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2007 Mitsubishi Outlander LS 4WD Review

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2007 Mitsubishi Outlander

2007 Mitsubishi Outlander LS 4WD

SEE ALSO: Mitsubishi Buyers Guide

Does Mitsubishi have an identity crisis? When its name is mentioned, some people think of SUVs, like the Montero, while others think of the Lancer Evolution high-performance rally replica.

If so, the company is working hard to blend the best of both sides of its reputation. With its second-generation 2007 Outlander, Mitsubishi has merged an SUV with a rally car. A wild claim? You'd be forgiven for thinking so, as performance and handling are not usually associated with a crossover SUV. But the new Outlander, which shares little besides the name with the original, previews the chassis platform that will underly the next-generation Lancer Evo, and its four-wheel drive system is meant more for traction and cornering on pavement than traditional four-wheeling. In the crowded and competitive mid-size, middle-class crossover field, the 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander stands out by virtue of its sporty abilities.

Compared to the old vehicle with the Outlander name, the new version is noticeably larger, and very well-equipped. There are three trim levels in the lineup, ES, LS, and XLS. Unlike most entries in the class, there are no four-cylinder models. All Outlanders are powered by a 3.0-liter, 220-horsepower V6, matched with a six-speed automatic transmission with "Sportronic" manual-shift mode. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, rollover-sensing side airbags, air conditioning, power windows, mirrors, and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, an odor-absorbing headliner, a 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, a 60/40 split folding second-row seat, 9 cupholders and 13 storage compartments, and a flip-up, flap-down tailgate are standard fare on all Outlanders. The roof panel is aluminum, to reduce weight and lower the center of gravity.

The ES comes as a front-drive model only, while the LS and XLS may be had with the "All-Wheel Control" (AWC) multimode four-wheel drive system, which combines front or full-time all-wheel drive with electronic traction and anti-skid control for optimum power-to-ground traction and handling ability in all weather and road conditions.

A recent week with a four-wheel drive Outlander LS left me surprised and impressed. Like its peers, it was roomy and functional. Unlike most of its peers, it was also fun to drive, especially on roads usually considered more suited to it cousin the Lancer Evo. And that traction and poise should come in handy for safety and security on slipperier surfaces as well, whether they be dirt or gravel roads or snow. In the new Outlander, Mitsubishi has put sport into sport-utility.

APPEARANCE: In style, the second-generation Outlander is more mainstream than the original. Gone is the unique nose treatment, replaced by a conventional small trapezoidal grill over a larger intake in the front bumper fascia. Multi-element headlights are covered with plastic fairings. The two-box shape has typical proportions, gently rounded corners and edges, and an arched roofline. Exaggerated wheel arches give a muscular look, and are filled by the large wheels and tires. Red LED taillights with clear covers give a sporty look to the rear. The Outlander sits high, but not too high for easy access. Ground clearance, at 8.5 inches, should be more than adequate for the Outlander's pavement and improved-road habitat.

COMFORT: The new Outlander's larger size makes for welcome extra space inside. The interior look is closer to sports car than sport-utility, dark in color with contrasting matte silver plastic trim. Bolstered sports seats and an instrument panel that Mitsubishi calls "motorcycle-style" complete the look. The manually-adjustable front seats are as comfortable as they look, and offer better than average support for the Outlander's price class. The rear seat is by no means second-class accommodation, and it easily folds flat with a 60/40 split for cargo carrying. The XLS features a third row seat that folds flat into the cargo floor, and optional leather seating surfaces and power driver's seat. But the cloth in my LS was fine, and a third row in a vehicle this size is usually useful only for small children. The Outlander's interior usefulness is further enhanced by a plethora of storage spaces, with covered storage in the top of the dash, a twin-level illuminated, locking glovebox, and split-level console box the largest. All doors have storage and bottle holders, with cupholders - and more storage spaces, and power points - strategically placed throughout the interior. The headliner uses a catalyzing substance to decompose cigarette smoke and formaldehyde into water and carbon dioxide. The new Outlander's load floor is eight inches lower than that of the original, for easier loading and unloading. A split tailgate, with a lower section that folds down to ease access (and provide seating for tailgate parties and the like) in addition to the regular top-hinged top section, further improves access.

SAFETY: Dual front airbags, with a passenger-seat occupant sensor, seat-mounted side airbags, and first- and second-row side curtain airbags are found in the Outlander LS, as are four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Mitsubishi has extensive heritage in the the most vehicle-punishing forms of motor sports - WRC rallying, with the Lancer Evo in its myriad iterations, and the Dakar Rally, an off-road event in North Africa that has recently been dominated by Montero-based vehicles. Lessons learned in both forms of competition have been applied to the new Outlander's next-generation Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) chassis. It's a strong, rigid unibody structure, made with extensive use of high-strength steel, that allows the fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension to be tuned in the manner of a contemporary sport sedan - firm enough for good handling characteristics, yet supple enough for comfort. A front strut tower bar improves lateral rigidity. The Outlander's aluminum roof removes 11 pounds from high in the vehicle, providing benefits equal to much more weight reduction lower in the vehicle. It won't really compare to a sports sedan, but works much better than the average crossover SUV.

PERFORMANCE: With a relatively light weight of under 3700 pounds thanks to its unibody construction and 220 horsepower (at 6250 rpm) and 204 lb-ft of torque (at 4000 rpm) from its 3.0-liter V6, the Outlander is one quick crossover. (Power is slightly reduced - to 213 hp - in California emissions states, where it has a P-ZEV emissions rating). The MIVEC variable valve timing and lift system helps improve the power band and driving characteristics at all all engine speeds, and electronic throttle control allows smoother operation and other electronic systems to interface with the engine control unit (ECU). The engine is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with "Sportronic" manual-shift mode. The engine's strong low- and mid-range torque allows it to work well in "D", but manual shifting does improve both performance and driving enjoyment. Not so for fuel economy.... EPA ratings are 20 mpg city, 26 highway. I saw just over 17 in mostly enthusiastic secondary road driving in 4WD Lock position. More judicious use of the throttle would likely improve that.

The Outlander's 4WD system has FWD (front-wheel drive) mode for best economy, regular 4WD, to vary the power split between the front and rear axles, and 4WD Lock. In a typical 4WD system, "lock" means locked hubs, and is strictly for use in loose off-road conditions. Here it means more power to the rear wheels, with side-to-side traction controlled by the traction and stability control systems. Look for a similar system in the next Lancer Evo.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander is a crossover SUV with the soul of a Lancer Evo.

2007 Mitsubishi Outlander LS 4WD

Base Price			$ 23,770
Price As Tested			$ 26,135
Engine Type			single overhead cam, aluminum alloy V6
				 with variable valve timing
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 182 cu. in.
Horsepower			220 @ 6250 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			204 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with "Sportronic"
				 manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		105.1 in. / 182.7 in.
Curb Weight			3670 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		16.7
Fuel Capacity			15.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P215/70 HR16 Yokohama Geolander
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground Clearance		8.5 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				   multi-mode single-range 4-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 26 / 17
0 to 60 mph				8.5  sec
Towing Capacity			2000 lbs standard, 3500 with towing package

LS Sun and Sound package - includes:
 9-speaker, 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system,
 MP3CD-compatible in-dash 6CD changer,
 6 months prepaid Sirius satellite radio service,
 power glass sunroof					$ 1,740
Destination charge					$   625