Full 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander Review
What's New for 2008
To complement last year's standard V6 engine, a new four-cylinder engine debuts for the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander. It's offered on the base ES and new-for-2008 SE trim level and comes standard with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Other changes include the discontinuation of the sliding second-row rear seat feature on ES and LS trims (it's still on the XLS) and an update to the optional navigation system that provides additional carpool-lane routing.
"An Outlander? What's that? Is it like a Highlander or something?" This is a likely response when you tell an uninformed friend that you just bought a 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander. But don't let his dim state of automotive enlightenment throw you off. While it may not be well-known, the Outlander is actually one of the best small crossover SUVs currently available.
Like just about every other model in this segment, the Outlander is comfortable, available with all-wheel drive and has enough storage and cargo space to satisfy both individuals and small families. The Outlander deserves a Girl Scout Fun Patch, however, thanks to its sporty handling and steering, and stylish, distinctive-looking exterior. It also has a unique flip-down tailgate and is available with the latest techno gadgets like Bluetooth, keyless ignition and a hard drive-based navigation and music server system.
The Outlander was fully redesigned last year and receives additional changes for 2008. Most significant is the addition of a new four-cylinder model. Available with front-wheel drive or AWD, the Outlander ES 2.4 is powered by a 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine matched to a CVT. As expected, the four-cylinder isn't as powerful as the V6, but it improves fuel economy and helps lower the vehicle's MSRP.
Mitsubishi is hoping the new ES 2.4 model, as well as the loaded four-cylinder SE model, will broaden the Outlander's appeal. They will, though by how much is uncertain. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are still the all-stars of this segment and deservedly so, given the Honda's stellar refinement and the RAV4's potent and fuel-efficient V6. Meanwhile, you'll run out of fingers and toes if you try to count all of the SUVs out there matching the Outlander in general price and size. Of that bunch, though, we think the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander is an excellent choice, and it comes highly recommended. You'll just have to correct your friends when they think you've bought a Toyota.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
A small SUV, the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander is available in four trim levels: ES, LS, SE and XLS. The entry-level ES is equipped with a four-cylinder engine and comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a six-speaker CD stereo, cruise control, a trip computer, full power accessories and reclining rear seats. The LS boasts a V6 engine and adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, keyless ignition, an auxiliary audio jack, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, additional 12-volt power points and a cargo cover. Most of the LS's standard features are available on the ES via the Convenience Package. The SE retains the standard four-cylinder engine but adds such niceties as 18-inch alloy wheels, a 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The top-of-the-line V6-powered Outlander XLS also rolls on 18-inch alloys and adds a third-row seat (increasing seating capacity to seven), automatic climate control, a six-disc CD changer, fore and aft adjustment for the second-row seats and Bluetooth.
Most factory options for the Mitsubishi Outlander are available in packages reserved for the XLS trim only. The most interesting of these is the Navigation Package, with a nav system that runs off a 30GB hard drive, some of which is available for owners to store and play digital music files. There's also the Sun and Sound Package, which combines a nine-speaker, 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo and satellite radio with a sunroof and a 115-volt power outlet. XLS buyers can also get the Luxury Package, which provides xenon headlights, leather upholstery, front seat heaters and a power driver seat.
The Outlander can be fitted with the Entertainment Package as well, which includes a rear-seat entertainment system. One can also order Bluetooth and the navigation system as stand-alone accessories on all trims.
Powertrains and Performance
The Outlander ES and SE come with a 168-hp 2.4-liter engine, connected to a CVT. The LS and XLS trims have a 3.0-liter V6 good for 220 hp and 204 pound-feet of torque. V6 models sold in California emission-level states produce slightly less power (213 hp) but earn a top PZEV tailpipe emission rating. Four-cylinder Outlanders come standard with a CVT, while V6 models have a more traditional six-speed automatic. Both have manual-shift capability.
All Outlander trims are available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The AWD system offers an unusual amount of flexibility for this class. Twist the console dial to "2WD" and power goes only to the front wheels to save fuel. Choose "4WD Auto" and at least 15 percent of engine torque is routed to the rear axle at all times, and when you're accelerating on packed snow or other slippery surfaces, the rear wheels can accept up to 60 percent of the power. Choose "4WD Lock" and the system sends a greater percentage of torque to the rear wheels -- up to 60 percent under full-throttle acceleration. This is a bit misleading, as "lock" typically indicates a fixed 50/50 split between the front and rear wheels.
EPA fuel economy estimates for 2008 V6 models are average for this segment -- expect 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway on front-drive Outlanders and 17/24 mpg on AWD models. Properly equipped, Mitsubishi's compact SUV can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
All major safety features are standard on the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander, including antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. (On the seven-passenger XLS, the airbags extend further back to cover the third row.) Whiplash-reducing front head restraints are also standard. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash testing, the new Outlander earned the top rating of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
The Outlander's interior is attractive looking and of solid build quality, though a few of the plastics and controls feel a bit low-grade. One disappointment is the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. We are fond of the available hard drive-based navigation and music server system. Its interface is a bit non-intuitive, but overall it's one of the most comprehensive and useful systems on the market for a vehicle in this price range. For 2008, Mitsubishi has added a first-of-its-type feature that allows drivers to tailor their navigation directions based on carpool lanes.
The Outlander XLS comes with a third-row seat, but the seat's effectiveness is debatable. There's room for children only (and small ones at that), but considering the seat's flimsy construction we'd think twice about putting them back there. A thick piece of mesh fabric substitutes for a traditional padded seat bottom, and the seatback is very close to the rear tailgate. The third row folds flat into the floor, but a confusing muddle of pull-straps makes the procedure more complicated than necessary. In terms of cargo room, a little less than 73 cubic feet is at your disposal with the second- and third-row seats folded. We particularly like the Outlander's dual-opening rear hatch, as the upper portion provides convenient access to groceries, while the lower portion (built into the rear bumper) drops down to form a tailgate capable of supporting 440 pounds.
Driving the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander is more fun than you might expect, as its well-tuned chassis gives it sporty reflexes around corners and transmits considerable feedback to the driver. The steering is nicely weighted, and the brakes feel strong and progressive. Ride quality is just as important as handling in a small SUV, though, and the Outlander is indeed comfortable and well-mannered when cruising.
As of this writing, we have not yet tested the new four-cylinder model and its CVT. The 3.0-liter V6 is a little shy on low-end torque, but once revved up, it moves the Outlander along sufficiently and smoothly. Shifts from the six-speed automatic are crisp and well-timed, and the XLS model's paddle shifters are surprisingly effective and fun to use.