If first impressions are everything, the Outlander does not excite as a visual whole, though I do like the GT's 18" alloy wheels. It's not bad by any means, but it's just bland with a weird-shaped front end that feels out-of-proportion and lacking any kind of real stance. On the flip side, there's likely a certain audience out there that might dig the simplicity, but I prefer a more muscular vehicle with some shape to it.
Curiously-dated, the interior of the Outlander GT is nice, but it feels a decade behind the competition. A lack of ergonomics was the first thing to strike me, and the materials reminded me of the 90s - especially the mix of shiny, hard plastics and fake wood contrasting against leather seating. Add some rather blocky controls into the mix, and there's just not a lot to get excited about in terms of styling.
Function & Performance
A cumbersome head unit for the otherwise excellent Rockford Fosgate audio system is another oddity here, with unintuitive controls for navigation, and a ridiculous multi-step process for inserting a CD (yes, some folks still use those). Where 99% of vehicles allow you to simply slide a disc in a slot to load, then hit one button to eject, the Outlander forces drivers to press an "open" button that moves the screen to reveal the disc slot behind it - then a tap on the screen to eject (if needed) - and then another press of the "open" button to close the whole contraption. Those gripes aside, overall function and performance is where the Outlander not only gets good, but excels in some areas.
From a spatial standpoint, the Outlander is a comfortable ride that's easy to get used to. Second row seating offers plenty of room for the kids (we had two in car seats), while standard fold-flat third row seating ups the potential capacity up to seven passengers, but those in the third row will find a tight squeeze, and car seats are not acceptable in that row. Cargo capacity is respectable when going the two-row route, while limited with third-row. All rear seats can also fold-flat for maximum hauling.
The 3.0L MIVEC V6 is powerful, and the Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) worked great with a variety of settings including "snow," which I tried back here in Illinois when a storm hit. The Outlander GT handled great on snow and ice, just as it did on a clear highway. With an estimated fuel economy of 23 MPG combined (20 City/28 Highway), we were running pretty close to that, especially given the Interstate travel.
While adaptive cruise control, front collision mitigation and lane departure systems are optional, the Outlander is loaded with features that have already helped it achieve status as an IIHS "Top Safety Pick+"- the highest safety award issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Traction and stability control, 7 standard airbags (including a driver's knee airbag), side airbags, crumple zones, hill start assist and more are all standard.
While base model Outlanders start around $23,195, a fully-stocked GT model tops off around $34,295.
The Bottom Line
Having reviewed both the Outlander GT and it's little sibling, the Outlander Sport, I feel that Mitsubishi needs to hire some new designers and find a vision that will bring in some excitement so that there can be a visual match for their impressive technological accomplishments. A "family" vehicle should still be stylish and fun to drive, and a decent price doesn't mean that style needs to be sacrificed. The designs here are just lazy and boring, yet again, I can't say the Outlander GT isn't a good vehicle - it's comfortable, functional, safe and we got used to it very quickly... almost too quickly - as if we'd already owned it for a long time and the excitement had passed. And, yes, my girls did really enjoy it, with my five-year-old still talking about "the cool red truck we took to Grandpa Dale's house."
With the Chicago Auto Show just a few weeks out, Mitsubishi is teasing "The Return of a Legend," which points to something else in the SUV realm. My curiosity is piqued... if they bring some inspiring design. Stay tuned...