Launch report:

Mitsubishi Outlander 2.2 DI-D
And 2.4 MIVEC review

by David Finlay (4 October 2007)

Things have been moving so fast in the SUV sector that a quick recap seems to be in order. Earlier this year, Mitsubishi launched the second-generation Outlander, based on the Project Global platform which is also being used for the new Lancer (and for several other Mitsubishis due to be introduced in the next five years) and using the 138bhp two-litre Volkswagen turbo diesel engine.

Shortly after that, along came the Peugeot 4007 and the Citroen C-Crosser which, apart from some body styling differences and new suspension settings, were simply the Outlander all over again, only this time with a French 154bhp 2.2-litre turbo diesel under the bonnet. And now comes a revised Outlander with a few equipment upgrades plus the HDi and a new 168bhp 2.4-litre unit which is both the only petrol engine you can buy in any of these cars and the only one designed by Mitsubishi itself.

Mitsubishi Outlander.The petrol engine is also unique in that it comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) rather than the six-speed manual used in the diesels. Manual petrol Outlanders do exist, but they're not being brought into the UK, and nor for that matter is the three-litre petrol V6 which is popular in Russia and the Ukraine but is unlikely to attract much interest among British buyers.

As far as Mitsubishi is concerned, the Volkswagen diesel is still the heart of the range, available with each of the existing Equippe, Warrior and Elegance trim levels. The newly introduced engines are more exclusive; the 2.4 MIVEC petrol is being sold only in Elegance form, while the diesel gets its own Diamond trim level, making it better-equipped as standard than any other Outlander.

Including the equipment introduced for the 2008 model year, the Elegance gets 18" alloy wheels, heated and powered front seats, touch-screen satellite navigation, a superb Rockford Fosgate audio system, an electric sunroof, body-coloured doorhandles, chrome scuff plates, rain sensors, parking sensors and a rear-view camera, none of which is standard on either the Equippe or the Warrior. Whether you choose the 2.0 diesel engine or the 2.4 petrol, the Elegance costs £24,999.

The Diamond costs £26,999, which makes it far more expensive than either the 4007 or the C-Crosser fitted with the same engine. In addition to everything you get with the Elegance, the Diamond gets privacy glass, a sports mesh grille, a roof-mounted DVD system and more exterior chrome.

Mitsubishi Outlander Interior.Despite the £2000 premium, it seems certain that the Diamond will be more popular in the UK than the 2.4 Elegance, simply because there is so much more demand for diesels. The petrol version is quieter, and it's also more powerful, but with so much less mid-range grunt it's slower in terms of both top speed (118mph compared with the diesel's 124mph) and 0-62mph time (10.8 seconds to the diesel's 9.9 seconds).

It feels slower, too, since it doesn't produce anything like the same power as the 2.2 diesel at the kind of engine speeds most people will use in everyday driving. And it shows less promise as a towcar, since it has a maximum towing capacity of 1500kg; both diesels are rated at 2000kg.

The use of a petrol engine also limits the Outlander's off-road ability, which was only moderate to start with. Diverting from the launch route to visit a picnic site, I found that the 2.4 Elegance needed two attempts (in four-wheel drive mode with the diff locked) to get over a piece of ground which a colleague told me a Mazda MX-5 had cleared first time a few weeks earlier.

Still, the 2.4's CVT is very good, particularly if you leave it in automatic mode. The alternative is to shift manually (using either the gearlever or the steering wheel paddles) among six ratio holds, but although there are occasions when this seems like a good idea I tend to find that a continuously variable transmission works best when you let it vary continuously.

Mitsubishi Outlander.As mentioned in our original launch review, Mitsubishi doesn't intend to provide UK buyers with a CVT diesel because there's very little call for them. The 2.2 DI-D Diamond therefore gets the same six-speed manual found in every other Outlander, 4007 and C-Crosser.

The first time I drove an Outlander, I felt that the 2.0 Volkswagen engine provided about as much power as the chassis could handle, and I was concerned about what the extra strength of the 2.2 Peugeot/Citroen diesel would do to the balance. That concern was justified, I think, by the French cars, which need to be kept in part-time four-wheel drive mode on tight and/or damp roads.

The 2.2 DI-D Outlander, on the other hand, seems more secure, at least in terms of traction. The test route included a big variation of roads and weather conditions, but there was never a time when I felt that four-wheel drive was a big advantage. Although Peugeot and Citroen have chosen different suspension settings for their own purposes, I reckon that Mitsubishi has made the more effective job of it.

But one thing that none of the manufacturers has been able to do is eradicate the Outlander/4007/C-Crosser's wayward behaviour over bumps. All models can become confused when the going gets ripply, and neither the 2.2 diesel nor the 2.4 petrol Outlander shows any improvement.

Certainly, these are tall cars, and they were never meant to be particularly sporting, but there were times when I really wished someone would do something about the Space Hopper tendencies in the middle of a less than ideally smooth corner. It looks, however, as if that will have to wait until the next update.


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