Friday, October 4, 2013

Surprise: Reworked 2014 Outlander excites

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at www.sacbee.com/business

Sacramento, California – Ordinarily, I wouldn’t get excited about a seven-passenger Mitsubishi sport-utility vehicle.

But this redesigned 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC absolutely surprised me.  Really, I’m serious.

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention when it was pulling in various awards for safety and such.  Maybe I should have been.

And while smallish SUV is the theme, this Outlander is decidedly a crossover.

My ride looked station wagon-sleek upon arrival, and as advertised, safety features were numerous.  A closer look at the sticker caused me to yelp, because it was a seriously loaded package for a starting price of $27,795.

Comfort/convenience features were everywhere, and the thoughtful layout of controls for the driver and front passenger was a plus.  Great warranties to boot?  Check.

The GT Touring Package added an eyebrow-raising $6,100 to the bottom line, but I confess it was stuffed with satisfying additions.  That included a navigation system with a high-definition seven-inch touch screen and 3-D mapping, a power glass sunroof, leather seating surfaces, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with nine speakers and a power/remote tailgate.  Sure, I could do without the lane-departure warning system and forward collision-mitigation system (I like pilot control, at my peril, I suppose), but the option package still came off as a winner.

With a 3-liter V-6 churning out 224 horsepower, performance was not a problem.  Ditto city driving, hill climbing and every-man-for-himself freeway commutes.  The six-cylinder power plant has nearly 60 more horsepower than the down-one-step four-cylinder job, and I was glad for it.  Fuel mileage suffered only slightly at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

OK, so you want to know what that S-AWC thingy is in the model name.  That stands for Super All-Wheel Control, which is Mitsubishi’s name for an all-wheel drive system that provides enhanced stability and traction control on serpentine roadways.  Sure, I’ll buy it as my tester performed like a champ on just such surfaces on a jaunt into the Sierra Nevada foothills.  Score one for the S-AWC and Mitsubishi’s engineers.

Again, Mitsubishi touts the safety features of its reworked-for-2014 Outlander.  While most of us worry about a vehicle’s ability to hold up in “the really big crash,” the newest Outlander also tests well in the comparatively less violent, but still common shunt.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently added the “small overlap frontal crash” test to its hit parade.  Essentially, it replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or tree/utility pole.  In IIHS testing, 25 percent of the front of a vehicle on the driver’s side impacts a five-foot-high barrier at 40 miles per hour.

The 2014 Outlander scored a “good” rating in that test. Mitsubishi said the Outlander was one of only two in its SUV class to get a “good” rating.

Good enough.  But for me, that’s not the deal maker.  I liked virtually everything else about it.  Surprise, surprise.

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