The Aussie appetite for medium SUVs is growing rapidly and the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander is keeping pace, consistently a steady seller. It may not hit the high notes of the top-three volume sellers in the segment, but the mid-size Mitsubishi family hauler manages to quietly find its way into well over a thousand new driveways every month.
In April, the Outlander was fourth on the sales charts behind the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4. Year-to-date that trio remain on top, the Outlander is fifth behind the Nissan X-Trail and just ahead of the Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Despite the amount of bling splayed across the front, overall (in this writer's opinion) the Outlander is rather unassuming in its styling; it manages to blend in and doesn't make any big, bold style statements which likely contributes to its popularity.
The Outlander range is pretty bloody complicated. It's offered with two petrol and one diesel engine, in 2WD or AWD, three transmission options – a six-speed continuously variable transmission (CVT), six-speed sports automatic or five-speed manual – across three trim-levels, and there are five- or seven-seat configurations.
The range starts with the LS, and in 2WD manual guise with a 2.0-litre four cylinder petrol engine that produces 110kW and 190Nm, and with five-seats starts at $28,750 before on-road costs. That's a very similar entry point to the equivalent CX-5, Tucson and RAV4.
The 2WD LS is also available with the same 2.0-litre petrol engine and CVT with seven-seats for $30,500, or the 2WD LS Safety Pack with five seats at an additional $1500.
The LS can also be had in AWD with a 2.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine that pumps out 124kW and 220Nm with a CVT and seven-seats for $33,500. Again, you can opt for the LS Safety Pack variant, and though you get the 4WD and bigger petrol engine, there is a five-seat version for an additional $1500, or if you want the seven-seater that's an extra $1000.
The seven-seat AWD LS Safety Pack is also available with a 2.2-litre diesel engine that produces 110kW and 360Nm teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission for $39,500.
The top trim level is the Exceed, available with the 2.4-litre petrol engine and CVT for $44,000 – then there is our test car with the 2.2-litre diesel and six-speed auto priced at $47,500. Both are seven-seaters and include the Safety Pack kit as standard. The range also includes the petrol electric hybrid LS and Exceed for $50,490 and $55,490 respectively.
Across the board, the 2017 update has added new technology and more safety features, but prices are up to justify the kit increase. During the day, from the outside, the Exceed can be recognised by its chrome door handles and headlamp washers... that's seriously about it. It sits on 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, as are silver roof rails and that chrome grille. The Exceed does however score LED headlights, daytime-running lights, tail lamps and front fog lamps, which can help distinguish it from the LS at night.
With almost $20,000 difference between the 2WD manual LS and the AWD auto diesel Exceed, you'd expect more than just chrome door handles, LED lights and badges on the bum to tell them apart wouldn't you? That's exactly what I mean by unassuming, no one would know just by looking at it whether you spent around $30k or almost $50k. Some may think that is fine... others not.
The Outlander has a rather proud, bold stance on the road, measuring 1710mm high, 4695mm long and 1810mm wide. It rides quite high with 190mm of ground clearance and from the outside, it just looks like a good-sized family SUV. You'd hope that would be the case inside, and it doesn't disappoint with plenty of space – in the first and second rows at least.
Up front, the leather-appointed bucket seats are nice and high as well as being sensibly comfortable. I wouldn't call it plush and while the seat bolstering isn't squishy and lux, it is firm, pliable and conducive to attentive driving rather than relaxation. Which makes a good lot of sense, if you ask me.
After a bit of time behind the wheel, I began to notice the driver's seat moving when braking or accelerating. We had been made aware of this issue in the Outlander – we were contacted by an owner, and our own James Wong also experienced the same sensation when reviewing the Exceed petrol. Mitsubishi responded to the issue, saying the seat movement was 'normal and within the required specifications'. Normal or not, it's an unusual feeling... the seats are comfortable, when they aren't feeling slightly loose and rocking.
The driver's side is electrically adjustable, and the front seats are heated. With the weather starting to cool off, bum-warming features are looking more and more useful and attractive than they do in summer.
The centre console design is quite clean, but not incredibly modern in its design. The leather steering wheel is nice to the touch, features tilt and telescopic adjustment, as well as controls for cruise control, audio and phone, and has lovely piano black accents. The piano black has been inoffensively matched with silver, chrome and leather-look materials along the dash. It's all a bit cold and hard if you look too close though, but again, sensible and easy to clean.
In the centre of the dash there's a new 7.0-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a rear-view camera with 360-degree view and both front and rear parking sensors. As you can see in the pictures, the camera lens isn't well shielded from the weather. Visibility also wasn't fantastic at night, although it was useable, and the clarity could be improved.
The Exceed is quite well kitted out with plenty of features designed to make life easier, including rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, climate control dual-zone air conditioning, push button start and a gorgeous electric sunroof.
But it's not just about being comfortable. The list of safety features is equally impressive including forward collision mitigation, blind-spot warning, lane departure warning, lane change assist and rear-cross traffic alert. I did find however, that the lane departure warning wasn't consistent. Sometimes overly sensitive, and sometimes late to the party. It's still better than nothing, but the calibration doesn't seem quite as crisp as systems from some other manufacturers.
There's a good amount of storage in the cabin, with a deep centre-console bin with rubber lined tray for smaller items or coins, decent sized glovebox, water bottle/cupholders and a storage nook in front of the gearshift and two USB outlets to charge and connect phones and other devices.
Moving into the second row, and there is a good amount of space for two adults or three children. The seats aren't incredibly welcoming, the seat-base is a little flat and bench-like, but knee-room is adequate and I can comfortably sit behind the driver's seat in my driving position. Headroom is generous, as is outside elbow room.
There are rear air vents, large map pockets on the back of both front seats, water bottle holders in the doors and the centre armrest has cupholders. If you have small children, or are planning them, the outboard seats have ISOFIX points or all three second-row seats have child restraint anchorage points.
The middle-row is 60:40 split fold, and climbing through to the third row isn't the most pleasant experience. To be fair that is the case with almost all medium SUVs and even most large SUVs with a third row. Send small children only into the abyss.
The third row seats are 50:50 split fold and recline a little, making the time spent with your knees folded at an awkward angle just a little more bearable. When the rear seats are in play, that leaves just 128- litres of cargo space, however if you fold the seats down it expands to 477L, then 1608L with both rows tucked away. A power tailgate is standard, and there are cargo hooks in the boot, too. The Exceed gets a full-size spare wheel.
Out on the road, the Outlander does what you'd expect it to do. The 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine produces 110kW and 360Nm and offers up a good amount of torque to tackle city traffic. The diesel is slightly noisy, particularly when you put your foot down and ask it to dance on cue. It's unlikely to win a traffic lights take-off, but once on a roll the Outlander is propelled smoothly up to speed by the six-speed automatic and remains responsive if you need to overtake at speed.
I did quite a lot of highway driving and it was surprisingly quiet and comfortable. The diesel isn't incredibly refined, but it wasn't roaring loud either. Road and tyre noise wasn't too noticeable on the highway either – particularly under the slight drone of the diesel.
Though the suspension has been revised, the Outlander is still a little crashy over large road imperfections around town and can feel a little floaty at other times, but makes up for it by being much more refined on the open-road.
The steering is light at low speed, making it a breeze to park even with the sometimes smudgy-looking rear-view camera, and it loads up noticeably as speed increases. The electric power steering doesn't offer a lot of feel or feedback though.
For those wanting to be a little more frugal, there is an eco mode – or if you're feeling a little more frisky, try the sports mode with paddle-shifters. Eco mode is more like sloth mode, and sports mode isn't a bolt of lighting, but at least there is a little variation if you want it.
Claimed combined fuel economy is 6.2-litres per 100-kilometres and during our time with the car we recorded an average of 9.0L/100km. Most of our time behind the wheel was not spent in eco mode, and we also spent quite a lot of time in traffic – even on the highways.
If you're looking at the 4WD Outlander and wondering if it has weekend adventure potential, it has an approach angle of 19.5-degrees, departure angle of 21-degrees and ramp breakover angle of 19-degrees. It can tow up to 750kg un-braked and has a braked towing capacity of 2000kg.
Mitsubishi offers a five-year/100,000km warranty on the Outlander, along with a four-year/60,000km capped-price servicing schedule with servicing due every 12-months or 15,000km.
The new safety features and infotainment system are welcome additions that keep the Outlander relevant and competitive in the medium SUV segment. It may not be the most modern looking or the smoothest drive in the segment, but it is spacious and well-suited to a family.
Click on the Gallery tab for more images by Sam Venn.