Mitsubishi got a late start in the small SUV segment, but the original Outlander followed market trends with a car-based design that delivered good handling and a comfortable ride on paved roads, at the expense of limited off-road handling. The second-generation Outlander improved the breed with more interior space and an optional V6 engine, though it always played second fiddle to more established competitors.
It's a similar story with today's Outlander. It offers three rows of seats and available V6 power. Unfortunately, when it comes to acceleration, fuel economy and the latest tech features, the Outlander still has a hard time keeping up with its rivals.
Current Mitsubishi Outlander
The Outlander is available in four trim levels: ES, SE, SEL and GT. ES, SE and SEL models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 166 horsepower, while the GT receives a 3.0-liter V6 with 224 hp. Four-cylinder Outlanders come standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), while the V6-powered GT uses a traditional six-speed automatic. Both have manual-shift capability. All Outlander trims are available with either front- or all-wheel drive. The AWD system is notable for its various driver-selectable configurations, including a 4WD Lock mode for maximum traction in slippery conditions.
The Outlander ES is well equipped considering its low price. Notable features include alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a split and folding third-row seat, a rearview camera and a touchscreen stereo. SE models add keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats, and an upgraded smartphone-compatible stereo, while the SEL gets leather, automatic wipers and headlights, and a power driver seat. Options include a sunroof, a power liftgate, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with automatic braking, a 360-degree parking camera, and a heated steering wheel. The GT adds V6 power and most of the features that are optional on the SEL; the advanced safety features and adaptive cruise are offered as options.
In our reviews of the Mitsubishi Outlander, we have come away impressed by the sheer value offered by the Outlander, particularly the lower trim levels. Visibility is excellent thanks to unobstructed sightlines and big side-view mirrors. It handles well enough, and the all-wheel-drive system does a great job on loose surfaces such as dirt and snow. But in other respects, the Outlander trails the competition: Acceleration is slower than average, particularly with the four-cylinder engine, and fuel economy is lackluster. And though the third-row seat is handy, it's also very small. The Mitsubishi Outlander is a competent SUV and a good choice for buyers on a tight budget, but most of its rivals simply do the job better.
Used Mitsubishi Outlander Models
Mitsubishi introduced the third-generation Outlander for the 2014 model year. The new model looked blander than its predecessor, but its more aerodynamic styling gave a boost to fuel economy, and at the time the four-cylinder version was notable for its fuel economy.
We complained about the boring styling, and Mitsubishi addressed that complaint in 2016 when it revealed a face-lifted version (unusual after just two years on the market). That year also saw the introduction of a revised navigation system, a better second-row seat-folding mechanism, and a midlevel SEL model. For 2017, Mitsubishi modernized the infotainment system and made all-wheel drive an option on the entry-level ES model.
Produced from 2007 to 2013, the second-generation Mitsubishi Outlander introduced a few key attributes that the original lacked, namely V6 power, a third-row seat and additional cargo room. Three trims were offered initially — ES, LS and XLS — and all were equipped with a 220-hp V6 engine. A unique option was the navigation system whose hard drive provided 30GB for music storage.
For 2008, Mitsubishi added the SE trim and the current car's four-cylinder engine. The LS trim was deleted the following year, while a backup camera and a larger hard drive for the navigation system debuted. Besides the 2010 styling revamp, the V6 received a slight increase in power along with an update to the AWD system.
For 2010, the Mitsubishi Outlander received a major refresh that included new aggressive styling inspired by the Lancer Evolution X. Other changes included a new LCD gauge display, real-time traffic for the navigation system, and an available Fuse hands-free link system with audio streaming and voice commands for MP3 players and cellphones. Mechanical changes included a slight power bump for the V6 engine (to 230 hp) and an upgraded version of the all-wheel-drive system. The XLS trim was dropped for 2012.
The first-generation Outlander was sold from 2003 to 2006. Dropped into the highly competitive small SUV category, the Outlander had unique styling, a carlike ride and comfortable seating for four, but offered few advantages over the more established competition.
In its first year of production, the Mitsubishi Outlander was powered by a 140-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, coupled with a four-speed automatic transmission. Around-town power was adequate with this setup, but Mitsubishi's compact sport-utility proved quite sluggish in passing and high-speed merging situations. A jump in horsepower to 160 for the 2004 model year helped somewhat, but the Outlander's engine still wasn't a match for the smooth and potent four-cylinders in small SUVs from Honda and Toyota, much less V6-powered Ford and GM models. Throughout the first-generation Outlander's run, both front-wheel-drive and AWD versions were offered.
In addition to the LS and the XLS trims, Mitsubishi added a high-line Outlander Limited trim in 2005, with unique interior and exterior trim enhancements as well as leather seating. Also significant for '05 was the addition of a five-speed manual as the standard transmission on the LS. Highly observant customers may also notice the slightly revised rear styling introduced during this model year.
In 2006, the midlevel XLS was replaced by the SE trim level, while base LS and high-end Limited trims remained. That model year also brought antilock brakes and side airbags to the list of standard equipment for all trims. Models prior to 2006 reserved those safety features for premium models, making older LS-trim Outlanders less desirable for used-car buyers. In general, we would advise used-car shoppers to look at '04 and newer Outlanders — unless, that is, you find that you like the less powerful original engine more than we did.