Mitsubishi isn't a name you hear much, but the new 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport could change that. We recently sampled the new compact crossover and came away impressed. Now, we've had a chance to put one through the paces on our test track and see how it really stacks up against the competition.

As we noted in our First Drive, the Outlander Sport's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine isn't especially impressive on paper. Offering 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, it's down a minimum of 20 horsepower against every other vehicle in its competitive set. Our tester was equipped with a continuously variable automatic (a five-speed manual is optional) and Mitsubishi's Super-All Wheel Control all-wheel drive system (front-wheel drive is standard). While it isn't deal-breaking on the road, the test track tells a different story.

In fact, it's a rather predictable story. Down on power, the Outlander Sport needs 10.1 seconds to reach 60 mph despite its competitive 3362-pound curb weight. That puts the Mitsubishi at the back of the pack, a full second or more behind its competition. The quarter-mile requires 17.1 seconds and is dispatched at 79.4 mph, again well behind the pack.

Things get better when you add a curve or two. On the skid pad, the S-AWC takes over and spits out a respectable 0.76 g average, on the low end of the class but still competitive. It's the same story on the figure eight, where the Outlander Sport pulls off a 28.9-second lap at 0.56 g average, again on the low side but still a match for the competition. The story is a bit better in the braking test, where the Mitsubishi finishes mid-pack, stopping in 125 feet from 60 mph.

Luckily, raw performance isn't the Outlander Sport's selling point. Mitsubishi is instead aiming at value shoppers, offering a lot of content for a little money. Standard features include Bluetooth, USB audio inputs, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, power everything, and Fuse, a Ford Sync-like voice-control technology. Options include navigation, a monster Rockford Fosgate stereo with satellite radio, a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights, and heated front seats.

The value proposition comes in the pricing. Though not finalized, the base Outlander Sport is expected to come in under $19,000, putting it ahead of most of the competitive set. Up-market SE models like our tester should start under $23,000 and a fully loaded model is expected to top out at $26,500, just $2500 more than a base Volkswagen Tiguan. Are the savings and features enough to make up for the lackluster performance? We'll have to have a comparison test and find out.

2011 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER SPORT SE AWD
Base price $22,800 (est)
Price as tested $26,500 (est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engine 2.0L/148-hp/145-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve 4-cyl I-4
Transmission cont. variable auto
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3362 lb (58 / 42%)
Wheelbase 105.1 in
Length x width x height 169.1 x 69.7 x 64.2 in
0-60 mph 10.1 sec
Quarter mile 17.7 sec @ 78.4 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.76 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.9 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 24 / 29 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 0.75 lb/mile (est)
On sale in U.S. October 2010

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