the same size and fed an equivalent amount of power.
The Outlander's Rockford Fosgate system also wasn't too shabby at reproducing the rest of the audio spectrum. It handled the tracks we use as a midbass torture-test very well (no big surprise there), but it also did a good job with extreme highs, with only a bit of harshness on some tracks. Overall, clarity/lack of distortion, tonal balance, timbre, tonal accuracy and dynamics were above average.
Where the system fell short was with soundstaging, and particularly with imaging. It created a soundstage that was high and fairly deep, but unusually narrow for such large vehicle. Imaging was almost nonexistent, however. A flute solo that's supposed to hover in the center of the dash in the song "Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me" from Bluesiana Triangle was severely side biased, and the system failed our non-musical staging and imaging tests. But we did notice excellent delineation of instruments within the soundstage on tracks with complex mixes, like Red House Painters' "San Geronimo" and Lyle Lovett's "Blues Walk." And the system scored a rare "fair" and "good" rating in our low- and mid-level linearity tests, which measures how well the sound holds together at low and mid volume levels. (Most systems tend to score "poor" to "fair.")
The Outlander's system includes a six-disc CD/MP3/DVD changer in the dash behind a fold-down touch screen. It also has a 40GB hard drive for music storage that it shares with the navigation system (and is part of the $3,000 Premium Navigation & Leather Package option). iPod integration through a center-console USB port is standard, using an iPod computer-sync cable (as opposed to a proprietary accessory cable that some automakers force you to buy). The Outlander's iPod integration was better than most, with on-screen icons that let you quickly skip to the menu items like artist, album, song without having to go through a hierarchical menu.
Of course, you can also plug a USB drive into the USB port to access MP3 and WMA music files stored on it, and the Outlander has a aux-in connection, although it's via two RCA jacks (with a third for video) instead of the more common single 3.5mm plug. Bluetooth for hands-free phoning as well as for wireless streaming audio are also standard. And the system will also play DVD-Video discs when the transmission is shifted to Park.
What We Say
The Mitsubishi Outlander's Rockford Fosgate system is a serious performer, and if your musical tastes tend towards rock, rap and pop you probably won't be disappointed. And given that it's included in the price of our $33,030 long-term GT model, that's not a lot to complain about. And if someone does, just turn up the sub and drown them out.
Sound: B -
Source Selection: A
iPod Integration: A-
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