It's been a while since Mitsubishi has sent us anything other than a sporty car for a long-term test. In fact, the better part of a decade has passed since the departure of our long-term 2001 Montero sport/utility. In the meantime, we've gone through three Lancer Evolutions and an Eclipse. But that streak has come to an end.

With the number of utilitarian vehicles in our long-term fleet dropping rapidly, we quickly accepted Mitsubishi's offer of an Outlander. Updated for 2010 with, among other changes, an Evo-derived front end, 10 extra ponies for its optional V-6, and a new GT trim at the top of the range, the second-gen makes an even more compelling case for itself in the increasingly crowded compact-crossover segment.

Naturally, we opted for the king of the hill. With a base price of $30,015, the Outlander GT is not cheap, but also comes nicely loaded with a 230-horse V-6, six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and a toned-down version of the Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel-drive system found in the Evo, which features an active front differential and hill-start assist. Then there's 710 watts of audio power pumped through nine speakers and a 10-inch subwoofer courtesy of Rockford Fosgate, Bluetooth, keyless starting, a sunroof, and a flat-folding third row with just enough legroom for the point guards on a fifth-grade basketball team. There's also a fold-flat tailgate in the back, which makes it easier to load large and/or heavy objects-it can support up to 440 pounds-into the cargo area, and it doubles as a seat.

The only factory option offered on the GT is the $3000 navigation and leather package. Ticking this box raises the price to a considerable $33,015, but adds leather upholstery to the first and second rows, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, rearview camera, and hard-drive-based nav system. Despite all this equipment, the Outlander still weighs in at well under 4000 pounds, which helps make up for the engine's power disadvantage against some of the competitive set and makes for acceptable performance test results.