Car enthusiasts love to argue about cars, and will debate generally anything related to the topic ad nauseum. My wife knows not to talk cars with me unless sheâ€™s prepared to engage in an multi-hour discussion with outlines, Powerpoints, and 8×10 glossy photos. Discussions like these have birthed countless internet forums and blogs, including the usually brilliant comment section here at TTAC.
A common topic: are there any truly BAD cars anymore? We may all hate various brands or models because of poor prior experiences, but it can generally be assumed that all cars sold new in the U.S. can at least perform the basic function of a car satisfactorily for roughly the length of the factory warranty.
*Does it move sentient bags of meat from one place to another without parts falling off? Then it qualifies as NOT BAD.
Through that lens, then, we can look at the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander. Itâ€™s not a bad looking vehicle, and it certainly does what itâ€™s supposed to. Broaden the view a bit, however, and itâ€™s clear that there are few compelling reasons to buy Mitsubishiâ€™s biggest crossover.
Like I said, the Outlander looks good enough. It almost looks lithe compared to similarly sized crossovers that appear bulging and bloated. The strong line rising from the top of the front fender, along both doors, and intersecting with the taillamp gives definition to the profile view.
Iâ€™m not as big a fan of the front â€” and itâ€™s one little detail that bothers me. Note the abundance of polished material on the upper grille, and on the vertical lines that flank the blacked-out lower grille. There is another metallic horizontal bit below, in the area of the air dam,Â but itâ€™s not polished â€œchromeâ€� like the rest of the nose â€” itâ€™s a matte finish. While certainly a polished finish that low on the nose would quickly take a beating, the contrast is jarring.
It drives well, after a fashion. The ride is controlled, and the suspension does a nice job of handling Ohio pavement imperfections. But the Outlander is held back by the drivetrain. 224 horsepower out of a 3.0-liter V6 was an impressive figure 25 years ago. Not anymore, when competitors can crank out nearly 300 horses. The V6 is thrashy and loud, with plenty of noise coming through to the cabin under acceleration.
Mercifully, Mitsubishi doesnâ€™t saddle the V6 model with a CVT like the lesser four-cylinder trims, but the six-speed automatic doesnâ€™t help the underpowered Outlander much â€” itâ€™s slow to kick down for passing, and hunts between ratios when cruising on the interstate.
The cabin shows evidence of cost cutting. The plastics used throughout are quite hard, and while that may be acceptable at the four-cylinder Outlanderâ€™s entry price point of around $23,000, this V6-equipped model is over ten thousand dollars more dear. In this price range, buyers expect a better material feel.
The front and second row seats were comfortable enough for my usual four-passenger load. When unexpected circumstances required that I haul a couple of my daughterâ€™s friends home from a school event, the shortest members of our party were relegated to the third row. That third row is incredibly tight on legroom â€” and when those seats are upright, the cargo space left is minimal. We resorted to putting bags on the laps of those poor third-row kids because we couldnâ€™t fit them in back.
One significant annoyance: the way the driverâ€™s seat rocks back and forth on the mounts. My first instincts led me to assume my example was abused by other journalists, but when managing editor Tim Healey noticed the same issue in his test of the Outlander Sport, I stopped by my local Mitsubishi outlet, where a new Outlander in the lot exhibited the same funky behavior. Itâ€™s an odd feeling, and only reinforces the sensation of cheapness that permeates the cabin.
Iâ€™m likewise annoyed by the console real estate given to the S-AWC control button. Such a prominent placement makes one assume switching between various drive modes is a frequent thing. Iâ€™d think a location on the dash might be a bit more logical, possibly freeing up space for cupholders.
The seven-inch touchscreen looks quite simple, and works nicely. Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay were welcome when the SiriusXM started to bore.
Let me reiterate â€” the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander is not a bad car. It may even be a perfect car for some families, considering the dual tendency of Mitsubishi to offer significant incentives matched with favorable credit or lease terms for less-than-perfect credit scores. Beyond that market, however, there are plenty of better alternatives with more room and better performance for similar money.
[Images: Â© 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]