There are so many small crossovers on the market itís hard to figure out which one to pick. Maybe eenie meenie miney moe?
Unless, of course, you want something different.
How about a V6, for instance? So you can pull more than a small car can?
How about an available transmission that isnít a continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission to go with it?
And a third row, too?
There's one small crossover that offers all those things.
What It Is
The Outlander is a compact-sized crossover SUV - about the same size as better-known small crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX3. But unlike them, it is available with a third row and offers an optional V6.
The CR-V, CX3 ad pretty much all of the others come only with fours - and room for only five. They also tow no more than 1,500 lbs - which isn't much.
In addition, the Mitsuís optional V6 is paired with a six-speed geared automatic. Not a CVT (gearless) automatic.
This will be of interest to potential buyers who donít like CVT automatics for one reason or another (more on the why they donít like them below).
And who are interested in towing 3,500 lbs. - which the V6 Outlander can.
Prices start at $24,895 for the base ES trim with a 2.4 liter engine and front-wheel-drive. This model does come with a CVT, by the way.
Adding AWD bumps the price up to $26,985.
The V6-powered Outlander GT - which comes standard with AWD and without a CVT - lists for $33,745.
Whatís New
All but the base ES trim now come standard with an 8-inch touchscreen and additional USB ports for the back seat occupants.
Whatís Good
Not everyone wants a turboíd four - or a CVT transmission.
If you need a third row - and donít want something bigger.
Heated seats are standard.
Whatís Not So Good
Third row up eats up cargo space behind.
CVT transmission is standard in all but V6-equipped GTs.
Likely faster/steeper depreciation vs. the blue chip brands.
Under The Hood
All Outlander trims except the top-of-the-line GT come standard with a 2.4 liter four cylinder engine that isnít turbocharged. Which is why it is larger than the 1.5 liter turbocharged engine that comes standard in all Honda CR-V trims.
It needs the turbo.
Without it, the CR-V would be SL-ow.
The Outlanderís larger four doesnít make as much power as the smaller turboíd four that's standard in the CR-V (166 hp vs. 190) but it is under less pressure. Less boost, to be precise. A turbo pressurizes the engineís cylinders - stuffs more air into them - in order to make up for the lack of size, which would otherwise result in less power. This additional cylinder pressure could mean shorter engine life - and does mean more parts, which means the possibility of eventually needing to replace them.
No such worries with the Outlander because the extra parts arenít there.
You also have the option to buy a V6, something thatís very hard to find in a small crossover in 2020. Others in this class come only with fours, with and without turbos.
The GTís 3.0 liter V6 makes 224 horsepower - which also makes the Outlander GT one of the strongest small crossovers you can buy and one of the few capable of pulling a 3,500 lb. trailer.
Itís also one of the few that comes with a six-speed (geared) automatic rather than a CVT automatic with no gears at all.
The Mazda CX3 is one of the few small crossovers that also offers a conventional six-speed automatic rather than a CVT. But you can only get it with a 2.0 liter (148 hp four) and thatís all you can get.
With the four cylinder engine, the Outlander's posts 25 city, 30 highway - slightly lower than the slightly stronger CR-V's 27 city, 32 highway but within the margin of error.
The V6 Outlander's city mileage (20) is noticeably lower than the four cylinder version's but once on the open road, it pulls down 27 MPG - which is within the margin of error vs. the four cylinder's 30 MPG and may prove to be better in real-world driving because the V6 won't need to work as hard to maintain 75 or 80 MPH.
On The Road
So why donít some people like CVTs?
Itís because theyíre shiftless.
Not in a neíer do well way but literally. There are no speeds, just ranges - continuously variable. This is a more efficient way to do business because the transmission is always in the the right range for any given driving condition while a transmission with gears must shift up - or down to get into the right gear for a given driving condition. And each gear is almost never exactly the right gear for a given condition.
That usually means using a bit more fuel vs. the same vehicle with a CVT - and always means you can feel the shifts from gear to gear.
On the downside - with CVTs - there are no shifts.
Which sometimes means a lot of revs as the transmission slips into the right range - and stays there. With a conventional/geared automatic, the RPMs decrease with each upshift. With a CVT, the RPMs increase - and sometimes stay increased until you ease off the gas.
Some people dislike that feel - and the sound which goes with it.
Also, CVTs - though much improved since they first appeared about 20 years ago - still seem to have more post-warranty problems than geared automatics.
The Outlander gives you the option to go either way.
And if you go with the optional V6, youíll go a lot faster a lot easier than other small crossovers with fours.
Youíll also be able to pull more than twice as much as most of them.
It's just a shame that Mitsu doesn't offer a six-speed manual in this thing - either with the base four or the optional V6. That would be really different - as well as all kinds of fun!
Still, the Outlander is different enough in a segment defined by a stultifying homogeneity of look and feel and equipment, too. It is almost an outlier - a tonic badly needed to resuscitate interest in a segment full of appliances with the emotional appeal of washing machines.
At The Curb
The Outlander is different in another way - which has its upsides as well as its downsides.
On the upside, it offers seven passenger capacity - unavailable in most small crossovers, which don't offer a third row. On the downside, the extra row of seats reduces cargo capacity behind the third row to just 10.3 cubic feet, which is less cargo room than some two-door sports cars have.
And much less room than two-row/size-equivalent competitors like the CR-V have (39.2 cubic feet).
But if you donít need to carry more than five at the moment, you can stow the third row and increase the available space by a factor of five to 63.3 cubic feet, which is only about 10 cubic feet less than the CR-Vís maximum of 75.8 cubic feet - and several times more room than any sports car has.
All trims but the base ES come standard with a larger-than-usual 8-inch LCD touchscreen and you can get that in the base ES as part of a package that also gets you heated seats and AppleCarPlay and Android Auto, along with a Sirius/XM trail subscription.
Every trim has 8.5 inches of clearance - enough to get away without the optional AWD system. Or get it - and disconnect it. This crossover is one of the few that lets you do that. Most of the others with AWD are always in AWD, which means some power is always being kicked to the rear as well as the front wheels, which is like sprinkling salt on a steak you're not going to eat.
Also unusual is the Mitsu's lock feature. Some AWD-equipped vehicles offer this. But the the Mitsu's lets you lock the power split 60-40 rear to front rather than the typical 50-50, front-rear. The effect is a feel more like a rear-drive vehicle even though the Outlander is a front-drive-based vehicle.
The Rest
Mitsubishi - a much smaller (and much less advertised) brand than Honda or Toyota or Mazda - probably isn't the first blip on most peopleís radar. But for exactly that reason, the Outlander ought to be on your list - and not only because it offers that V6 and the extra seats.
You are likely to get a better deal - because Mitsubishi dealers want your business. And thereís the additional comfort of a five year/60,000 mile whole car warranty, better than the usual three years/36,000 miles.
Plus ten years/100,000 miles on the drivetrain.
Itís true the Outlander is apt to depreciate faster - but that will only matter if you donít keep it till the wheels fall off. And if you paid substantially less for it to begin with, it wonít matter at all.
The Bottom Line
When youíre different you have to be a little daring.
. . .
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