By Peter Perrotta
When it comes to Japanese imports in the automobile market, Mitsubishi is usually the practically forgotten, neglected stepchild.
Most consumers automatically think of the Big Three – Honda, Toyota and Nissan – first. If you are searching for others, you might even throw in Mazda.
But, if you dig a little deeper, there stands Mitsubishi, a Japanese automaker that has been producing cars since 1917.
I’m not sure what the exact share of the American car buying market Mitsubishi commands, but to give you some idea, in a typical month Toyota will sell about 140,000 to 150,000 units in the U.S., while Mitsubishi sells about 10,000 or less.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the quality of Mitsubishi’s vehicles is any less, it just gives you an idea of what most Americans prefer to buy or lease.
For 2022, Mitsubishi has totally remade its three-row compact SUV, Outlander model in order to try its boost its sales and appeal in the American market.
I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL 2.5 S-AWC for one week to see if this Japanese import SUV is up to snuff with its Japanese or American competitors.
At first glance, the totally remade Outlander – all new from the ground up for 2022 – sure looks like a winner.
This Outlander now sports a very modern, sculpted, rugged but elegant look with an aggressive front and rear fascia.
The Outlander I tested came in a very eye-catching Diamond White exterior with a very upscale two tone – black and tan – leather interior. It gives the appearance of being a lot more of an expensive SUV than its bottom line sticker price of $38,590.
Moreover, a quick glance at the window sticker before taking it for a spin shows that unlike most Japanese imports these days – which are largely assembled in the U.S. or Mexico and are comprised of blended parts from different countries – this Outlander is made from 89% Japanese parts and is assembled in Okazaki, Japan.
Additionally, the Outlander’s engine and transmission are both made in Japan.
I don’t know why it matters to me, but I do like it when I see that the production and final assembly of a vehicle is all kind of self-contained and not scattered globally.
After the surface inspection was over, I was ready for my first behind-the-wheel experience with this Outlander.
Initially, I was very impressed. The Outlander is plenty roomy and comfortable. It certainly has a very impressive interior cabin look, as well.
Moreover, the all-new Outlander certainly does handle well as well. It has all-wheel drive and several drive train mode selectors you can chose from depending on the weather outside and the terrain.
This issue that most automotive reviewers seem to have with the Outlander is in the power compartment.
The Outlander, no matter which model you get, is powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces a non-impressive 181 horsepower and 181 pound feet of torque. That power plant is paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The folks at Car and Driver, for instance, give the new Outlander high marks for its handling and “unexpectedly satisfying” elegant cabin.
However, Car and Driver was not very impressed with the power plant.
“The powertrain is a liability at highway speeds,” they wrote.
Personally, I didn’t think the Outlander’s four-cylinder engine was all that bad. While you’re not going to win any Indy races with this SUV, it’s not as sluggish as the folks at Car and Driver make it out to be.
For the most part, it has enough power to handle most driving situations the average motorist might encounter in a given day.
On the other hand, if you are taking it out for a long highway haul and you want to command the far left third lane on the New Jersey Turnpike, you may be challenged to keep up with the BMWs and Mercedes of the world.
What the powers that be at Mitsubishi might consider is adding a turbo charger or electric EQ boost battery to the engine to give it that extra added shot in the arm it seems to be in need of.
The new Outlander is offered up in nine different models – front wheel drive and all-wheel drive as well.
The SEL AWD drive model I tested for a week is near the top of the line offering. It carries a base sticker price of $33,745.
Added options to my tester included $595 for the Diamond White paint; $2,700 for the SEL touring package; $160 for a welcome lighting package and $1,195 for destination and delivery.
The EPA fuel consumption ratings for this Outlander come in at 26 miles per gallon overall – 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in city driving.
The average annual fuel cost comes in at $1,350 as it uses about 3.8 gallons per every 100 miles.
This Outlander has not been crash test safety rated yet by the US government.
It comes with an impressive 10-year, 100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty – five year, 60,000 miles on the bumper-to-bumper coverage.
Overall, I actually think you get a lot of bang for your buck with this Outlander. It is worth considering if you are in the market for a compact, three-row SUV.
Peter Perrotta’s On the Road column appears weekly. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with comments and questions.
This week’s “On The Road” column is sponsored by Capital Motor Cars.