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The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander's softer, more refined bodywork blunts some of its formerly sporty edge. But more sophistication also makes it a legitimate seven-passenger crossover contender.
Third row is now usable; improved interior; hybrid model's plug-in versatility.
Looks pretty much like other crossovers now; low expectations for four-cylinder/CVT combination; new one-piece liftgate eliminates useful tailgate feature.
Available Outlander Models
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The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander will be fully redesigned and will include a new plug-in hybrid variant.
We hate to admit it, but the Mitsubishi Outlander is all grown up. Not that it's a bad thing. The redesigned 2014 Outlander should deliver increased interior refinement and improved fuel economy, while leading a brand that is, quite frankly, struggling to keep up in the United States. No, we're simply glum to see the current Outlander's design -- all wide mouth and quasi-fighter jet angles -- give way to the new model's more age-appropriate crossover stance.
That said, interesting design doesn't make for a livable car, and while the 2014 Outlander sacrifices some style and attitude, the overhaul classes up the seven-passenger crossover SUV. The new model is also about 200 pounds lighter, which seems like a fair trade.
The base drivetrain is a 166-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that Mitsubishi says will achieve 31 highway mpg and place the base model among the fuel economy leaders in its class. Mitsubishi will also reprise the current 3.0-liter V6 (224 hp, 215 pound-feet of torque) and six-speed automatic transmission for the GT model, which the automaker claims will return 28 highway mpg. The base model will be available only with front-wheel drive, while the midlevel SE model offers both front- and all-wheel drive. The GT will only be offered with all-wheel drive.
The 2014 Outlander base model comes standard with features such as 16-inch steel wheels, heated side mirrors, keyless entry, automatic climate control, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, sliding and reclining 60/40-split folding rear seats and a six-speaker sound system.
The SE adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, keyless entry/ignition, Bluetooth, a multi-information display and a rearview camera with a 6-inch touchscreen display. The GT adds automatic xenon headlights, automatic wipers and wood grain trim.
Options boil down to two packages, available for both SE and GT models, and include a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, a power liftgate, a premium nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system, a navigation system with 7-inch touchscreen display, and safety/driver aids including adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning.
Inside, the new Outlander's optional third-row seat has grown in size and quality; it's not like the flimsy contraption of the current model. We still won't call it roomy, but now it's a normal 50/50 fold-flat setup. With the third row upright, there are 10.3 cubic feet of cargo space. Folding the third row yields 34.2 cubic feet, while both rows stowed opens up 63.3 cubes. The new one-piece liftgate replaces the current "clamshell" design -- unfortunate, since we liked the latter design, which offered a tailgate for loading, sitting and, yes, tailgating at the football game.
Bigger news is set to follow when the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid rolls out to dealers as a 2015 model. The hybrid Outlander will use front- and rear-mounted electric motors, a 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a new version of Mitsubishi's all-wheel-drive system. Mitsubishi says the plug-in hybrid should achieve more than 30 miles of electric range and require about 4.5 hours to fully recharge.
In our initial drive of the 2014 Outlander, we found the four-cylinder/CVT combination adequate for city driving, but it felt a bit underpowered on highway entrance ramps, requiring sustained foot-to-the-floor acceleration accompanied by an agitated drone from under the hood. The V6 is better, though it's notably down on power compared to other V6 crossovers. On the road, the Outlander does a good job absorbing the normal ruts and bumps, and it's also surprisingly adept at navigating rutted and rocky trails off-pavement.
The small crossover segment is already packed with great choices, including the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4. Overall we're not expecting the new Outlander to break any new ground, though the plug-in hybrid could be a competitive offering in the nascent plug-in crossover segment. Check back for a full review of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.
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