2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.0L First Test
Improvements for Mitsubishi’s Best-Selling Model?
With just 77,643 units sold last year, Mitsubishi is the smallest mainstream brand in the U.S. Though the Japanese automaker came to the U.S. in the early 1980s, the brand didn’t gain popularity until the 1990s-era Diamond-Star Motors (DSM) trio (Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon, and Plymouth Laser) hit the scene with available turbocharged power and all-wheel drive. In the early 2000s, a few years after the third-generation Eclipse lost its way, the eighth-generation Lancer Evolution (EVO VIII) finally made it to our shores.
Although one might think the automaker’s No. 1 selling vehicle would be the compact Lancer sedan the rally-bred EVO is based on, Mitsubishi’s best-selling model in the U.S. is actually the Outlander Sport crossover. Mitsubishi sold 31,054 Outlander Sport crossovers versus 16,495 Lancer sedans (including EVO X models) last year. Despite a sales increase for the Outlander Sport and a sales decrease for the Lancer compared to the previous year, the crossover also outsold the sedan (24,951 versus 19,451) in 2013.
The last time we drove Mitsubishi’s best-selling model, it was our long-term 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWD tester. To say we weren’t impressed by its performance would be an understatement, as creative director Alan Muir’s first encounter with the crossover shows. “I accelerated and then reached for the hand brake, thinking it must still be half on or something,” he wrote. “The vehicle feels really sluggish off the line, with quite a noisy/revvy engine note, which becomes annoying over time.”
Since then Mitsubishi has made several updates (2012, 2013, and 2015) to the Outlander Sport’s available CVT. With the latest update, the CVT is said to have the gear ratio spread of a seven-speed automatic, though in manual mode it still only simulates six gears. Power still comes from a 148-hp, 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder with 145 lb-ft of torque. Although our previous long-term tester featured the optional AWC (all-wheel control) with a 2WD (front-drive), AWD, and 4Lock modes, this 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE tester came in front-drive form.
At the track, the front-drive 2015 Outlander Sport reached 60 mph in 9.0 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 17.0 seconds at 83.5 mph. Those times are 0.7- and 0.4-second quicker at 2.8 mph faster, respectively, than our all-wheel-drive 2011 long-term crossover. At 116 feet, the 2015 Outlander Sport stopped 4 feet shorter from 60 mph than the 2011 model. Despite the difference in the number of drive wheels, both the 2015 and 2011 models achieved the same 29.0-second figure-eight time, though the front-drive 2015 model pulled a higher 0.68g average versus the all-wheel-drive 2011 model’s 0.55g average. Both models pulled 0.77g lateral acceleration around the skidpad.
Three years ago I took our long-term 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC from the Motor Trend headquarters in Southern California to the Rocky Mountains. To get a feel for the updates to the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE FWD, I embarked the on the same trip to see how well it fared. When left to its own devices (cruise control), the CVT would keep the Outlander Sport’s 2.0-liter engine at the appropriate engine speed to maintain the set road speed for the various road conditions, including elevation changes — even while climbing steep summits at more than 80 mph. Unfortunately, the times when slower traffic necessitated canceling cruise control, the Outlander Sport would struggle to accelerate back up to speed — especially when climbing even the slightest inclines. Additionally, the CVT would stutter or hesitate when gently modulating the gas pedal when heavy freeway traffic required constant adjustment, a characteristic not noted during our tenure in the 2011 model on the same road trip or at any other times. The Outlander Sport handled the curvy bits of road as expected for a compact crossover, though when driven over rough pavement, it felt like there was some bind in the suspension.
The front-drive 2015 Outlander Sport SE is EPA-rated 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined. Over the course of our 1,480-mile road trip, the compact crossover achieved an average of 25.9 mpg. Approximately 1,375 of those miles were spent on the actual round trip with the balance in mixed city and highway driving. The lowest observed fuel mileage of 21.6 mpg was from Los Angeles County to Primm, Nevada, and the highest observed mileage of 31.2 mpg was on the return trip from Mesquite, Nevada, back to Los Angeles. The significant elevation changes between Southern California and Nevada likely account for the mileage discrepancy on the nearly identical stretch of road. Fuel mileage for most of the drive averaged between 24.2 mpg to 26.4 mpg. The Outlander Sport spent most of the trip at 5-8 mph above the posted limits of 70-80 mph, including climbing several summits with elevations between 6,000 and 6,900 feet.
Despite the lackluster drivetrain, the $23,645 (including $850 destination) 2015 Outlander Sport offers lots of standard and available features. Interior features include push-button start, automatic climate control, a tilt and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, and rearview camera.
Our White Pearl tester came with just one option: the $4,900 Touring Package, which includes an upgraded 7.0-inch touchscreen navigation system with real-time traffic, leather seating surfaces, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate nine-speaker audio system including 10-inch subwoofer, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power driver’s seat, a panoramic glass roof with LED illumination, and black roof rails. Total price came to $28,545.
With its modern exterior lighting and EVO-esque front end styling, the 2015 Outlander Sport combines an aggressive face with a tidy exterior (105.1-inch wheelbase, 169.1-inch overall length) that makes parking in urban areas a breeze. Inside, our tester’s black interior felt upscale, and the seats were mostly comfortable on the 9.5-hour drive, though a lumbar adjustment for the front seats would be welcome. The interior isn’t a bad place to be, and the available electronics are appreciated.
The lackluster engine and CVT combo may be the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport’s Achilles’ heel to an otherwise competent vehicle. Good news: Mitsubishi plans to add the Lancer GT sedan’s available 168-hp, 167 lb-ft, 2.4-liter I-4 engine to the Outlander Sport’s option list. Look for a 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.4 ES or 2.4 GT First Test as soon as we can get our hands on that model.
|2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2.0L FWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$28,545|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/148-hp/145-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,223 lb (59/41%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||169.1 x 69.7 x 64.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||17.0 sec @ 83.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||116 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.0 sec @ 0.68 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||25/32/28 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||135/105 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.70 lb/mile|