Full 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Review
What's New for 2012
Enhancements on the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander include an optional auto-dimming rearview mirror and a standard "Eco" indicator drive lamp. The Outlander's rearview camera system has been changed to one that displays in the rearview mirror, and the lineup of trims has been whittled from four to three.
You look at the sheet metal of most compact crossovers and think of things like play dates and Little League. Not so with the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander, a pick that shares some of the bold styling cues seen in its aggressive sibling, the high-performance Lancer Evolution sedan. What's more, the Outlander's performance isn't at odds with the promise conveyed by its sporty appearance; it boasts the kind of sharp handling that's a rarity in this family-oriented class.
Fortunately, none of this comes at the expense of practicality. The Outlander is among the roomiest in its class when it comes to cargo capacity and offers the choice of all-wheel drive for those who frequently trudge through rain or snow. Ride quality is smooth and agreeable, and all the bases are covered when it comes to standard and available features. Everything from a rear-seat DVD player to a voice-activated navigation system with a 40GB music server is offered.
Perhaps the most noticeable flaw to the Outlander is its puny third-row seat. This feature adds little by way of real functionality; the area is cramped even for small children and the seat itself is distressingly flimsy and lightweight. And while some might warm to the crossover's stark, masculine cabin design, others might find it plain relative to the more visually interesting approach taken by some rivals.
Even so, the Outlander doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. This will likely be even more true this year, as two of the segment heavyweights -- the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 -- have been fully redesigned. There are also a host of other excellent models vying for your attention, including the spacious Chevrolet Equinox, the handsome Kia Sorento and the turbocharged Subaru Forester. Still, the Mitsubishi Outlander stands out on the strength of its striking looks and frisky character; it's a solid pick for those seeking a less mainstream alternative.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander is available in three trim levels: ES, SE 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 and upholstery, a six-disc CD changer, sliding second-row seats, third-row seats and steering-column-mounted paddle shifters.
All Outlander GT models are powered by a 3.0-liter V6 and come with all the above-mentioned features plus automatic xenon headlights, automatic wipers, automatic climate control, chrome accents and soft-touch dash and door trim. The AWD GT also includes an active front differential, hill start assist and an advanced AWD mode selector.
SE models are eligible for the Premium package, which adds a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with satellite radio and the soft-touch interior trim. The Touring package is offered on GT models; it features most of the amenities in the Premium package and adds leather upholstery (front- and second-row seats), heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver seat.
A hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and digital-music storage is available as a stand-alone option for all trims, as are rear parking sensors, Mitsubishi's Fuse hands-free link system, a rear entertainment system and remote engine start.
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 GT has 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 GT uses a traditional six-speed automatic. Both have manual-shift capability.
All-wheel drive is offered as an option on the SE and GT, while the ES is front-wheel 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 2012 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.
In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests, the Outlander earned the top rating of "Good." In roof-strength tests, the crossover scored an "Average" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
With its square lines and unadorned surfaces, the Outlander's cabin has an austere, masculine feel, with fewer accents and flourishes than you'll find in some rival crossovers. Some might appreciate this lean aesthetic, but others might find the cabin too stark; additionally, there are some subpar plastics here and there. 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.
SE and GT models come with a third-row seat that will suffice in an emergency, but this seat is too slight and ineffectual for regular use. It's small and cramped, and is located uncomfortably close to the tailgate glass; it also lacks proper padding, which results in its occupant being able to feel the seat's frame in intimate detail. 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.
When it comes to driving dynamics, the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander is among the most enjoyable picks in its segment. Its handling limits are noticeably higher than the typical crossover's, its steering is pleasantly weighted and its suspension is tuned to deliver sportiness that doesn't come at the expense of comfort. While the Outlander's V6 isn't as powerful as those in the Kia Sorento or Toyota RAV4, it offers brisk acceleration. As an added bonus, the all-wheel-drive system ably keeps the car planted on loose road surfaces like sand and snow.