2010 Mitsubishi Outlander: Back Road Out of Vegas
November 08, 2010
After a couple days at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, I pointed our long-term 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander toward Northern California. I had a whole day to get to San Francisco, so I wasn't about to cut back to Los Angeles and cruise up Interstate 5. Nope, I was determined to reenter California by way of the Eastern Sierras, and I didn't care that I didn't have a powerful sports car for all the tight two-lane roads and elevation changes (3,000-10,000 feet) along the way.
You can see the basic route I took after the jump. It's long -- 563 miles and 9-10 hours if you're keeping a reasonable pace and stopping to take photos -- but worth the effort if you have the time. One neat thing about the route is that Nevada State Highway 266 meanders into California, and then cuts back into Nevada, and then you return to California by way of U.S. 6.
The Outlander rode well on the whole leg of the trip, particularly on smooth U.S. 95, which runs straight north out of Vegas. The ride is a good blend of compliance and control, and road noise isn't too bad over most surfaces. There's some wind noise off the side mirrors, but the mirrors are large, so no surprise there.
Eventually, I made peace with the six-speed automatic transmission, too. Apart from its indecisiveness on steady uphill grades, it does OK. It shifts smoothly under full throttle, and I like having the full manual mode, especially on back roads.
I'm really a fan of the 3.0-liter V6, too. More so than just about any other engine in the compact crossover SUV segment, its size, power and torque characteristics really suit this type of vehicle. There's enough torque for just about any situation, and the engine is smooth and sporty-sounding at high rpm. (I can't say that about any of the four-cylinders in this segment, save for maybe the small handful of turbo motors, and I've always felt like the big 3.5-liter V6 in the Toyota RAV4 overwhelms its chassis.)
Of course, the naturally-aspirated V6 began to feel strained by about 7,000 feet. Said lethargy made for more work on the easternmost stretch of California Highway 120 (which heads west from U.S. 6), as I didn't have much to work with as I accelerated out of tight turns. And the turns really are quite tight, so even a relatively sporty crossover like the Outlander isn't a great deal of fun here. A lighter car with a lower ride height, less body roll and quicker turn-in would be a better choice for this route. But you already knew that.
Besides, the scenery was breathtaking, so I certainly didn't have a bad time on my inaugural trip through the Eastern Sierras. And the Outlander's fuel consumption actually improved on this leg of the trip, as it averaged 22.7 mpg over 330 miles.
Trip wrap-up coming tomorrow.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,752 miles
View Directions to 1620 26th St, Santa Monica, CA 90404 in a larger map