What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Mitsubishi Outlander benefits from slightly improved fuel economy and some minor feature shuffles that benefit buyers.
Standing out from a crowd is no easy task, and especially so for automakers trying to make an impression in the very competitive market for compact crossovers. Mitsubishi is certainly doing all it can with its 2011 Outlander. With aggressive styling pulled from the high-performance Lancer Evolution sedan and unusually sporty handling, the Outlander should appeal to those looking for a contrast to the conventional family-oriented crossover.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander is fairly competitive with the rest of the crossover crowd, offering similar features and configurations. In addition to the four available trim levels, buyers get two distinct engine choices and the option of front- or all-wheel drive. A generous list of standard and optional features further entice, with all of the niceties we've come to expect -- navigation, leather, voice activation and upgraded audio, to name a few.
The Outlander isn't without a few drawbacks, though. The most notable would be the third-row seat. While having the ability to seat a couple extra passengers is always a plus, the third row is alarmingly flimsy and cramped even for children. Our guess is that it's there more for marketing purposes ("it has a third-row seat!") than for real functionality. Points are also deducted for some cut-rate plastics scattered throughout the cabin.
In comparison, the Toyota RAV4 provides a bit more power, while the Honda CR-V is more spacious and refined. The Chevrolet Equinox scores with a roomier rear seat and the new Kia Sorento matches the Outlander for style, handing and warranty coverage. Overall, we like the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander and find it a respectable choice, yet it's more like a sport-activity vehicle than the mild-mannered crossovers elsewhere in the segment. This makes it unique, though not for everyone.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander is available in four trim levels: ES, SE, XLS and GT.
The entry-level ES is equipped with a four-cylinder engine and comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, air-conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, full power accessories, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cloth upholstery, reclining rear seats and a six-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary audio input jack.
The SE adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, turn-signal mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, upgraded gauges, sport seats, a six-disc CD changer, sliding second-row seats, third-row seats and steering-column-mounted paddle shifters. Opting for any trim with four-wheel drive also adds heated outside mirrors.
The Outlander XLS is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 and comes with all the above-mentioned features plus automatic xenon headlights, automatic wipers, the Fuse voice activation system, automatic climate control, chrome interior and exterior accents, aluminum pedals, soft-touch dash and door trim, a USB audio input jack and Bluetooth connectivity. The GT includes all these amenities and adds an active front differential, hill start assist and an advanced AWD mode selector.
SE trim levels are eligible for the Premium package, which adds a sunroof, the Fuse system, a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with satellite radio and the soft-touch interior trim. The Sun and Sound package is only offered on the GT and adds the sunroof and premium sound system. The Touring package is offered for XLS and GT trims and includes the Sun and Sound items plus leather upholstery (front- and second-row seats), heated front seats and a power driver seat.
A hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic, a rearview camera and digital music storage is available as a stand-alone option for all trims, as is a rear entertainment system remote and remote engine start. The XLS and GT can also be had with a rearview camera that's part of the navigation system.
Powertrains and Performance
The Mitsubishi Outlander ES and SE are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. The XLS and GT have a 3.0-liter V6 that's good for 230 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque. Four-cylinder Outlanders come standard with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the V6-powered XLS and GT use a traditional six-speed automatic. Both have manual-shift capability.
All-wheel drive (AWD) is offered as an option on the SE and is mandatory on the GT. The XLS is front-drive only. The AWD system offers different driver-selectable modes to optimize traction in varying conditions. The GT's all-wheel-drive system features an improved front differential and additional modes.
In recent Edmunds testing, the Outlander GT accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, which is respectable for a V6-equipped crossover SUV in this segment. EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2WD 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander are 23 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined with the four-cylinder engine, and 19/26/22 mpg with the V6. The AWD four-cylinder gets 22/27/24 mpg, while the AWD V6 gets 19/25/21 mpg.
All major safety features are standard on the Outlander, including antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Whiplash-reducing front head restraints are also standard. Hill start assist is only available on the GT model.
The Mitsubishi Outlander has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedure. Its 2010 rating (which isn't comparable to 2011 ratings) shows that the Outlander earned an impressive five-star rating for frontal and side-impact protection. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal offset and side-impact crash tests, the Outlander earned the top rating of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
On the whole, the Outlander's cabin is attractively designed, though there are some subpar plastics here and there. XLS and GT models are the nicest of the bunch, featuring a soft-touch upper instrument panel and door trim with eye-catching double-stitch accents. The steering wheel tilts but doesn't telescope, which may be an issue for taller drivers. The Outlander's Fuse system allows you to make phone calls and access your iPod via voice commands, and it is relatively intuitive to use.
The third-row seat that comes with SE and better models will suffice in a pinch, but it's too flimsy and small for regular use. Also, its suspended fabric seat bottom is not very supportive, and the seatback is located uncomfortably close to the tailgate glass. On the plus side, the Outlander offers a unique flip-down tailgate capable of supporting up to 440 pounds. With the second- and third-row seats folded, total cargo space measures nearly 73 cubic feet, which is very roomy for a small crossover SUV.
As crossovers go, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander is surprisingly fun to drive. Handling limits are noticeably higher than the typical crossover's, and the sporty suspension tuning is further enhanced by a pleasantly weighted steering wheel. Fortunately, these athletic leanings do not compromise its agreeable ride quality. The Outlander's V6 isn't as powerful as the Toyota RAV4's, but the Mitsubishi still offers brisk acceleration and smooth gearshifts. As an added bonus, the all-wheel-drive system ably keeps the car planted on loose road surfaces like sand and snow.