2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT: A Mammoth Report
March 28, 2011
Despite crazy snow predictions, we ran into zero snow on the roads by the time we got near Mammoth around midnight on Friday, so my original goal of driving the Mitsubishi Outlander GT in snow was squashed. At least temporarily.
Decent snowfall while we were on the slopes on Saturday did make for a minor amount of snowy/icy travel around town and on local roads. So how did the Outlander's S-AWC all-wheel-drive system handle the conditions?
Before we headed for Mammoth, I put the Outlander to the test in Tarmac mode on our dry roads in southern California, and was duly underimpressed; the front tires would spin up pretty wildly when giving it lots of wood if turning while starting from a stop. We're talking a shocking amount, to the point that Tarmac feels like it's a front-drive-only mode. It isn't, but the system can only apportion up to about 20 percent of torque to the rear wheels. Clearly Tarmac is all about fuel economy, not traction.
Switching the S-AWC selector knob to Snow gives the electromagnetic system (as opposed to the Evo's heavier, electrohydraulic version) the ability to send up to 50 percent of power rearward (the Lock mode can do about 70 percent to the rear). Fiddling around with the Snow mode in Mammoth showed that the awd system is pretty decent at distributing power to all four wheels, searching out and finding any available grip, despite running all-season tires with a pretty wimpy-looking tread pattern. The lack of lateral grip and stopping traction showed, once again, how limited all-season tires are compared with full snow tires, though.
Key point in all this: If you want true all-wheel grip in the Outlander, even if it's on dry or rainy roads, put the selector knob in Snow. Because Tarmac is pretty much like front-wheel drive.
Above and beyond the awd system, the Outlander GT proved to be a reasonably nice way to cover the miles. The ride is smooth and the suspension does a good job of soaking up big bumps. Sure, the handling isn't particularly inspiring, but that wasn't a great shock.
The 3.0-liter V6 provides adequate passing power, needed in order to get around all the 18-wheelers on the two-lane portions of 395. The variable valve timing kicks in around 4,500 rpm, providing a notable increase in power but also a significantly louder, thrashier note.
I like that Mitsu fits the 6-speed auto with column-mounted paddle shifters, making it easy to get some engine braking on downhills, or as a means of controlling the transmission's desire to hunt for gears while climbing long hills when in cruise control, such as on the long grade out of Bishop. It would be nice if the software gave throttle blips on the downshifts, but it's certainly not critical to the package.
The wife wasn't a big fan of the front seats (other than the heaters), complaining the passenger seat didn't have enough lumbar support and generally wasn't cushy to her tushy. I agree the seats are on the firm side (and not just because I have to agree with my wife), but I had no issues with the comfort level or lumbar. I do wish that the door armrests and the center armrest had thicker padding, though.
We averaged 23.3 mpg over the course of the 677-mile trip.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 15,543 miles.