The Sport tacked onto the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport doesn't fulfill its promise as the small crossover is grossly underpowered for most duties beyond the daily commute. We logged 20,277 miles on our well-equipped SE AWD long termer during its 12 month stay in our garage. Staffers who had the opportunity to drive the cute ute did praise the Outlander Sport for its ability to tackle slick road, and a bit of light off-roading thanks to is all-wheel-drive system and cavernous cargo hold for IKEA runs.

Creative director Alan Muir, who chaperoned the Outlander Sport during its tenure, noted that "just about every single design cue on the Outlander says 'go faster,' from the big tailgate spoiler to the side panel lines to the snarling dog-like nose with bulging corner extensions. It all says, 'Get out of my way--coming through.' But don't be fooled by the aggressive styling of this beast. It's far from sporty."

During the Outlander Sport's maiden voyage, Muir thought the parking brake was still engaged. To his dismay, it was not. The 148-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder felt underpowered; freeway on-ramp merges and passing on two-lane roads required careful planning.

Other staffers agreed. Drivetrain complaints ranged from the engine's underwhelming power to the CVT, which made "it sound unhappy at wide-open throttle," wrote online news director Zach Gale. On a trip from Southern California to the Rocky Mountains, I found the all-wheel-drive Outlander Sport's CVT "downshifted" to climb the 6000-foot-plus summits, even in FWD mode. On the return trip, with AWD engaged and boxes of kitchenware in the back, the Outlander Sport struggled even more.

The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport hauls lots of cargo, but with just 148 hp, this crossover can’t get out of its own way.

On a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, Muir questioned the Outlander Sport's handling abilities. After the crossover's stability control intervened in a corner, Muir concluded that the Outlander Sport "doesn't like to be driven hard around corners or even on the straights."

In testing, the Outlander Sport reached 60 mph in 9.7 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 17.4 seconds at 80.7 mph. It managed 0.77 g around the skidpad, and stopped from 60 mph in 120 feet. EPA-rated fuel economy, stands at 24/29 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive and 25/31 mpg with the CVT and front drive. Mitsubishi says the 2013 Outlander Sport's CVT has been retuned to deliver better acceleration performance, though we have yet to test the updated model.

The $28,825 as-tested price may seem a bit steep for a 148-hp compact crossover, but our Outlander Sport included push-button start and hands-free keyless entry, 18-inch alloys, HID headlights, driver-selectable all-wheel drive, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and foglights. A fixed panoramic glass roof, 710-watt premium audio system, navigation, backup camera, and exterior sport appearance package were among the options.

Gale liked the panoramic roof's ambient lighting, which he hadn't seen elsewhere, saying, "At night, there are two lines of LED lights that reflect off the roof, making it look like the aisles of a plane or movie theater. It's a bit weird, but cool."

With 48.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, the compact crossover can swallow more than its exterior size suggests. Muir found the Outlander Sport great for running errands around town. "This update comes to you after numerous trips to IKEA and about every furniture store in Southern California. From a practical standpoint, I'm happy with the Outlander. The navigation system located all the furniture stores, the 710-watt sound system kept me entertained on the way, and the interior is a pretty nice place to occupy. It's just a shame the driving experience is not what it could be."

The infotainment system left a bit to be desired as well. Associate online editor Benson Kong reported the system was slow to boot up while at other times it didn't respond at all. It didn't matter if he used the steering-wheel-mounted controls or touch screen. Kong concluded the entire system needs more processing power.

One impressive feature not found on many crossover is the driver-selectable all-wheel-control (AWC) system, which has settings for saving fuel (FWD), slippery conditions (4WD), and rough terrain (LOCK).

On our January trip to the Rocky Mountains, rain began to fall along with the temperature, which prompted a "Possible Slippery Roads" warning on the Outlander Sport's information screen. The AWC system sorted out the traction as we descended the mountain ahead of the approaching snow storm into warmer, rainy conditions.

For the price, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offers lots of content and should satisfy those who want an around-town vehicle with good visibility and the ability to handle less-than-ideal road conditions. But those with long highway commutes who want some sport to go along with the driving experience would be well advised to look elsewhere for a fun-to-drive crossover.


Our Car
Service life 12 mo/19,957 mi
Base price $23,760
Options Navigation ($2000: incl rear camera, 40 GB hard drive, aux jack), Premium Pkg ($1800: Panoramic glass roof, black roof rails, Rockford-Fosgate audio w/satellite radio), Exterior Sport Pkg ($995: spoiler, diffuser garnish, chrome trim, alloy fuel door), Cargo Pkg ($185: mat, tonneau cover, net), wheel locks ($55)
Price as tested $28,825
Problem areas None
EPA City/Hwy/Comb Fuel Econ 24/29/26 mpg
Average Fuel Econ 23.5 mpg
Maintenance cost $255.65
Normal-wear cost $0
3-year residual value* $10,606
Recalls None
*Automotive Lease Guide