Sport Utility Vehicles are one of the hottest categories in the automotive industry. There’s something about the combination of roominess and rugged drive capabilities that resonates with quite a lot of drivers nowadays. I should know, I’ve driven SUVs for the last decade and most recently downsized to a compact SUV, the Mazda CX-5. More so than most vehicle styles, there are also SUVs that range from the relatively tiny up to behemoths that almost take up two parking spots at the grocery store.
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GT lands somewhere in the middle; it’s definitely a lot bigger and more roomy than my CUV (yes, new acronym, Compact SUV) with its modest 105-inch wheelbase and capacious 128.2 feet2 of passenger space and seating for 7 with the third seat in play. The jump from a 5 seater to a 7 seater is a big one in the segment, making the comparison with my cosy 5-seater CX-5 an apples-to-oranges comparison.
As always, let’s start with a photo, because it’s a very attractive SUV:
To give the Mitsubishi a proper test drive, I headed up to Breckenridge, one of the premier Rocky Mountain ski resort areas in Colorado. It’s tail end of the season, though, so you can see we’re heading into what the locals call “mud season”. With its confident front design and aggressive details, you can see it’s ready for some tougher terrain than a parking lot!
Viewing it from a lower angle, you can see the classic boxy SUV design has been softened, but that most of the personality of this vehicle are exhibited on the front grill area. Along the side, it’s a pretty standard 7-seater SUV design:
The drive up into the mountains was easy and comfortable with the 3.0L V6 engine, with plenty of power to stay in the fast lane on the big uphill grades. Fuel efficiency? Well, when you’re pushing up miles and miles of grade and getting to higher altitudes (highest point of the drive was over 11,150 feet elevation as I drove through the famous Eisenhower Tunnel).
Making the drive more pleasant, the interior acoustics are very good, cutting out a significant amount of the road noise and making it a pleasure to enjoy the premium 710-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system was terrific.
In a sign of things to come, however, the entire entertainment system was a bit wonky because the nav system relies on CarPlay / Android Auto, so if you don’t have a smartphone plugged in, there’s no navigational system or maps and the Home button gets you to, well, a bunch of app icons that look more like a tablet than a car control system. You can see it in this dash photo:
As an iPhone owner, I use CarPlay and it worked fine, though Mitsubishi doesn’t have the CarPlay license from Apple that allows functionality via Bluetooth (like BMW, for example), so your phone has to be physically plugged in. Where it gets weird is that iPhones can’t run two programs in foreground simultaneously so if you do anything on your phone, the map vanishes. Takes a bit of getting used to if you haven’t worked with it all before.
Then there were all the mysterious unlabeled unimplemented buttons throughout the vehicle. Even on the steering wheel: Look closely at the photo above and you’ll see on the right side there are six button slots but only three utilized. This is repeated throughout the dash design, even on the console behind the shifter:
What are these buttons supposed to do and for what feature set? I know, I know, it’s a cost savings effort by Mitsubishi to use one standard design across all their vehicle lines, but it does make me feel like a bit of a second class citizen with all these unimplemented features and options.
Also notice what features are on this panel, above. Seat warmers? Nope, they were tucked under the arm rest. But steering wheel warmer? Yup. Back hatch open button? No, that’s the control to disable it, but opening the back hatch from the driver’s seat was through a button on the entire other side of the dash. This is a constant design hiccup throughout the Outlander, that buttons and features have been located based on where a button was available, not based on logical grouping for driver and passenger simplicity.
And then there are the beeps. I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car that beeped at me more than the Outlander GT. What was confusing was that it often had no visual indicator on the dash of why it was beeping, so it was just something I quickly learned to tune out. Still as a car writer, I dug in and tried to figure out what was happening. The care featured Blind Spot Warning (BSW) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Lane Change Assist (LCA), which accounted for most of the beeps. One I figured out, to my surprise, was that with the Adaptive Cruise Control feature it would beep when a vehicle left the field of view. Not when a car got in the way of you, but when it departed your lane. Really odd design logic, if you ask me.
The Outlander GT also had the most conservative following distance settings I’ve seen with adaptive cruise control: Even when I changed the setting to allow close follow, it still kept a 3-4 car distance – or more – between us and the vehicle in front. Set it at the max and the distance was rather remarkable and enough that I was honked at more than once by following vehicles convinced I was being too conservative as a driver.
Still, the overall experience of driving was good and as a 7 seater, the middle row had a very nice amount of leg room, much more than my compact little CX-5:
You can also see the very attractive beige interior color and how it contrasted with the quartz brown metallic exterior.
The thing about vehicle design is that once you buy a car, you get used to the quirks and oddities and they become just part of the personality of the vehicle. I think Mitsubishi could do with taking a long, hard look at design clustering and feature implementation, but I’m sure that the powerful engine, comfortable interior and terrific sound system has produced many passionate owners. There are plenty of other choices in this vehicle class, however, so I encourage you to explore all the options before making a purchase decision.
AS DRIVEN: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GT 3.0 S-AWC with Sportronic 6-speed transmission and 3.0L MIVEC SOHC 24-valve V6 engine. Standard configuration with GT Touring Package and floor mat package added. MSRP: $32,095.00 and as configured: $34,150.00.
Disclosure: Mitsubishi loaned me the Outlander GT in return for this review and writeup. Thanks Mitsu!