2010 Mitsubishi Outlander: Over the Tioga Pass
November 10, 2010
Here's the obligatory photo of our long-term 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander at 9,945 feet on the Tioga Pass, which is a glorious stretch of California Highway 120. The 230-hp 3.0-liter V6 certainly wasn't feeling its oats at this point, but most people drive (or ride their Harleys) at a walking pace to take in the scenery.
In any case, the altitude falls off quickly, and the Outlander cruised through Yosemite 40-50 mph (speed limit permitting) in relaxed fashion. There was no snow on the road on this unusually warm fall day (nearly 60 degrees at 9,945 ft), so there was no opportunity to try the all-wheel-drive system's "snow" mode. Also, unlike my last visit to the Pass, there was indeed a park ranger manning the east-side Yosemite entrance booth and she relieved me of the $20 fee just to drive through the park.
It's worth the money, though, because the views rival the Alps for sheer spectactularness, and I audibly exclaimed about how great they were even though there was no one listening to me except the Outlander. There's no cell service, so I couldn't call a real human anyway.
Make sure you fuel up before you set out, though...
Nah, I didn't run out of gas. But it got a little exciting and tense toward the end. I'd fueled up in Vegas, and based on the route I'd plotted out, I planned on fueling up at the Tioga Gas Mart (above), the iconic gas station on top of the hill at the junction of U.S. 359 and Hwy 120 in Lee Vining, California. I made it, but the Outlander's distance-to-empty counter got really pessimistic about my chances toward the end -- all the hills on the eastern stretch of Hwy 120 saw the distance-to-empty counter drop from 60 miles to 30 miles in 5 minutes. Awesome, thanks. I ended up killing the air-conditioner (which, surprisingly, blew cold for most of the trip) and reducing speed just to make sure.
Got a little worried, though, when I saw how deserted the Gas Mart was. But the 91 octane was still flowing, and the restroom was still unlocked and fully functional. My plan to eat lunch at the mart's Whoa Nellie Deli was dashed, though, as the store has closed for the season. Last time I was here it was October and about 25 degrees out, and they were open. Early November and 65 degrees? Closed.
Notably, the Tioga Gas Mart is perched above Mono Lake, one of many controversial sources of fresh water for the LA basin.
Highway 120 isn't very technical through Yosemite, but there are enough sweeping curves and elevation changes that people go slow. Passing zones start to pop up as you exit the park, though, and the Outlander was quick enough to take advantage of these. The six-speed automatic gets the downshifts in quickly enough not to be an impediment to your progress, too. The Outlander was steady around the curves, and the brakes held up nicely.
The rest of the drive into San Francisco was just an interstate grind, and the Outlander continued to perform adequately. I find the Navteq navigation system a little crude whenever I try to do a POI search, but it accurately guided me to my target address in San Francisco. Upon arrival, the Mitsu was kenneled with the valet for 2 days. Final thoughts from the trip tomorrow. Less lens flare tomorrow, too.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,125 miles