2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Long-Term Road Test


2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE: 1000-Mile Road Trip

August 09, 2011

f34 thunderhill willows.JPG

I just returned from road-tripping our 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. No, it was nothing like Phil's rock-crawling adventure in the Juke. Instead, my trip was exclusively paved. Nearly all freeway for 1000 miles, give or take, from Los Angeles to Thunderhill Raceway in lovely Willows, CA, and back.

Beyond the jump are a few things that stood out, both good and bad.

The Good:

Its seats are pretty danged comfy for such a long trip. Not until I was about 850 miles in did my left cheek start to complain, and that's partly since I'd driven in an endurance race halfway through this trip. That's pretty impressive.

Though not remotely sporty, the Sport steers and rides like a real car. That is, this is in no way simply a slightly larger Smart.

Its electric power steering (EPS) feels more natural than those of many manufacturers. It's surprisingly similar to Mitsubishi's hydraulic systems. The helm does, however, exhibit that annoying need for constant correction around center, like many EPS systems that place the motor in the steering shaft rather than the rack.

The Bad:

For some reason the Outlander wouldn't connect to any music stored on my iphone, the streaming Bluetooth didn't work, and XM channels were stuck in a continuous "updating channels" limbo. Thus, tunes were limited to the radio or the Outlander's hard drive, which had just James Brown (sweet) and an audiobook of the Da Vinci Code (not sweet). And let it be said that there's nothing on the radio in the middle of the California desert unless you count Christian preachers or mariachi, which I don't.

The worst of this car is that damned CVT. Just terrible. There's a way to do CVTs right (see Nissan) but this one always leaves the engine struggling. No confidence to accelerate around anything, ever. And the drone of the engine when you wood it (which is a lot, since it's got no sauce) is awful.

Fuel economy for this trip -- mainly 80 mph cruise, along with aforementioned woodings and about 5% city traffic -- rang up to 23.2 mpg. Yipes. Didn't even reach this car's EPA city number of 24 mpg.

Overall, it's the CVT that wrecks it for the Outlander as a road trip car. Were it not for that -- and the unimpressive fuel economy -- I'd judge it as 'better than expected.' Then again, my expectations were not high.

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 12,648 miles.

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