2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Long Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (3)
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.

See all of the blog posts on this vehicle.

We have a little history of long-term Mitsubishi Outlanders. First we scrutinized the 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS. Just last year we wrapped up our 12-month critique of the 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT. And now, we've just finished a year living with this 2011 Outlander Sport SE.

Smaller and more affordable than the Outlander, the Outlander Sport was an all-new model for Mitsubishi a year ago. Ours arrived with just 30 miles on its 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine. Rated at 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, it was by no means quick, but neither were most of its competitors, which include the Jeep Compass and Patriot and the Kia Sportage.

Our decision to order the electronically variable all-wheel-drive system (AWC to Mitsubishians) dictated a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It was a decision we would later question.

All SE trim Outlander Sports begin with an MSRP of $23,775. Extra options raised our final sticker price to $28,810. Among the more notable, and costly, upgrades were a navigation system, rearview camera, panoramic glass roof and Rockford Fosgate radio upgrade. The exterior styling cues that first attracted us to the Sport, including the tailgate spoiler and front corner extensions, were also options.

A Slow Start
Early impressions of the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport engine were unanimous. "It lacks intestinal fortitude," was a favorite. "Slower than dial-up," was a close second. "It's a shame, too, as it looks like it might be a shade sporty on the outside," wrote Senior Editor Ed Hellwig. "Even says so right there in the name."

This has been the empty promise of most compact SUVs in recent memory. Small stature and sporty styling makes them appear nimble and fun. Then you realize the car is packing four cylinders with a CVT. Can't have it all.

Acceptance of the velocity challenges inherent in the Outlander was one thing; noise was another. Executive Editor Michael Jordan explained, "For me, it's not the speed that really matters here; instead it's the sound. If the engine sounds willing, then the time passes happily. Unfortunately this engine does not sound happy. It is quiet when it's idling and fairly composed when it's working hard, but everything in between is far from musical. This is what happens when you have a wide range of lightweight materials all vibrating at different frequencies. Like so many small-displacement engines, this one needs tuning. But it's tuning for noise, vibration and harshness, not power." Tire noise from the 18-inch Goodyears was similarly invasive. Not even increasing the radio volume could neutralize these audible annoyances, though it did help.

Road Trip Worthy, Sort of
With its tire and road noise issues subdued, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offered numerous amenities for the road warrior. We feared the short wheelbase and firmer suspension tuning would make a tooth chipper of the Outlander, but its highway ride was quite comfortable. The electric power steering felt more natural than that of many competitors, which helped steady the SUV on the open road. The AWC all-wheel-drive system worked well in inclement weather, while its adjustability livened things up when playing in soft snow. Further, the athleticism allowed by its adjustable AWC differentiated the Sport from its peers.

Long trips offered the opportunity to get familiar with the interior features of the Sport. We felt the choice to add an auxiliary port rather than full MP3 integration was a misstep by Mitsubishi. Still, our favorite devices worked fine through the auxiliary jack, so it wasn't a deal-breaker. The fact that its 40GB hard drive could store the music we couldn't cram onto our iPods and CDs certainly helped.

We also liked the touchscreen navigation, as it was simple to use and easy to read despite its small size. We also grew to appreciate the Outlander's general cabin ambience. The huge panoramic sunroof and LED border surrounding it was received well by rear passengers and made for a neat atmosphere when driving at night. The general simplicity of the cabin was another plus.

Extra seat time also cemented some things we liked and didn't like about the Outlander. After a 1,000-mile trek in the Outlander, Engineering Editor Jason Kavanagh wrote the following. "The worst of this car is that damned CVT. Just terrible. There's a way to do CVTs right (see Nissan) but this one always leaves the engine struggling. No confidence to accelerate around anything, ever. And the drone of the engine when you wood it (which is a lot, since it's got no sauce) is awful. It's the CVT that wrecks it for the Outlander as a road trip car."

After a 650-mile all-California road trip from Santa Monica to Monterey and back, our Editor in Chief Scott Oldham wrote, "I'm still a fan of this little crossover. It was quiet enough out on the highway, its seats were comfortable, its sat-nav, sat radio and air-conditioning kept my dad and I happy, and it had plenty of range. I also like the way it handles and it's very easy to park. The only disappointment was the Mitsu's fuel economy."

Fact is, the Mitsu's fuel economy was disappointing the entire year. After 20,000 miles our single best tank was just 27 mpg, and we averaged 23 mpg for the duration of our test. That's well behind the Outlander's 24 city/29 highway mpg EPA ratings.

Routine Maintenance
Mechanical durability was one area where the Outlander performed well. Long Beach Mitsubishi handled all of our maintenance needs and they were professional, efficient and did not try (hard) to upsell us on unnecessary items.

After 20,000 miles in just 12 months, we visited the dealer just twice for regular service — at 7,500 and again at 15,000 miles. The average cost per visit was $80 for synthetic oil changes and tire rotations. And we avoided the air-conditioning issues prevalent in our Outlander GT. We really can't say a bad thing about our overall maintenance experience with the Outlander Sport.

Nothing Lasts Forever
After 12 months and 20,000 miles with the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, it was time to give it back. When we looked back on our time, we noticed a theme had developed: one of compromise.

With the Sport there was always give and take. A comfortable ride, decent handling and unique atmosphere complemented its highway character, but those things weren't always enough. At highway speeds, tire and engine noise were excessive and the CVT didn't make many friends either. So our Sport favored the role of errand runner, taking advantage of city-friendly dimensions and a useful back-up camera.

Dealer interaction was another example of an Outlander Sport trade-off. Service center interactions were positive overall. There were no warranty or recall items during our test, and Long Beach Mitsubishi handled our routine maintenance visits promptly and professionally.

Where it shined mechanically, the Sport whimpered in the resale value department. At test end the Mitsubishi depreciated 38 percent from its original MSRP according to Edmunds' TMV® Calculator . This calculation is based on a private-party sale. Our long-term Outlander GT depreciated 19 percent under similar conditions.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: $163.08 (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 27.5 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 18.4 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 23.0 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $17,978 (private-party sale)
Depreciation: $10,832 (or 38% of original MSRP)
Final Odometer Reading: 19,794 miles

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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