Farewell Long-Term 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
After a year and 12,339 miles, we say goodbye to another extended-use vehicle. The Outlander Sport is Mitsubishi’s latest foray into the crowded and highly competitive compact-SUV class. Whenever a newcomer appears in a high-stakes class such as this one, we are interested in putting it through our battery of tests to see if it has the chops to merit your consideration.
We received our long-term Outlander Sport during February of 2011, and it came just in time. Our test vehicle was equipped with all-wheel drive, which was a welcome feature for slogging though Chicago’s famous winters. However, this vehicle was different because its AWD system could be switched on and off at will via a center-console control knob. It had three settings (2WD, 4WD, Lock) that allowed the driver to tailor the system to road conditions. If the weather was warm and sunny, 2WD could contribute to a boost in fuel economy because only the front wheels were being powered. 4WD was good for snow because the computer apportions power for best traction. Lock mode set a 50/50 front/rear power split for high-performance driving on slippery roads.
Engine: 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Transmission: CVT automatic
Total Miles Driven: 12,339 miles
CG Observed Fuel Economy: 24.7 mpg
Base Price: $ 22,995
Major Options: Premium Package (panoramic glass sunroof with LED illumination, black roof rails, Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with 9 speakers, Sirius satellite radio with 3 months of service) Navigation Package (rearview camera, 40GB hard-drive navigation with music server and real time traffic, auxilliary video input jack), Interior Package (piano black interior accents, gear shift knob made of black leather and aluminum), LED Illumination Package (blue LED floor illumination, blue LED tailgate lamp, LED interior lamps)
Price as Tested: $ 28,180
Problems During Test: None
We came to appreciate the Outlander Sport in a few ways. It proved to be more fun to drive than many other compact SUVs. It had good steering feel and feedback, and strong brakes with good pedal feel. It averaged 24.7 mpg over the course of its yearlong test, which is about average for this category. Some of its features also surprised and delighted, such as the available panoramic sunroof. It was effectively a fixed glass roof with LEDs that pleasingly lights up the edges in a soft yellow glow at night. Also, the navigation system and the rearview camera earned their keep during this vehicle’s yearlong stint in the long-term test fleet, particularly in finding our way and parking on the crowded streets in and around Chicago.
But, the Outlander Sport possessed some qualities that weren’t so endearing. For example, this vehicle isn’t the quietest in the class. Copious amounts of engine drone around town and tire and wind noise on the highway proved to be somewhat annoying during daily commuting and on road trips. Also, the interior materials feel cheap and they bring down the interior ambiance somewhat. Additionally, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that behaves much like an automatic doesn’t do a great job managing the SUV’s powerplant. It sometimes lets the engine rev high at inappropriate times, such as when gently accelerating. In addition, Outlander Sport isn’t a very quick vehicle, leaving some of us wanting more gumption for highway passing and merging. Minor annoyances included pushbuttons for the audio system in place of knobs (particularly for volume) and the use of red and white RCA plugs for the auxiliary audio input instead of the ubiquitous headphone-jack plug found in most other vehicles. To top it off, the Outlander Sport runs a few thousand dollars more than compact SUVs from other manufacturers.
Overall, we found the Outlander Sport to be a fun and fuel-efficient runabout, albeit a tad rough around the edges and somewhat expensive for what you get. Mitsubishi claims to have addressed many of the Outlander Sport’s shortcomings with enhancements and tweaks for the 2012 model year, so some of our gripes may be moot at this point, but don’t overlook the Outlander Sport. This SUV boasts a lot of unique creature comforts, a certain degree of flexibility afforded by its switchable all-wheel-drive system, and a great warranty. So, while it might not make a dent in the sales of the popular Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, or Toyota RAV4, the Outlander Sport is still worth your consideration.
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