Back in 2008, I drove a Mitsubishi Outlander to the shore of the Arctic Ocean and back, in the middle of winter.
The 2007 model I used was the first of a new generation at the time, and it was surprisingly capable in the snow and ice. However, the newest generation of Outlander, released for the 2022 model year, is so far beyond the simple SUV of 15 years ago that it needs a completely fresh evaluation.
The Mitsubishi Outlander is a compact SUV, but it’s among the few compacts available with third row seating, and can carry up to 7 passengers. The third row is tiny, and you wouldn’t want to put adults back there, but it exists and it’s a feature that most compacts don’t have.
The Outlander is available with a 2.5-liter gas engine or as a plug-in hybrid. In recent years, the PHEV has gotten all the attention, but we just spent a week in the gas-powered Outlander and found it enjoyable in all the important ways.
Let’s get one thing out into the open right away. The front-end design of this generation of Outlander is polarizing — to say the least. Mitsubishi mounted the headlights low on the sides, going dramatically against the trend in recent years. The main and bright headlights are stacked vertically at the outside edges, with a massive grille and bars of chrome trim in the middle.
The front ends of cars have traditionally resembled the faces of land mammals in their structure, with the headlights as eyes, the brand emblem as a nose, and the grille as the mouth. In the case of the Outlander, the eyes are set lower than the nose, and too wide apart, with a vestigial mouth grille at the bottom. The effect is disconcerting.
However, Shakespeare wrote “Beauty is but a vain and doubtful good; A shining gloss that fadeth suddenly.” He might well have been writing about the Outlander.
Once you get into the Outlander, you’re not looking at the grille anymore. What greets you is a fully modern cabin, with quilted leather upholstery and touch surfaces in the higher trims, and all modern conveniences.
The SEL Touring Package trim we tested was not even the top of the nine available trim levels, and it came with heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, leather touch surfaces, a multi-view 360-degree camera, various driving modes and more. The Outlander is comfortable, well-appointed and thoughtfully designed.
The gas-fueled version of the Outlander includes a 2.5-liter direct-injected 4-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission designed to simulate an 8-speed automatic, plus all-wheel drive. Mitsubishi calls their AWD system “Super All-Wheel Control,” but it’s not materially different from other AWD systems.
The naturally aspirated engine produces 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. That doesn’t sound like much in the current market, but the CVT makes good use of the available power, and you won’t feel like you’re trapped in a gutless penalty box.
Mitsubishi was among the first automakers to bring a CVT to America, and they’ve gotten very good at working around the annoying habits of variable transmissions. If you didn’t read about the CVT here, you’d probably think it was just an 8-speed automatic. The Outlander’s towing capacity is 2,000 pounds, which is typical for a compact crossover.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rated the 2023 Outlander four stars, including a five-star side impact rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Outlander as a “Top Safety Pick+,” its top designation.
Although our test vehicle was well-outfitted with upper-trim features like MI-Pilot Assist with adaptive cruise, steering assist, and traffic sign recognition — even the base-trim Outlander comes with an excellent list of standard safety assistance features. Blind-spot monitor, rear automatic emergency braking, lane departure, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams, and forward collision mitigation are all standard, and help the Outlander earn that Top Safety Pick+ rating.
While the base trim gets an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, upper trims raise that to 9 inches, and it’s placed high on the dash for easy viewing. The driver information display either has gauges and a 7-inch display, or a full 12.3-inch display in the higher trims. A 10.8-inch head-up display is optional.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto are included at higher trims, but the base trim supports wired CarPlay. Wireless charging is included on higher trims. The infotainment system is straightforward and easy to use and includes voice recognition.
The driving experience is where the Outlander really shines. While you might look at the front end and think there’s no way you’re buying this SUV, it’s worth your time to go for a drive before you make your decision. On our usual test route, the Outlander behaved like a much smaller and more powerful vehicle.
A climbing series of curves tailor-made for testing sports cars gave the Outlander no trouble at all, either with available acceleration or handling. The Outlander’s suspension takes a set and digs into the corners predictably, and soaks up the bumps to keep the tires in contact with the pavement. Coming down the hill again, the brakes are solid and more than adequate to keep the SUV reined in.
Overall, the Outlander is quiet, solid, and reassuring. It handles like a smaller SUV while riding like a bigger one. The ugly duckling is unexpectedly a swan on the road.
2023 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWD Specifications
|Dimension||L: 185.4 inches/W: 74.7 inches/H: 68.7 inches/Wheelbase: 106.5 inches|
|Powertrain||2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable automatic transmission and AWD|
|Fuel Economy||24 mpg city/30 mpg highway/26 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||181 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $28,940; As tested: $39,865, including $1,345 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The 2023 Outlander starts at $27,595 for the base ES trim, plus a $1,345 destination fee for a bottom line MSRP of $28,940. That’s not bad for a well-equipped SUV with space to haul the whole family. Moving up one notch to the SE trim, you’ll spend $31,990, but this gets you the larger infotainment system, navigation, adaptive cruise, and all the good stuff.
It goes on up from there. You can pick a trim to get a Bose audio system, the leather seats, and more. The top 40thAnniversary edition retails at $41,340, including fees.
Apart from the Volkswagen Tiguan, nothing else with three rows is really price competitive with the Outlander, but the Kia Sorento comes closest. If we were picking a trim for ourselves, we’d go with the SE model, which includes most of the good modern features but still keeps the price down in economy territory.
2023 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWD – Frequently Asked Questions
How long will the Mitsubishi Outlander last?
The Mitsubishi Outlander should get between 200,000 and 250,000 miles. This is a very high mileage for these kinds of cars. Depending on usage, an Outlander could last up to 15 years.
Which is bigger, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or Outlander?
The Mitsubishi Outlander is larger than the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, impacting both the seating and cargo capacity. The Outlander has three rows and the ability to carry seven passengers.
Is Mitsubishi Outlander fuel-efficient?
Standard third row seating and a combined rating of 26-27 mpg make the Outlander one of the most fuel-efficient seven-seaters in its class.