2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC Test Drive

A DriveWays Review...

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander. Photo (c) Mitsubishi

With its 2016 Outlander crossover sport utility vehicle, Mitsubishi channeled the adventures of Hansel and Gretel.

A few years back, like the famous fairy tale kids, the Japanese manufacturer lost its way in the deep woods of customer disillusion and was written off by some experts. But it found its way back with a sack full of design and engineering pebbles and now looks toward new sales horizons.

On the new Outlander, they include a hushed and redesigned interior, exterior styling touches and standard alloy wheels, markedly improved handling, a lower entry price, third row seat with clever folding second row seats, and a newly tuned continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

There are four Outlander trim levels: ES, SE, SEL and GT. The ES comes only with front-wheel drive and the GT has all-wheel drive and a V6 engine. The others are equipped with four-cylinder engines. SE and SEL trims have front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, which costs an additional $2,000.

All versions use the new CVT, which operates unobtrusively with belts and pulleys to multiply power and has no shift points like a conventional automatic transmission. However, the GT’s transmission has a manual shift mode, controlled by paddles mounted on the steering column, which mimics shift pauses.

With a starting price of  $23,145, including the destination charge, the ES comes well equipped: automatic climate control, six-speaker audio system with steering wheel controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power windows with one-touch up and down on the driver’s side, heated outside mirrors, remote locking, cruise control and full safety equipment.

However, the ES does not have a rear view camera, though all other Outlanders do.

The focus of this review is an all-wheel drive SEL, which has a starting price of $27,845. A pre-production model, it had only one option package, a $1,550 suite of safety equipment that included adaptive cruise control, front collision mitigation, lane departure warning, rain sensing windshield wipers with defrosters, and automatic folding outside mirrors.

Other option groups are available, including a $5,250 Touring package that includes the foregoing plus a power tailgate, premium audio system, motorized glass sunroof, satellite radio and a navigation system. Blind spot warning is not offered yet, but not needed if the outside mirrors are adjusted properly.

Power is delivered by a 166-hp four-cylinder engine with 162 lb-ft of torque. It is not particularly fast, with a manufacturer’s estimate of zero to 60 mph in about 10 seconds with a full tank of fuel and two passengers.

The new Outlander’s forte is precise handling and quiet long distance cruising. For a compact crossover in this price class, it is unusually silent inside with negligible intrusion of road, mechanical or wind noise.

Interior surroundings, with shiny piano black accents on the designer steering wheel, tasteful trim elsewhere and soft touch surfaces, give the Outlander an aura similar to some luxury cars. However, the sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the side.

There are four drive modes, selected by a button on the console: eco, normal, snow and lock. The last is a misnomer because it doesn’t lock anything. It recalibrates the all wheel drive system to send most of the power to the rear wheels, which results in quicker, more responsive handling around curves.

The steering also delivers solid on center straight-line tracking.

As of now, the Outlander is the only compact crossover with seven passenger seating. Toyota used to offer a third row seat in its RAV4 but dropped it. Mitsubishi representatives said they expected most owners to leave the third row seat folded to expand the 10 cubic feet of luggage space to 34 cubic feet.

That’s prudent because the third row is vestigial and difficult to access. It should be reserved for occasional use by agile children. Fortunately, the second row of seats, divided 60/40, slides forward to divvy knee room between second- and third-row passengers.

The second row also uses a clever system to drop the headrests, flip the seat cushions forward and flop the seatbacks to provide a flat floor that expands the cargo area to 63 cubic feet.

Mitsubishi sales plunged to its nadir in 2009 with U.S. sales of 53,986, including 15,457 SUVs and crossovers. The 2016 Outlander can adeptly lead the company on a new high road out of the forest.



  • Model: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL four door crossover utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 2.4-liter four cylinder, 166 hp, 162 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with all wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 128/10 cubic feet.
  • Towing capability: 1,500 pounds.
  • Weight: 3,494 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/29/26 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $27,845.
  • Price as tested: $29,395.


Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. Mitsubishi provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel. For more information, see our .