2011 Mitsubishi Outlander: Thoughts from the Road
November 24, 2010
Greetings from Goodyear, Arizona, where our Mitsubishi Outlander arrived last night after a tidy five-hour drive from Santa Monica and I must say, I'm very impressed with the Outlander. It just nails the fundamentals so well. The steering has heft and is quite responsive, the engine is strong, I really like the feel of the reassuringly firm brake pedal and if the transmission isn't its usual quick self when downshifting, I can do it myself thanks to metal paddle shifters. The Outlander feels like a nimble cheetah next to the lumbering pachyderm of our Terrain. It looks pretty cool, too.
And although Takahashi finds the seating position too high, my long legs really appreciate it and it counteracts the lack of a telescoping wheel since I can sit closer to the dash as a consequence. In total, I've spent a lot of time in the many compact crossover models and the Outlander is far and away my favorite to drive. If I were for some reason in the market for a car like this, I may even consider it ...
But while the Outlander nails the fundamentals, it completely flunks the details. The interior design couldn't possibly be less imaginative and drab. The materials are mostly hard and cheap looking, and no, slathering some leatherish stuff on the dash didn't really help things. The doors close with a hollow, metal clang. The heated seat controls are hidden next to the seat belt latch on the seats themselves, as if Mitsubishi brings every Outlander to Fukui's House of Automotive Customization in Okazaki to have the heated seats installed. The mechanizations of the back seat are unfinished and rather industrial looking, lacking that polished appearance of virtually everything else in the class and I dislike that the seat backs are covered in black vinyl. There is a snake in the dash. And I'm not even going to mention the third "row" of seat.
One, two or three of these could be forgivable, but they all add up to a cabin that is rather depressing, unwelcoming and completely outclassed in terms of perceived quality, polish, design and innovation. At least Chryslers have the latter two -- they just fall to pieces because the accountants gave the engineers $1.05 for materials. You could say that a small company like Mitsubishi doesn't have the resources to make a competitive cabin, but please see Suzuki, subcategory, Kizashi.
So while I'm enamored with the way the Outlander drives, I simply couldn't recommend it to non enthusiasts. This isn't an Evo we're talking about, it's likely a family vehicle. For most buyers, the Equinox/Terrain's quieter and exponentially more refined cabin will be a bigger selling point than its comparatively lumbering driving feel. And that's not even mentioning the Sorrento, CR-V, RAV4, Outback, Tucson, Sportage, yada, yada and yada.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,416 miles