2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE: Paddle and Row
June 01, 2011
Each time I sit down behind the wheel of the Outlander Sport, I wonder why I don't like it more. The interior is unfussy, the seats are comfortable and adjust manually. The fabric is odd and, after all this time, still smells like Band-Aid. The controls and interfaces are simple and spread out. There's even AWD for the 16 snow days we're allotted out here.
Then I merge out into traffic, step into the gas, and wait. And wait some more, until the CVT gets its bearings and cuts an elliptical path from widest to seemingly tightest ratio. Then I remember why I don't like the Sport more.
But I've taken to a little workaround.
Just leave it in "D" and improvise in traffic with the paddles. You get some manual control of the CVT without the raspy oscillations you get if you leave it in the quasi sport-manual mode. It actually seems to do better if you let it find the first 10-15 mph on its own before taking over. And though the plastic paddles feel cheap, you can grab out a shift with a ring finger or pinky.
It's still an uninspired way to move, but keeps you somewhat active and makes the passage tolerable. Never having driven the manual, I can't compare the experience. But among those who have, the consensus appears that the 2.0-liter still labors inefficiently.
That said, an O-Sport with five-speed manual reached 60 mph in 8.8 seconds in our testing, same as our Acura TSX Wagon. Our CVT-equipped long-termer takes 10. Makes me hopeful that Mitsubishi is a powertrain evolution - or maybe a swap - away from a really decent little SUV. OK, maybe some better brakes. And more sway bar while you're at it.
Maybe Mitsubishi could simply swap in the 2.3-liter used in the JDM Outlander. It makes 167 hp and 166 lb-ft (an increase of 19 and 21, respectively). But even in Japan, that engine comes tethered to a CVT. Or they could simply give us 291 hp, 300 lb-ft, and slap a nice badge on it similar to one of its outgoing icons.
Dan Frio Automotive Editor