Driving the ‘hood with a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SUV

While it’s fun to coordinate vehicle loaner periods with road trips, my 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander loan phase coincided with, well, nothing special. Which was great, because it gave me a chance to really try out the shiny red SUV in my day-to-day routine, including driving to and from school dropoff, heading to the gym, and using the GPS navigational system  to find a meeting locale in Denver, about 25 miles from my home base in Boulder, Colorado.

Let’s start right out with a photo, as the Outlander is very attractive:

2016 mitsubishi outlander 2.4 sel s-awc 4-door suv, exterior

This is the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL S-AWC 4-door SUV, in rally red / black. And yes, it was just a happy coincidence that the trees behind were blooming and were also in red. Makes for an attractive photo.

What you don’t get from the photo is how close this vehicle is to an autonomous car. With its terrific adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation, the vehicle really could control much of the driving experience. With the lane departure warning system, it could almost also steer, but primarily the Outlander can manage your speed, even in heavy traffic.

Look at this photo of the dashboard, and pay attention to the top center region:

2016 mitsubishi outlander dashboard with cruise control

See the top box with the car and three white parallelograms and “69 mph”? That’s the cruise control display system, and the number of white boxes indicates your preference for how close it can get to the car in front.

In this case, it’s the maximum follow gap, but you can use the corresponding button on the steering wheel control to allow the car to get closer to the vehicle in front:

2016 mitsubishi outlander cruise control buttons, steering wheel

When you are driving with adaptive cruise control and the vehicle in front starts to brake, the natural tendency is to brake your own vehicle, and that’s a good idea, but the Outlander can handle the situation by itself too, slowing the car down, even to a complete stop if needed. If the traffic slows down and speeds up again, the Outlander will also speed up, capping out at whatever speed you’ve set when you engaged the cruise control itself.

As someone who has been driving “the old fashioned way” (e.g., manually) for decades, there’s a significant amount of trust required to let the vehicle manage your acceleration and deceleration, but once you realize what it can do, the Outlander is a bit magic and really does give you a preview of what self-driving cars are going to be like. And it’s a pretty cool future!

The 2016 Outlander also has a remarkable amount of internal space, including a deep back area for luggage, sporting gear, or even groceries:

2016 mitsubishi outlander back compartment

One great reason for this depth is that the Outlander has a third row seat that folds completely out of the way — as shown — but can be pulled up, half at a time, to offer bonus seating for little ones. Definitely not enough space for adults or even teens, nor are they designed for baby seats, but for a child old enough to use just a booster or a regular seat, it’s really helpful!

Now look again at this vehicle and marvel that Mitsubishi has somehow squeezed a third row seat into a mid-size SUV:

back corner, exterior, mitsubishi outlander 2016

With both of my exterior shots, you can tell that the vehicle isn’t locked. How? Because the Outlander has another neat feature: when you lock it, the side view mirrors automatically fold in to the window, keeping them safe from clumsy drivers in parking lots, etc.

New for 2016 is the Mitsubishi Multi Communication System (MMCS), with its big, bright 7-inch screen, all-new 3D mapping system, road speed limits display and quite impressive Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, pushing out 710 watts through nine speakers. Including a 10-inch subwoofer that you can just barely see on the left side in the earlier photo of the back cargo space.

That’s the good news. And Mitsubishi has put a lot of effort into the new MMCS too. But it’s still going to need one more revision because it has some oddities that can be a bit annoying. For example, Sirius XM sends album cover art along with track information, but the MMCS Sirius interface is so busy with options that when you’re listening to an XM station, it’s hard to even find the track info. And the album art? Missing completely:

mitsubishi multi communication system mmcs 2016

See the “Open/Close” button on the lower right? That will actually open up the entire screen, gaining you access to the CD player insertion slot. My suspicion is that many owners will use this system for years without ever realizing that there is a CD player!

All of that was manageable, but the one quirk of the MMCS that was really annoying was related to the navigational system. Enter an address and the car can help you get to your destination easily enough. It can even talk to you with a pleasant voice saying “turn left, 500 yards” and related.

Until you decide you want the navigation but don’t want to hear the voice because your’e listening to an audio book or immersed in some music, as we were. And then you realize that even when you go to the Settings > Navigational System > Voice Settings you can’t make the voice louder, softer or turn it off. Here’s all you can change:

nav voice settings, mitsubishi multi communication system mmcs 2016

A bit confusing, really, but my theory is that the Mitsubishi just forgot to add this setting before they shipped the system. Perhaps it’ll show up in an update?

And then there was the green “leaf rating” you get when you turn off the vehicle after each time you’ve driving the vehicle, as shown here:

mitsubishi green leaf rating

On a 5-point system, I apparently scored a 3. But with no additional information about how to improve my score (Less aggressive acceleration? Gentler braking? Staying at or below the speed limit? Not idling in a parking lot?) it’s hard to know how to attain the 5-leaf rating. Gaming your driving to teach drivers how to be more energy efficient is terrific, but not explaining what’s happening mitigates that benefit for all but the most hardcore.

Even with those small quirks, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 4-door SUV is a really solid choice for a growing family or someone who wants a mid-size SUV with lots of cargo capacity, flexibility and the luxurious features of a family sedan, including a splendid audio system and lots of useful vehicle smarts and safety additions.

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL S-AWC 4-Door SUV, Total MSRP as configured: $33,095.00, including $5,250 in optional equipment and $850 destination and handling charges. Learn more at MitsubishiCars.com.

Disclosure: Mitsubishi Motors loaned me the 2016 Outlander for 7 days for the purposes of this review. My opinion has not been influenced, however, and represents my own views and opinions.

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