It appears that the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander has dodged a bullet. If you've been following Mitsubishi for the past few years, you know about the automaker's shrinking sales numbers, eliminated nameplates (RIP Eclipse and Galant), and lack of fresh product. Mitsubishi, however, plans to stay in the American market, sustained by vehicles such as the new 2014 Outlander SUV. The lighter third-generation 2014 Outlander boasts advanced safety tech and improved fuel economy, so we decided to see if it could mark the beginning of a better road for Mitsu.

The last time we spent time with an Outlander was in 2010, when a fully loaded, V-6-powered GT rolled into our garage for a yearlong test. Years later, Mitsubishi once again handed us the keys to a top-spec GT model, which can only be had with the six-cylinder engine (mated to a six-speed auto), and Mitsubishi's Super All-Wheel Control system (S-AWC). The 3.0-liter V-6 carries over, but is slightly detuned to 224 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque, down 6 hp and 1 lb-ft from the outgoing model. The powertrain is relatively smooth and adequate, but it does struggle a bit on highway inclines, mostly because of the transmission's inability to find and stick with the right gear for more than a few seconds. While most of us praised the V-6 in the last-gen model, some staffers felt the new Outlander would've benefited from a power bump to keep up with competitors' stronger V-6s and turbocharged four-cylinders. (Speaking of which, Mitsu wouldn't have to look very far if it wanted to EVOlve the Outlander's V-6 to a turbo-four).

While Mitsubishi didn't add power, it did add lightness. With a curb weight of just over 3500 pounds, the 2014 Outlander is one of the lightest crossovers in its segment. It also weighs about 200 pounds less than its predecessor, thanks to a body that consists of additional high-tensile steel and lighter chassis components. On the track, the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander V-6 shouldn't be far off from the 7-second 0-60 mph time we achieved in the last-gen Outlander. Mitsubishi estimates an EPA fuel rating of 20/28 mpg city/highway for the V-6 AWD model (V-6 is no longer offered with FWD), a 1 and 3 mpg improvement over the outgoing model. Buyers who want to save more fuel should consider the new 2.4-liter I-4 engine (166 hp and 162 lb-ft), which Mitsu expects to achieve 31 mpg highway in front-drive models. We found it, along with the revised CVT, to perform well, especially compared with the 2.0-liter powertrain in the Outlander Sport.

Also contributing to the Outlander's efficiency boost is its 0.33 coefficient of drag, down from 0.36. Its sheetmetal may be slippery, but it also looks softer than its predecessor, which is still handsome despite its age. To shape the new Outlander, we imagine designers took the second-gen's clay model, sandblasted away anything with flair (curvy fenders and Evo-inspired nose) and called it a day.

The interior, however, is much improved. There's the requisite soft-touch material on the dashboard and door panels; the magnesium shift paddles look and feel fantastic; and the color display in the instrument panel is one of the best examples we've seen in the segment. Our tester's optional Touring package added a power driver seat, sunroof, and tailgate (gone is the last gen's split-folding rear hatch), and leather seats for all three rows. The third row gains a few inches in the leg and hip room department, but it's still far from spacious. Passengers should have no issues with room up front. I spent more than 16 hours in the driver's seat during a road trip from Oregon to Southern California and never felt fatigued. The new Outlander is noticeably quieter than its predecessor, thanks to suspension tweaks and more sound insulation. The ride was never jarring and the new electric power steering should please most buyers in this segment. We did notice, however, a slight hesitation with the EPS coming back to center during quick maneuvers, though most owners might never experience it.

The Touring package also includes a long list of niceties that came in handy during my road trip. For starters, there's the infotainment system, which has a 7-inch touch screen that was impressively clear even in bright sunlight. The navigation system (now with 3-D mapping and real-time traffic) didn't flub directions, though it does take some time to recalculate routes and the voice command could use some tweaking. Perhaps more notable is the advanced safety features included in the Touring package, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, and lane departure warning. All the features worked relatively well, though on a few occasions the adaptive cruise control was a bit too abrupt when modulating between braking and accelerating.

Our fully loaded Outlander GT V-6 tester carried a sticker price of $34,720 including the destination fee, which is actually $800 cheaper than the outgoing model. A base GT costs $28,620 and the base ES model with the four-cylinder comes in at $23,820 (a $300 price increase). The mid-level SE model starts at $24,620. The 2014 Outlander is better than its predecessor but lacks the "wow factor" the automaker needs to boost its image. Things should get more interesting for the Outlander next year when a plug-in hybrid variant joins the lineup. For now, expect the four-cylinder and V-6 to arrive at dealerships this summer.


2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GT V6
BASE PRICE $23,820-$28,620
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/224-hp /214-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3571 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 105.1 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 183.3 x 70.9 x 66.1 in
0-60 MPH 6.8 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 20 / 28 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 169 / 120 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.85 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. Summer, 2013
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