The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is a seven-passenger crossover that straddles the fence between compact and midsize. After a full redesign in 2014, the Outlander received a significant refresh for 2016. Although we like the additional sound-deadening materials and redesigned second-row seat-folding mechanism, in many other areas the Outlander still feels a few steps behind.
What Is It?
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is a four-door small-to-midsize crossover SUV. It comes standard with three rows of seats and is the only Japanese compact SUV that still offers a V6 engine.
The Outlander has been refreshed for the 2016 model year with new styling up front and numerous upgrades inside the cabin. At 184.8 inches long, the Outlander is a half-inch longer than the outgoing model, but all other exterior dimensions remain identical. It's about 5.5 inches longer than the Honda CR-V and nearly 7 inches longer than Ford's Escape. The exterior dimensions don't translate directly into more cabin room, however, as both the Honda and the Ford have larger cabins by volume.
Other changes for the Outlander this year include a new acoustic glass windshield to reduce interior noise, improved interior materials and an updated infotainment screen. One other notable improvement is the fold-down process for the second-row seats. It used to take five steps, but now it only takes three.
What's Under the Hood?
The two available engines are carried over from last year. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, while the optional 3.0-liter V6 is rated at 224 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque.
The four-cylinder is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), while the V6 uses a traditional six-speed automatic. The four-cylinder can be ordered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (Mitsubishi calls it Super All-Wheel Control, or S-AWC), while the V6 comes only with all-wheel drive.
What Are the Available Trim Levels?
There are four trim levels: ES, SE, SEL and the V6-powered GT S-AWC. Pricing starts at $23,845 for the front-drive-only four-cylinder ES. It comes equipped with heated side mirrors, a six-way-adjustable driver seat, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, hill-start assist and 18-inch alloy wheels.
SE pricing begins at $24,845 for the front-wheel-drive model. It adds a color multi-information display, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio head unit, smart key and push-button start. The all-wheel-drive SE starts at $26,845.
The SEL (the "L" is for leather) starts at $25,845, and besides bringing leather seating surfaces and door trim it also adds an eight-way power driver seat. The GT S-AWC ($31,845) has a 3.0-liter V6, a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, standard all-wheel drive, LED headlights, power sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, a 710-watt nine-speaker Rockford-Fosgate audio system and a power tailgate.
What's It Like Out on the Road?
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder has a jumpy throttle pedal that gives the impression the Outlander has some pep. According to our test numbers, however, the Outlander has only average acceleration. We got a 0-60-mph time of 9.2 seconds. That's not the slowest time in the class, but combined with the CVT it feels darn close to it. Sustained climbs can get especially tiresome, as the CVT has a tendency to wind the engine out to high-rpm levels.
The 3.0 GT S-AWC model's smoother V6 is considerably quicker, accomplishing zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds (identical to the last 2014 GT we tested). In some ways the six-speed automatic transmission works better, with less high-rpm wind-up, but it can also be quite busy, as it's constantly trying to get into high gear to maximize mileage.
From the driver seat, the Outlander is an easy car to drive thanks to its narrow pillars that deliver excellent outward sight lines. Good thing, too, as the Outlander doesn't offer an electronic blind-spot monitoring system. A back-up camera comes standard on all but the base ES.
The steering has an intuitive feel and turn-in that's quick enough for those who like to have some fun through corners, yet has enough assist for those who stick within the city limits. The Outlander handles well over smaller road imperfections but gets upset by larger potholes. The more we drove it, the more it felt as if there was an overall lack of suspension refinement and compliance.
When it comes to instrumented handling numbers, the 2016 Outlander performed slightly worse than the 2014 version we last tested. The new version had considerable body roll through our slalom course and around our skid pad, compounded by an overly intrusive stability control system.
What's the Interior Like?
Some materials have been improved, but overall it still lags behind most rival crossovers when it comes to fit, finish and presentation. There's still plenty of hard plastic throughout, as well as a non-soft-touch dash. The steering wheel buttons look and feel cheap, and the driver seat still rocked back and forth slightly.
Mitsubishi says it updated the 6.1-inch touchscreen on the dash, but it looks to us as if it merely swapped the locations of a few buttons. The screen graphics aren't overly sharp, and although we like that the audio system has knobs for volume and tuning, they're way too small.
The front seats are about average for this category, with reasonable cushioning and decent lateral support for cornering. Despite the fact that Mitsubishi says the center armrest has more padding for 2016, our pre-production tester felt as rock hard as the previous model. The rear seats also aren't particularly soft and the middle seat is particularly stiff. The third-row seat is situated so low that your knees will be up into your chest, so like most third-row setups it's definitely not for adults.
Interior storage is not a strong point either. The door pockets are good-size but the front bin is situated too far out of the way. Worse, the center console cupholders don't hold cups well enough to support drinks when they're full.
Cargo space behind the third row is meager at just 10.3 cubic feet. Fold the third row down and you get a more usable 34.2 cubic feet. Folding the second-row seats is now an easier three-step process compared to the previous model and it opens up a total of 63.3 cubic feet of cargo space. It's a good amount of space, but it falls short of the Honda CR-V that offers up to 70.3 cubic feet of cargo room.
It may not be a perfect cabin from engineering or aesthetic standpoints, but it's a quiet place to spend time. Our sound measurements backed up what our ears told us, as the four-cylinder model registered several decibels less than the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 in most of our tests, while the V6 GT was quieter than the 2014 we tested in every measurement. Wind noise is well controlled and the tires were exceptionally quiet.
How Much Passenger Space Is There?
There's excellent front headroom and decent elbow room for the driver and front passenger. A narrow center console also means the driver's right knee isn't constantly brushing against it. The second row has good headroom, too, with only very tall folks hitting their head on the roof. Foot space under the front seats is also solid. The third row, as we noted before, is strictly kid-size.
The front doors don't open very wide, but they're large and the roof is tall, making entry and exit a breeze. The rear doors are much smaller, so you're likely to brush your leg on the wheelwell on your way out. The third row is another adventure entirely. Although the second-row seat moves fore/aft (the seatback reclines, too), it has minimal range, so the crawl space to the third row is tight.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
Standard safety features on the Mitsubishi Outlander include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, hill-start assist, a driver-side knee airbag, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In government testing, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander with all-wheel drive earned a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with four stars for frontal-impact protection and five stars for side-impact protection. Front-drive Outlanders have the same front and side ratings, but one less star for overall protection. Both earned four out of five stars in the rollover test.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet rated the 2016 Outlander, but it gave all 2015 Outlanders the best possible rating of "Good" in the small-overlap frontal offset, moderate-overlap frontal offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts. It's also worth noting that with optional equipment, the Outlander earned an "Advanced" rating for front crash prevention.
Optional electronic safety features include lane-departure warning and a forward collision warning and mitigation system. The latter can sense an impending frontal collision, alert the driver and, if the driver fails to react, apply light brake pressure followed by full panic braking, potentially bringing the Outlander to a halt if it was originally traveling under 20 mph. Adaptive cruise control, with the ability to regulate speed according to the vehicle in front, is also available.
During Edmunds brake testing, a 2016 all-wheel-drive Outlander SEL came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet and the heavier 2016 all-wheel-drive Outlander GT stopped in 123 feet, average distances for each. Both vehicles exhibited a spongy pedal feel, and both showed some brake pedal fade on later runs.
What Kind of Mileage Can You Expect?
The EPA rates the front-drive Outlander four-cylinder model at 27 mpg combined (25 city/31 highway). The four-cylinder with all-wheel drive is rated at a slightly lower 26 mpg combined (24 city/29 highway). That's a couple mpg less in the combined rating than AWD versions of the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue, but one mpg better than the Ford Escape with the 1.6 turbo engine. Our 2.4 SEL S-AWC test car averaged 24.2 mpg over 887 miles of mixed driving. It registered a fairly disappointing 24.1 mpg on our standard 116-mile evaluation loop.
The 3.0 GT S-AWC model is rated by the EPA at 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway).
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
The Ford Escape is one of the better-performing small crossovers, and its high-quality, comfortable interior delivers useful tech features. Although its two available turbo engines work well, real-world fuel efficiency is disappointing. The infotainment system can also be frustrating and the interior lacks storage space.
The Honda CR-V has a well-engineered cabin with exceptional passenger and cargo room, plus some nifty self-folding rear seats. Unlike the Outlander, the CR-V comes only with a four-cylinder engine, but that sole engine gets excellent fuel economy. The touchscreen controls can be difficult.
Another choice worth considering is the Kia Sorento. It's a few inches bigger than the Outlander in length and wheelbase, and as such has considerably more interior volume. The cabin is well-made, with user-friendly controls and a versatile second-row seat. Pricing starts a couple grand more than the Outlander, and that's for the two-row setup. There are three powerful engine choices, including a new turbocharged four-cylinder.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
There's a strong value proposition here. The Outlander offers a practical size, plenty of features, solid crash test scores and a standard third-row seat. A quiet cabin, solid warranty and excellent outward visibility are a few other reasons to consider it.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
An unrefined suspension and marginal engine performance are its biggest drawbacks. The interior also comes across as cheap in many areas, and the backseats only offer marginal comfort. Cargo space is also tight compared to its competitors.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.