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Outlander premieres in Sea to Sky jaunt

By Jim Bray
June 14, 2013

Vancouver, B.C. – It sports a brand new set of clothes, a slimmer footprint and new technology. And it's one of the few small utes you can still get with seating for seven and V6 power.

"It" is the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander, which Mitsubishi Canada introduced in Vancouver to three waves of media folk, who got to experience the vehicle's on and off road performance on a trip up the Sea to Sky highway to a mountain top near Squamish.

Vancouver's a fun place to visit, cosmopolitan, with plenty of great restaurants and getaways, and it's a car nut's paradise: you risk getting whiplash from rubbernecking all the great wheels that pepper its congested streets. Better yet, the trip to Squamish is on a twisting and hilly highway that was upgraded to facilitate traffic to the Whistler venues for the Olympic Winter Games a while back.

It's a marvelous road to drive and a gorgeous place to see – truly "sea to sky" as the vistas range from the lovely Howe Sound to various islands, mountains and forests. Yep, the perfect place to try out a new Sport Utility vehicle, even including some moderate off roading that measured the Outlander's mettle.

Though its platform isn't all new, you'd never really know that to look at the  handsome new vehicle. The 2014 Outlander's sleek new look eschews the "Darth Vader's mask-like" shark grille of the old model for a more conventional but still unique front end – while adding super-wide HID headlamps to the mix as well. Its flank has an interesting character line along it to break up the sheet metal, and the rear end now ends in a tailgate you can operate by push button.

After a product demonstration by Don Ulmer, Mitsubishi Canada's Senior Manager of Product Planning, the assembled journalists headed out in convoy through the crowded streets of downtown Van, across the famous Lion's Gate bridge and onto the Sea to Sky highway. One of the first things noticeable about the new Outlander was its comfortable driver's seat and driver-focused cabin, where nearly everything (with the possible exception of some of the "nanny shut off" buttons that were a bit of a reach and a poke-around to find – a common affliction these days) falls easily to hand and is simple to figure out and operate.

There's a lot of stuff to figure out and operate in this version, though some is optional depending on the model – including stuff like adaptive cruise control, forward crash mitigation and the always annoying Lane Departure Warning.

The annoyance factor isn't just a Mitsubishi thing; it's the nature of the technology as of today. Sometimes, as in the case of the Outlander, it just chirps an admonishment at you if you dare cross a painted lane marker without signalling (such as when you're happily apexing a curve); in at least one competitor, it actually tugs at the steering wheel as if it were a driving instructor – or spourse – reaching across from the passenger seat in panic. Disconcerting and distracting.

Hence the on/off switch.

The convoy of four and six cylinder Outlanders stopped first for coffee at a place called Galileo's – perhaps in honor of the new Outlander's "telescoping" and tilting steering wheel, though perhaps just 'cause it was the right place to hit at that particular time. Upon reaching Squamish, the route headed up – 'way up – some mountainside on a dirt road through the forest that offered some marvelous vistas when the trees opened up briefly.

It also offered a chance to try the Outlander's All Wheel Control system's "locked" setting, which splits torque 50/50 front to back and is meant for more serious off roading than the AWC system's other settings. AWC choices include a front wheel drive default, unless the vehicle's cybernetic brain detects wheel slippage, and one which can also send torque from side to side as well as front to back. The systems work; other than the giant mosquitoes up topside, nothing – including potholes and ruts – on the narrow, twisting route bugged the Outlanders and their occupants at all.

Mitsubishi doesn't think many people will go this far off the asphalt, but the capability's there because some customers undoubtedly will. The V6 model and its paddle shifters are ideal for such a descent, though the four banger and its Continuously Variable Transmission performed fine as well, as long as you don't mind the whine that seems endemic with such trannies.

Mitsubishi Outlander
Mitsubishi Outlander
Mitsubishi Outlander

Triple threat…

The 2014 Outlander was designed with three basic things in mind: ecology, advanced safety, and a premium feel. The green part includes a more slippery shape and lighter weight, as well as a driver-activated ECO mode and ECO Drive Support System (you can get a readout on the panel that tells you how "efficiently" you're driving) and Mitsubishi claims the new Outlander achieves "near class-leading fuel economy."

The safety aspect includes the abovementioned crash mitigation, LDW and adaptive cruise control, as well as seven airbags including one for the driver's knees. As for the premium feel, the exterior and interior materials do look and feel quite classy and the interior is a quiet place to be even at highway speeds.

Mitsubishi also offers new premium sound systems, including a Rockford Fosgate one that mounts a subwoofer in the back and, if Rockford Fosgate's track record is any indication, should rock quite well. There's also a new, advanced navigation system that's SD card-based and you can also get dual zone  automatic air conditioning.

The less powerful (166 hp) version features what Mitsubishi calls a "Smart MIVEC" 2.4 liter SOHC inline four cylinder engine the company says has performance similar to a DOHC engine, while offering significantly improved fuel economy. The 227 horsepower V6, a three liter unit, carries over but sips less fuel and emits less carbon dioxide (it's starving all those lovely trees we drove through!), thanks to reduced friction, high ignition spark plugs, an improved exhaust system and high efficiency catalyst system.

Four cylinder versions get the CVT, but V6 customers get a six speed auto that works quite well, with paddles as a nice bonus.

The Outlander hasn't really grown in size except for it being a smidgen taller, but Mitsubishi said its second row seats get 170 mm more travel slide (for extra legroom), with wider and more roomy third row seats as well. Yet the cargo area behind the front seats has grown as well and you can fold the rear rows flat to make a pretty decent hauling area.

After lunch, served at Squamish's Water Shed Grill – perhaps to honor Mitsubishi's hope that the new Outlander will a watershed product for the company – the skies opened up with a bit of the typical liquid sunshine for which that part of the world is known. This gave the car reporters a chance to try the Outlander's rain sensing wipers, which did a good job.

None of the sample Outlanders was forced to activate its Forward Collision Mitigation system, which uses the same radar as the adaptive cruise control to sniff out vehicles ahead and issue a series of increasingly panicky warnings if you remain clueless to what's happening. It can even jam on the brakes for you. It should also slap you a couple of times but maybe that didn't focus test well.

The Mits also features safety features such as Active Stability Control and Traction Control Logic (ASC+TCL), Anti-lock Brakes for the four wheel discs, Brake Assist, a Brake Override System and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. It comes with Bluetooth for phone and streaming audio and a new, Nuance-based, voice recognition system.

The 2014 Outlander is available with All-Wheel Control (AWC) and Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC), the latter of which also includes a "snow" mode.

Mitsubishi offers the 2014 Outlander in four trim levels: ES 2WD, ES AWC, SE AWC and GT S-AWC. Option packages include ES AWC Premium, SE AWC Touring, and GT S-AWC Navigation.  You can choose from six exterior colors, including a handsome copper metallic paint scheme that glistens nicely in the sunlight.

Mitsubishi says its warranty's the best in the world and covers 10 years or 160,000 kilometres for the power train and five years/100,000 km for the rest of the vehicle, including unlimited mileage roadside assistance over those five years.

Mitsubishi's next trick with the Outlander will be on sale in Canada next year and is a plug-in hybrid version they say can be charged fully in approximately four hours and will offer a maximum driving range of over 880 kilometres.

Copyright 2013 Jim Bray

Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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