Seven-passenger crossover boasts genuine off-road credibility
"The combination of powerful V6, smooth-shifting transmission and tight suspension accounts for the XLS's more lively and engaging character"
"Handsome is as handsome does."
I believe it was J.R.R. Tolkien who uttered that sage observation? If so, the famous author of The Lord Of The Rings could very well have been talking about the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander. A good-looking crossover that often goes unnoticed in a segment dominated by the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, the Outlander flies well under the radar. Which is unfortunate, because the Outlander has a lot going for it.
Looking for all the world like an oversized Lancer, the Outlander breaks rank with its ilk by boasting chiselled lines and sharp planes rather than the de-rigueur curves in the crossover segment. But unlike its smaller sedan sibling, the Outlander boasts seven-passenger practicality, and a much more refined interior.
Just like the Lancer, the Outlander features the distinctive shark-nosed snout. It's sharp, aggressive and masculine with a sloping roofline that adds a rakish air. It may not be conventionally pretty, but it's a handsome vehicle that inserts itself very nicely into a variety of lifestyles with its adaptable practicality.
My tester, a gunmetal gray Outlander XLS S-AWC is the range-topping model in the lineup. Although its colour scheme is a bit on the subdued side, the Outlander's clean lines are nicely accented by LED taillights in clear lenses.
Inside, the cabin is well-designed with good quality materials and a variety of features. While Audi won't lose any sleep over the Outlander's level of craftsmanship, the quality is a big step up from the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer we reviewed last December. Although there are the requisite hard plastics, they're pleasantly moulded and there's plenty of soft-touch material, including a leather hood over the gauge binnacle and leather-trimmed dash finished with contrasting stitching.
The centre console's large round control knobs are easily operated. They're nestled under the graphics screen that displays navigation and back-up camera. It's all very simply laid out, yet aesthetically pleasing. The XLS comes loaded with premium options like automatic xenon headlights, sunroof, leather upholstery, nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system, back up camera and navigation system.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel is fat and grippy, and there are large, magnesium-alloy flappy paddles on either side of it. Unfortunately, they're mounted on the column and not the wheel itself, which would be more ergonomically intuitive, but they're large enough to be within reach at full lock-up.
Leather seats are plump and cushy with plenty of room for four adults in the first and second rows - even five in a crunch. The tiny third row should be saved for small children, or adults whom you don't really like.
Folding all four seats flat increases the available cargo space to 2,056 litres, slightly less than competitors RAV4 and CR-V thanks to the intrusion of its multi-link rear suspension. However, the load floor is level and flat with the seats down and easily reached without bending.
Flip down the tailgate, and it's strong enough to support up to 181 kg of cargo while loading.
Detracting from the overall impression of quality is the insubstantial, tinny way the doors slam, instead of a heavy, reassuringly well-insulated thud.
Underhood, there's a 3.0L V6 that puts out 230 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Lesser models are powered by a 2.4L 4 cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission.
The combination of the powerful V6 and smooth-shifting transmission account for the XLS's more lively and engaging character, it's as sprightly around town as it is performing passing manoeuvres on the highway. The suspension tuning is firm enough to deliver a modicum of sportiness without sacrificing comfort and the steering is nicely weighted.
Canadians enduring harsh climate and hazardous road conditions should take note of Mitsubishi's rally-proven S-AWC system. Outlanders with all-wheel-drive or S-AWC (for super-all-wheel control) have an active, locking front differential and a driver-selectable rotary knob on the centre console marked Tarmac, Snow and Lock.
At a turn of the dial, so-equipped Outlanders can go from 2WD pavement commuter, to automatic 4WD (applying traction and torque distribution as warranted). Selecting 4WD Lock turns the crossover into a fairly capable off-roader - rare in a segment populated by urban people haulers. And, it also features handy Hill Start Assist for added security.
On the downside, the S-AWC Outlanders with the larger mill can be thirsty beasts. Rated at 7.9L/100km on the highway and 11 in the city, my tester rarely dipped below 12.3 overall. And that's premium fuel to boot.
But for buyers who can overlook the less than stellar fuel economy in return for genuine 4WD performance - and the ability to carry up to seven passengers - the Mitsubishi Outlander S-AWC looks like a handsome choice indeed.
This 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS S-AWC review was originally published on Auto-Venus.com.
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