Mitsubishi manages to install three rows of seats in its relatively small Outlander crossover, promising practical family transportation at a reasonable price. Two years after a full redesign, the Outlander earned a substantial reworking for 2016, while 2017 brings newly available active-safety features.

Pricing and Equipment

Starting at $24,390 (destination charge included), the Outlander comes in four trim levels: base ES, SE, and SEL with a four-cylinder engine, plus the V6-powered GT. Mitsubishi’s 2.4-liter inline-four makes 166 horsepower, mated with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). In the GT, a 3.0-liter V6 produces 224 hp. Each model is available with either standard front-drive or optional all-wheel drive. For 2017, the base model can have a new, more basic AWD system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is newly available.

Outlander SEL ($26,390) comes with:

  • 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • Remote keyless entry
  • Leather upholstery
  • Power driver’s seat
  • Steering-wheel audio controls
  • Power-folding mirrors
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

A Premium package for SEL includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Performance Pros

  • Easy to drive, the Outlander inspires confidence. Good road manners accompany a comfortable ride.
  • Electric power steering is pleasantly precise, if somewhat firm.
  • The Outlander offers simple off-road capabilities, with a suspension and all-wheel-drive system that can cope with gravel roads and ruts out in the hinterlands.

Performance Cons

  • Powertrains falls short on peppiness. The GT’s V6 isn’t much stronger than the four-cylinder, but does provide considerably greater towing capacity (3,500 pounds), while demanding premium gasoline.
  • CVT is reasonably effective at low speeds, but generally feels sluggish – inadequate for a three-row crossover, especially noticeable on hills and upgrades.
  • Driving pleasure is in short supply, because the Outlander tends to feel rather soft and almost disconnected from the pavement.

Interior Pros

  • Comfortable cabin is one of the quietest in its class.
  • Supportive front seats provide an excellent driving position, with lower cushions that are long enough for taller occupants. Comfortable second-row seats lack the hard, flat feeling that some vehicles suffer. They also fold fully.
  • Simple dashboard contains gauges that sit somewhat low. Some consider it plain, but others like the straightforward layout.

Interior Cons

  • Third-row seat is usable for short runs, but too small for regular use, except by children.
  • Infotainment system is behind the times.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

They’re optional rather than standard, but newly available active-safety features include blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert. Pedestrian detection has been added to the forward-collision warning. NHTSA gave the front-drive Outlander only four stars, but five stars with all-wheel drive. The IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick+.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

GT model costs too much and its V6 uses significantly more fuel. Unless pushed hard, the V6 fails to develop a lot of torque for satisfying acceleration. Four-cylinder fuel economy is better, estimated at 25/30 miles per gallon city/highway with front-drive.

The Bottom Line

Styling might not stand out, but the Outlander provides reasonable levels of comfort, efficiency, as well as adequate space and appealing quietness. Because price differences between ES, SE, and SEL are each only $1,000, one of the latter provides the best value. An SEL can be fitted with the latest safety features as options. A plug-in hybrid version is expected in summer 2017.