2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC ReviewMay 14, 2012
- Powerful engine.
- Generous cargo capacity.
- Competitive value.
- Rough transmission.
- Soft handling.
- Useless 3rd-row seat.
With more power than it can handle, the Outlander is quirky to drive, but makes smart use of cargo space.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC (that stands for “S”uper-“A”ll “W”heel “C”ontrol) is one of those vehicles that flies under the radar. The plain vanilla exterior won’t wow or annoy anyone, and I’ll be honest, over the first few days I drove the Outlander, I found it a boring ride. But by the end of my week with it, I came away quietly impressed.
Under the Hood
The 3.0-liter, V6 with 230-hp packed plenty of punch, even in the thin air of Colorado where V6 performance is usually neutralized (hence the appeal of turbo-charged 4-cyl. cars over V6s up here). To add to the sporty feel, Mitsubishi put paddle shifters on the steering column to allow me to convert the 6-speed automatic transmission into more of a sports car. The automatic transmission, however, was not the smoothest, as shifts were clunky and sometimes random. Still, it’s more muscle than I was used to seeing in this compact SUV category. The downside: I never saw average mileage numbers top 24 mpg during my time in the Outlander, and I was lucky if I averaged 22 mpg while doing city errands.
With that power, I expected a tauter suspension from the vehicle. No such luck. The spongy ride makes cruising around town or on dirt roads less jarring, but on twisting canyon roads, it was a drag. After a few corners, I wondered why Mitsubishi bothered with the expense of adding paddle shifters to a SUV that corners like a boat.
A knob just south of the gear selector spoke to the Outlander’s schizoid features. Turning it changed suspension to “Snow” and another turn (to “Lock”) locked the rear-differential—serious off-roading stuff. Such options aren’t usually paired with a paddle-shifting vehicle. While I didn’t take the thing rock crawling, it was nice to know that it could handle vertical terrain with that power and 8.5 inches of ground clearance.
Behind the front row seats, I found some clever stuff going on despite the car’s pathetic excuse for a 3rd-row seat (basically, it’s a bench for two sub 10-year-olds made from flat pieces of sheet metal covered in fabric). To access the 3rd row, however, I had to pop the second row forward. The result was a massive space that I never would have guessed was there. When I stuffed my 29er mountain bike inside I could sit it upright (with the front wheel removed) and keep one of the split-rear seats upright. That’s a lot of vertical space, people.
To make it easier to access the rear, Mitsubishi created a short liftgate that creates a flat bench to sit on and to slide gear inside. It’s a nice touch, although I wondered if it was truly necessary—extending the rear hatch several inches lower to close flush with the floor would’ve accomplished the same thing.
This Mitsubishi was a capable SUV with all the safety features (traction control, hill start assist, stability control) and creature comforts (Rockford Fosgate sound system, heated seats, rearview camera) that make it competitive in its class in my book. But none of the above made it a standout. The rear cargo space was the lone exception.