For 2006, Mitsubishi New Zealand has opted for the outdoorsy moniker (by which Australians knew the now defunct Airtrek) to represent their all-new competitor to the Midsized SUV market segment.
Introducing the Outlander.
We feel the more muscular styling over its predecessor is a vast improvement, incorporating contemporary LED tail lamps and crisper, sleeker lines.
Darkened 'privacy' glass looks great and offers protection from the sun for rear occupants, as well as keeping your valuables out of site when parked around town. There are three different model levels of Outlander available, the base level LS, middle of the road XLS and the range topping VRX. For our evaluation we were spoilt with the more lavishly-trimmed VRX.
Essentially the range looks the same when admiring them from the curbside.
The fitment of stylish 18-inch alloy wheels on the XLS and VRX models, over the LS' 16-inch steel rims the only notable difference in appearance.
Inside, you'll find some impressive kit, dual front airbags, stability control, automatic A/C with cool box and trip computer functions are fitted across the board. While the two higher spec versions pick up additional safety features and creature comforts, such as side and curtain airbags, fog lamps, and high-energy discharge headlights (HID). The VRX also adds leather upholstery, four-way electric adjustment for the driver's seat, sunroof, parking assist and a mirror-vibrating sound system from American audio brand, Rockford Fosgate.
The absence of a tilt and reach adjustable steering column will come as a disappointment to some however.
Mitsubishi Outlander 2006The second New Zealand shipment of VLX and VRX models include much needed steering wheel mounted audio controls, make sure you seek these models out when looking second hand.
The overall look of the cabin is contemporary and attractive, the overuse of hard plastics for the dash surfaces being the biggest drawback.
Ingress and egress to the cabin is easy with the generous hip height of the seats, and the seats themselves are comfortable and supportive. Back seat passengers have plenty of space laterally, but taller people may find the rakish roofline cuts closer to the head than normal. Legroom is agreeable, even in the centre position.
The Outlander retains the same 2.4 litre cubic capacity of the Airtrek but the engine is an all new chain-driven unit. So no cam belt to worry about. The engine is capable of [email protected] and 230Nm of torque @ 4100rpm, Mitsubishi also claims improved fuel efficiency figures of approximately 8.6 litres/100km on average
The power unit is coupled to a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT). The electronically controlled transmission also incorporates a six-speed sport mode, allowing the driver to manually change ratios. Performance was good both around town or overtaking on longer trips; the CVT instantly reacts to the driver's throttle request and whips the power unit into life exhilaratingly. The stepped sport mode on the CVT enabled improved engine braking, and made for some fun through twistier roads.
The Outlander exhibits good on-road attributes; a nice absorption of bumps and road noise was noted. Handling is sharp, and among the best in class.
The steering is lightly weighted and over assisted at some speeds, which robs you of some feed back through the wheel occasionally.
An electronic clutch in the rear differential means torque can be delivered to the rear wheels according to wheel slip, without a complicated centre differential set-up; alternatively two or four wheel drive modes can be locked with the turn of a dial in the cabin. The drive train made light work of some rugged forestry trails and river crossings on our drive.
Despite the whopping subwoofer enclosure in the VR-X's luggage area, there is still a bounteous 882 litres of capacity.
Among the several storage space innovations the Outlander makes use of, one that is easily taken for granted is the plastic slatting on the load floor, it allows for easy sliding of larger items without gouging the carpet.
A split tailgate enables very easy loading thanks to a lip height that's only knee high to a grasshopper at 600mm; the tailgate can also support 200kg, which makes it a perfect seat for sports events or picnics etc.
But the best feature is the electrically activated rear-seat folding mechanism. Depressing a switch in the cargo hold will automatically retract the rear headrests and enable the rear seats to slide, fold and tumble forwards with spring-loaded enthusiasm. Almost doubling the luggage space to a convenient 1691 litres.
The downside of this system is that to return the seats to the upright position, you must overcome the spring's tension, a feat that slighter built people may have difficulty with.
The Outlander is a successful culmination of technology, style and convenience and is probably the best mass volume product Mitsi has right now. With the character and sense of adventure to match the young families it is targeted toward, it shouldn't disappoint.