Being able to easily fold the rear seats back for additional cargo room was useful during our transport of an unassembled IKEA bed. Granted, everything from IKEA is usually boxed neatly, but even so, the big and bulky boxes were handily eaten up by the GT's 72.6 cu ft of space located behind the front seats. Rear cargo ingress was made easier thanks to the model's mini-tailgate. The gate also yields a nice shady spot for a picnic or tailgate party.
A small styling redo, though, is only part of the Outlander's refresh equation. Propelling the all-wheel drive SUV is a revised SOHC 24-valve 3.0L MIVEC V-6 pumping out 230 hp at 6250 rpm and 215 lb-ft of torque at 3750 rpm. A new intake cam timing and reworked compression ratio help the motor create an extra 10 hp/11 lb-ft of torque over the current XLS. The three lower trim lines -- ES, SE, and XLS -- will be available in both 2WD and 4WD, while the GT only in 4WD with multi-mode S-AWC (All-Wheel Control). For those new to the Three Diamond's technology, S-AWC allows for 2WD, 4WD Auto, and 4WD Lock settings to be actuated depending on tarmac conditions. It's akin to the Lancer Evo X's system and worked as advertised to smoothly control throttle response and torque transfer.
The brand's six-speed Sportronic gearbox remains in place but now gets an Idle-Neutral Logic system that's new for the model year. The fuel-saving setup puts the vehicle in neutral during complete stops and reengages it into first gear the moment brake pedal pressure is released. It's said to minimize the engine's load and emissions output for a cleaner package. Amazingly, we were hard pressed to even notice the new system's operation, but with that said, it did provide one memorable harsh first gear shift that will most likely be fine tuned before production gets underway. Rowing gears can be handled through the shift knob or, as we preferred, the modern magnesium alloy paddles located behind the three-spoke wheel.
Together with the six-speed 'box, the powertrain was smooth, rarely uneasy, and always with power on tap to hastily motivate the 3847-lb GT on both tarmac and soft-road environments. In a straight line, we were able to get it to 60 mph in a respectable 7.4 sec and thanks to its 11.6-in front, 11.9-in. rear binders, to a standstill in 136 ft. It's no highway charger, but it gets the job done confidently and gracefully. For reference, it takes a comparable - and 128 lbs lighter -- Toyota RAV4 V-6 with 38 more horses and 31 more pound feet of torque 6.4 sec to get to 60 mph and 130 ft to naught. Figure eight times are nearly identical with the Outlander GT speeding around in 28.4 sec at 0.58g and the RAV4 at 28.6 sec at 0.58g.
With a flip of the GT's paddles, the engine screamed healthily in the upper rpm range. Its dapper 18-in. wheels and beefy Goodyear Eagle LS2 M+S rubber nimbly strode over the pavement and soaked up pesky road imperfections. Aim for a corner with care and the Outlander's MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear setups keep it well planted and poised throughout. Steering was light, but still communicative, and thorough enough to allow for trouble-free maneuvering in tight parking lot-like situations.