2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE and GT First Drive

For the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander, the third time is a charm. But is it enough?

What It Is
A three-row SUV that has been improved upon in (almost) every important category.
Best Thing
The interior has been updated and now includes optional safety features like Lane Departure Warning.
Worst Thing
The all-new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is underwhelming.
Snap Judgment
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander offers three-row seating, a better interior than the one it's replacing, and can be yours for under $24,000.


The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander isn't like many other vehicles in the Japanese automaker's stable. Admittedly, Mitsubishi's portfolio is rather empty, with production of the Galant and, even more notably, the Eclipse, being halted. Nevertheless, instead of going the way of Suzuki in North America, Mitsubishi has dug in and thrown everything it's got at the third-generation Outlander. The three-row SUV starts at $23,890 for the base ES trim, $24,690 for the SE model, and $28,690 for the top-tier GT variant. All of those prices include an $895 destination and handling fee.

For the 2014 model year, Mitsubishi changed up the Outlander's exterior styling while really focusing on the interior. A third-row of seats, updated technology, new safety features, and a new four-cylinder engine all sound appealing. Is it enough to carve out some market share though? We drove the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander for ourselves to see. Here's what we found.

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Walkaround

Gut reaction: Where'd the Evo-inspired nose go? Mitsubishi has decided to go with a more aerodynamic-friendly approach for the third-generation Outlander. Similar to that of the 2013 Range Rover, the latest Outlander has a rounded front-end, which helps boost aerodynamics. (Bet you never thought you'd hear Mitsubishi and Land Rover used in a positive way together.) That's about it though when it comes to comparisons with the British off-road giant. The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander's front-end received the lion's share of changes for the latest model year as far as sheet metal is concerned. Inside, it appears that the tweaks Mitsubishi made are a better way to measure the SUV's improvement as a whole.

Sitting Down

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander's interior is really where you see everything come together. We had the opportunity to sample the mid-level SE and top-tier GT trim levels and both feature soft touch materials on the dashboard and door paneling. A 6.1-in. touch screen display with navigation was featured in our SE tester while the GT sported the optional 7-in. screen and nav. Nothing is too far out of reach for the driver, either. Whether you need to plug an address into the navigation system, or turn the optional Lane Departure System on or off, everything is within arm's length.

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Right off the bat, the seats feel comfortable, but not particularly supportive in turns; we had to brace ourselves to ensure we didn't slide up against a door panel in corners. Both the SE and GT models we drove featured leather-wrapped seats, adding to the plush feel of the interior. The second and third-row seats fold down if you so desire (50/50 split for the second row, 60/40 split for the third) making it easy to carry a combination of passengers and cargo. Mitsubishi will admit though that the third-row seats were designed to accommodate small children and not much else. After taking a look for ourselves, we realized they weren't kidding, as it was nearly impossible to fit a full-grown adult in the third-row (yes, we tried).

Driving

The clean and nicely-appointed interior doesn't stop at the materials used to cover the dashboard and seats. Magnesium shift paddles attach to the steering column, instead of the wheel itself, making it easy to "shift" when entering or exiting a turn. We say "shift" for a reason; the transmission is actually a continuously variable transmission used with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine application. It's not a particularly inspiring combination; when navigating the twisty road section of our drive, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder didn't offer the engaging feel of the 3.0-liter V-6 and its six-speed automatic, even when we were flicking the paddles like crazy. The CVT simulates a downshift by holding firm at 3,000 rpm for about a second before it lets go. On the other hand, the V-6 automatic transmission actually responded to the paddle shifters commands and made for an amusing ride.

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Once we got up to speed, it was obvious that the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander is much quieter than the one it's replacing. This new, quiet ride can be attributed to some alterations to the suspension and some well-placed insulation on the floor boards. The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander also boasts a more controlled ride than its predecessor and we expect the new electric power steering should keep its owners happy.

Summary

SUVs with three rows of seating are a rare breed. SUVs with three rows of seating and a starting price tag of $24,000 are almost non-existent. The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander fills that void for those in need of a cheap SUV with three rows of seats, and the touch screen is one of the cleaner ones we've come across. However, the all-new 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine comes up a little short in terms of acceleration, and the CVT, while efficient in its own right, only adds to the sluggishness. The GT trim offers an interior that's much better than the one it replaces and the V-6 engine mated to the six-speed automatic transmission is, without question, the combination to get. Competition is stiff for the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander, as you have options like the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V, but three-rows of seats on the cheap does bode well for the Mitsu. If you're in need of lots of seating and are accustomed to Mitsubishi products, the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander deserves a look. If you're unfamiliar with Mitsubishi though, we'd recommend giving the entire segment a solid look as there are lots of options out there.

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Basic Specs

2.4-liter inline-4, 3.0-liter V-6, continuously variable transmission (inline-4), six-speed automatic transmission (V-6) 166-hp (inline-4), 224-hp (V-6), $24,690 (SE), $28,690 (GT), 24 mpg city/29 mpg hwy (inline-4), 20 mpg city/ 28 mpg hwy

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