Medium SUVs are fast becoming the single most popular vehicle type for Australians, with sales up double-digits again this year. One of the better-known nameplates within this intensely fought sales race is the Mitsubishi Outlander.
Here we look at the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed DiD diesel, which competes with a frankly bewildering list of rivals: the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, (top-selling) Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.
Among its immediate class rivals, the Outlander is only the seventh most popular offering, and its market share has fallen this year.
But this Exceed variant of the Outlander brings something unique to the table: it’s the only mainstream mid-sized SUV available with both a diesel engine and seven seats, since the X-Trail seven-seat is petrol-only and the rest are five-seaters.
Admittedly, that’s a narrow set of parameters, but nevertheless you have to climb into something slightly bigger such as a Hyundai Sante Fe, or something more expensive like a Land Rover Discovery Sport, to get a similar package.
The 2016 Outlander we’re testing here is the updated version that premiered in Australia about 12 months ago, and which we reviewed at the time. But the market doesn’t stand still, and we’ve seen some new arrivals since then.
As tested, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed 4WD diesel seven-seater retails for $46,490 plus on-road costs (at the moment, it’s $46,990 drive-away, and we bet you’ll do better than that).
Main diesel 4WD mid-sized SUV rivals are the second-from-top Mazda CX-5 Akera ($46,590), plus fellow top-spec variants such as the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser ($49,490), Hyundai Tucson Highlander ($45,490), Kia Sportage Platinum ($45,990) and Subaru Forester 2.0D-S (a sharp $41,490).
If you’re happy to lose some of the Exceed’s equipment — read more detail on that here — you can have an Outlander XLS diesel seven-seater for a whopping $7000 less, which is surely tempting.
Credit remains to Mitsubishi for the scope of the mid-life update introduced in April 2015, though. Especially on the design front, which is significantly more pleasing to the eye than the pre-facelift version that went on sale at the end of 2012.
The ‘Dynamic Shield’ front design may sound ridiculous, but it lends the Outlander some road presence despite a little fussiness. It’s amazing what some chrome, privacy glass and nice 18-inch alloy wheels can do. The Exceed’s LED headlights are a nice touch as well.
Under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine exclusive to the upper-spec XLS and Exceed variants, with 110kW of power at 3500rpm and 360Nm of torque — the latter figure is well up on the $3000 cheaper 2.4 petrol version’s 220Nm. That extra torque output is the key selling point here, and the fact it’s available low in the rev band between 1500rpm and 2750Nm means you never have to work the engine hard to be in the sweet spot.
It’s not the crispest unit out there, which isn’t surprising since it falls short on paper against the diesel units in the Tucson/Sportage (136kW/400Nm) and CX-5 (129kW/420Nm), among others.
But to its credit, the Mitsubishi engine is notably refined and sound insulated — one of our admin staff initially thought it was a petrol — and feels effortless laden or unladen, especially at a highway clip and up hills, compared to the petrol. The rated 2000kg braked-trailer towing limit is also high for the class, making this a potential caravan or boat-hauler.
Mitsubishi claims fuel economy of 6.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, which is 15 per cent superior to the 2.4 petrol, but only middling for the class. It’s an achievable figure with measured driving that obviously climbs in the city, and when you’re hauling gear.
As with any SUV purchase, whether you’re better off going diesel or petrol depends on your usage. Pay the premium if you regularly carry heavy objects or tow loads, or drive long highway distances. Low-mileage urban dwellers may be best with the petrol.
Matched to the 2.2 diesel is a six-speed conventional automatic gearbox that is generally unobtrusive, though certainly eager to shift up through the ratios to cruise at the lowest possible engine speeds for fuel economy. It’s a nicer experience than the petrol’s CVT.
One novel element are the fixed paddle-shifters that are a delight in the hand, and feel like a vestige of the famed Lancer Evo. These also feature on the larger Pajero Sport, and as on that car, are completely useless to most users for anything other than show.
Our test car was fitted with the on-demand 4WD system operated via a button. The electronic-control system defaults to front-wheel drive, but allocates torque to the rear when slip is detected. The 4WD Lock mode increases torque feed to the rear. As with most rivals, the Outlander lacks low-range and is a ‘soft-roader’ only. Fine for snow and gravel.
One major focus on the MY16 Outlander update was reducing the noise, vibration and harshness levels (NVH) intruding into the cabin, beyond just the aforementioned engine deadening. This car has significantly more sound-quelling materials, better seals to give the doors a proper closing ‘thunk’, and new windscreen glass to keep things more hushed.
Colleague Matt, who spent more time than yours truly in the pre-update Outlander, attests to the effectiveness. “There’s certainly less noise intrusion into the cabin at most speeds, with a notably more muted cockpit on the highway,” he said.
The other main mechanical changes focus on the driving experience, and comprise a tweaked suspension system with additional underbody stiffening, revised rear dampers and a retuned electronic power steering calibration.
Mitsubishi claims the work has lead to “improved straight line stability and high levels of ride comfort”. The consensus from team CA is superior ride quality with better small-bump absorption, though a mild tendency to jar on initial impact remains.
The body control is mid-level for the class, meaning the Outlander doesn’t sit as flat through corners as some rivals. The electric steering setup makes it quicker to respond from centre. As with most of these systems, the downside is muted feel-and-feedback, but the upside is a supreme lightness around town. And that’s clearly more important.
All told, though, the overall dynamic impression is that the Outlander isn’t as car-like as the sporty CX-5, or as comfortable and composed as the Australian-tuned Tucson and Sportage. It’s nice to live with, yes, but there are even better medium SUVs to drive.
Jump inside the cabin, and it’s clear that this is the best Outlander cabin to date. There are premium-grade soft plastics throughout, a lovely steering wheel design, gloss-black and other contrasting highlights, and improved leather seats with better bolstering.
In that typically Japanese fashion, it all feels built to last, and has enough for the tactile among us to be content. General ergonomics are also decent enough, with key controls within reach. There are also lots of storage cubbies smattered about.
The list of standard equipment for the asking price is also pretty strong. Highlights include keyless start, sunroof, an electric tailgate, leather seats with heating, digital radio, satellite-navigation, climate control, reversing camera and sensors along with Bluetooth/USB connectivity.
On the safety front, you also get seven airbags and a five-star ANCAP rating, plus Isofix-compatible child-seat attachment points. The Exceed gets radar-guided adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation, though we’d like to see blind-spot monitoring.
The real downside up front front of the cabin are the dated infotainment and trip computer displays. The 7.0-inch display in the centre on the dash looks and feels a little past it, and the menus aren’t as user-friendly as they should be. The CX-5’s MZD Connect system, and the Tucson with its Apple CarPlay system, both walk rings around the Outlander here.
The sooner Mitsubishi ports across the excellent multimedia system from its new Pajero Sport — replete with CarPlay/Android Auto — to the Outlander, the sooner it will have addressed a key weakness. It’s a matter of when rather than if, Mitsubishi tells us. That’s small consolation for now, though.
The middle seating row is about on par for the class in terms of space and storage, meaning lots of room for two adults — three over shorter trips — or two child seats. There’s also decent storage, and nice leather padding throughout. No air vents though. The bench reclines, and also easily folds and tumbles to allow access to the third row.
The Outlander isn’t a proper seven seater like a Toyota Kluger. Instead, it’s what’s called a ‘5+2’. The third row is fine for occasional use, such as if your kid has a few friends that need a lift home from school, or something of that nature. You still get proper adjustable headrests, and the outward visibility and headroom is actually not too bad.
At 4695mm long on a 2670mm wheelbase, the Outlander is actually pretty big for the class. It’s surprisingly closer to a Santa Fe than it is to nominally mid-sized rivals such as the X-Trail and CR-V, while it’s more than 200mm longer than a Tucson, though no wider.
Considering the fact that a mid-range diesel 4WD Santa Fe costs $3000 more than the Outlander, while the potentially even more equivalent top-of-the-range Highlander asks $55,990, you can actually frame a somewhat compelling argument for the Outlander.
As you’d expect, the third-row seats fold flat into the floor when not in use and can be pulled up easily via a pull-tab. Cargo space behind the middle-row is 477 litres (it’s only 128L when all seven seats are in use, enough for a few duffle bags). The 477L capacity is greater than the CX-5’s pokey 403L, but falls short of the RAV4, CR-V, Tucson and X-Trail.
The middle row of seats can also be folded forward to give you 1608L of space and a loading length of 1845mm, which is right up there. The CX-5’s 40:20:40 folding seats and flip-folding levers in the cargo area are cleverer than the Outlander’s setup, though. The Outlander does as least get the class-standard cargo blind on the XLS-upwards.
Special mention goes to the electric tailgate, which is a nice touch, but which some of our staff found to be painfully slow to open. Maybe we’re just impatient…
From an ownership perspective, Mitsubishi has done away with its five-year, 130,000km warranty – the duration remains the same, but the distance covered is now 100,000km. You also get free roadside assist for the first year only.
Service intervals are 12-months or 15,000km. The Outlander diesel 4WD will cost $1550 over the first three years of servicing at current rates. A RAV4 will cost $1080 over the period, though this comprises six dealer visits as its intervals at six-months/10,000km.
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed diesel is a competitive offering. It doesn’t drive like a class-leader (Tucson, Sportage and CX-5 win there), and its infotainment is outdated. But it’s also a well-made, quite refined and generally serviceable offering with a seven-seat/diesel configuration in this class that gives it a real selling point.
Push for a good deal and you'll get a strong offering, though the much cheaper XLS would be the pick for us.
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