Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0L LS: Big car needs more heart.

Outlander profileMitsubishi’s Outlander has been around for a few years now, starting off as a smallish contender against the RAV4 in the early noughties, before gaining equipment, weight and style. A nosejob from its sister car came and went before full scale plastic surgery has it currently looking like a rounded Toyota Kluger. A Wheel Thing spent some time with the near entry level model, a 2.0L LS with the CVT (constantly variable transmission) box with the now ubiquitous six speed preprogrammed shift points driving the front wheels. It’s not unattractive in the flesh, with the Lancer derived hard edged nosecone replaced by a smooth, scalloped front bar and bonnet, with reprofiled hedlights that take a second look to appreciate the subtle redesign. The profile looks big yet it’s actually a fraction shorter than the model it supersedes, indicating some clever design work. The rear has been tickled up with some minor changes to the taillight cluster which is now part of the former (immensely useful) split fold tailgate that’s now changed to a one piece. Shame.

Outlander noseThe LS 2.0L came in the standard Solid White which does little to highlight the subtle scallops in the bodywork, particularly at the base of the doors; the darker metallics in the range such as Sapphire or Copper really bring those out and visually trick the eye into thinking the profile is more lithe than it is. Sitting in the reasonably comfortable driver’s seat shows a broad expanse of bonnet with a scallop balancing the trapezoidal lower grille and swage lines running through to the side panels, whilst the driving lights are pushed out to the bottom corners of the front bar, which itself is a major visual change from the previous model, moving to a smoother, rounded shape. The profile is different, with the rear window line modified to a parallel D pillar, with the taillight cluster moded to suit. The overall result is a more balanced proportional look, with the Outlander looking bigger than the outgoing model yet has shaved a Outlander seatscouple of centimetres here and there. At 4665mm long (was 4765), 1680mm (was 1740) high and a decent 1800mm wide the Outlander is a substantial size, which promises and delivers plenty of interior room (shoulder room is 1437 for the front seats).

Outlander rearThe powerplant is the aforementioned 2.0L petrol engine, with 110kW @ 6000rpm and a seemingly ok 190Nm @ 4200rpm….it’s a buzzy, noisy, pipe rattling thing in A Wheel Thing’s test car and the lack of urge under 4k is noticeable in the reluctance to up skirts and run. The CVT box didn’t seem to gel with the engine either, oddly enough, possibly because of the inherent lack of torque, plus the paddle shift lockout (as in there was no option the use the somewhat too low to hand gear lever to shift manually) required shifting to Park to re-engage “Auto” if you used the flappy paddles. Not entirely clever or user friendly. Acceleration is a leisurely affair that gets noisier the higher the revs climb…..once under way, the box seems to sort itself out and it does cruise quite nicely. The paddle shifts seem momentarily hesitant to move gears when asked, leading to a oddly distant sensation when they do. The ride is smooth,Outlander dash compliant, thanks to a good suspension and 70 series tyre (wrapped around Lancer alloys)…..which induces a measure of understeer and some body roll when pushed, whilst the electrically assisted steering is a little numb on the centre but picks up in feel off centre. It’s quiet inside the cabin and comfortable too, which has received a mild makeover from the previous model, with USB/Bluetooth, reverse camera and steering wheel audio controls. Of mild interest is an ECO gauge function and button; when the engine is switched off, the LED dash displays a five leaf clover emblem, with all leaves highlighted intended to show how economical the driver has been…….ok then……The wonderfully intuitive aircon section has been further revamped, making it even simpler than before to use. Kudos.

Outlander bootThe five seater has plenty of leg room and storage capacity is 477 litres with the rear seats up and a whopping 1608 down. The roll and fold seats are still in place making loading into the cargo space as easy as ever. On the safety side, there’s plenty of active and passive systems, ensuring Mr and Mrs Smith and juniors should be well looked after when required.

I’ve little doubt the new Outlander will drive better with the diesel (to be sampled soon) but the 2.0L/CVT combination just isn’t up to the task. The manual maybe more responsive (in the ES) but the lack of torque at lower revs find the Outlander sluggish. The ride and comfort levels in the LS are fine however A Wheel Thing suspects that, with a full load on board, it’d be a snail’s pace to 100 kmh and not that much quicker when required. Priced from mid $30k plus on roads, it sits well placed amongst its peers, it simply needs (and gets in the other models) a bigger heart.

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