Who doesn’t love a good comeback story? The movies are full of them – our star gets knocked down, struggles, and makes an epic comeback. Well Mitsubishi is sort of like that. For a while with vehicles like the rugged Montero SUV, the high-performance 3000 GT and Eclipse and (heavenly halo, please) Evo rally-car for the street, it was a niche player with a big following. Sort of like Subaru is now, when you think of it.
Then our hero got knocked to the ground. The models in the lineup were tame, and lack of funds meant that many of the models were having to compete with older tech and designs. And trying to push a lot of inexpensive products.
Well, in a well-choreographed move, Nissan recently bought a controlling stake in Mitsu, and brought with it money, tech, and the will to bring that name back. And with the all-new 2022 Outlander, we’re seeing the first true effort of that combination. So, is the Outlander a contender? Let’s take a look!
Home, Home on the Range Rover
Well, the outside sure makes a bold impression. While Mitsu says the Outlander was crafted under the design language of “I-Fu-Do-Do” which means “authentic” and “majestic” in Japanese, we think it looks more like the upscale Brit SUV.
There’s a large and prominent front end with a massive “Dynamic Shield” grille, with OUTLANDER spelled out in big, epic lettering. Slim LED headlights hover above massive driving lights that give it a signature look. Add in some chrome bling and a contrasting metal tone fascia and you have a front end with loads of presence.
The massive wrap-around lights add to the sporty profile, while bulgey fender flares and cut-outs in the doors give a muscular vibe. The windows are a bit smaller than on some other SUVs, and it gives a coupe-like look profile that we like. Our favorite part of the side-view are the drop-dead gorgeous 20-inch alloys that fill up the wheel wells and create a rugged, trail-ready look.
Out back, slim wrap-around LED taillights look clean and elegant, while the pushed-in design of the rear hatch plus an above-window rear spoiler add even more sport. Our tester really popped in its White Diamond paint. The Outlander’s bold looks really stood out – we got lots of compliments, and questions about what make our tester was. That’s a good sign!
Mitsubishi says the Outlander’s interior was designed with “Omotenashi” – Japanese hospitality in mind. We’ll just say this is one of the nicest, upscale cabins we’ve seen in any SUV!
A good part of this is thanks to the optional SEL Touring Package, which features an elegant black and saddle tan color scheme that looks rich. It smells and feels rich too, thanks to semi-aniline leather seats, plus what must be the fattest leather rim we’ve gripped on a steering wheel. The fly-by-wire, mouse-like shift lever falls great in the palm of your hand – and looks tasteful surrounded by a machined aluminum panel. Add in a nicely supportive front seats, and you feel instantly comfortable.
The Outlander is the only SUV in its class with standard 3rd row seats – but we wouldn’t get too excited about that – like other mid-size competitors, that 3rd row is only for kids. That said, the 2nd row seats slide and tilt easily to give the little ones easy access, and the 3rd row folds easily to create a spacious cargo area. Fold the 2nd row flat, and you have loads of room.
The Outlander is functional and stylish, but it’s smart, too. You can thank the Nissan connection that helps bring more technology and connectivity than any previous Mitsubishi model. All Outlander models feature standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Along with that, our SEL really brings the goods with a handsome digital dashboard, massive 12.3-inch info-tainment display and 10.8-inch head up display. Wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless charging means you can leave your cables at home too. Topping it off was a great-sounding 10-speaker Bose audio system.
Driving the Outlander shows another step up for the brand. Sharing the platform with the Nissan Rogue is all good things, as its much more rigid than previous models. Under the hood is Nissan’s familiar 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder that puts out 181 hp, and 181 lb.-ft of torque. It’s not the most powerful engine in its class but it is smooth and responsive.
Power is served up to a CVT transmission that mimics an eight-speed automatic, and while we prefer a real automatic, this one is well tuned, and you do glide around quite effortlessly. The Outlander does have a Sport Mode (hint, for some reason they call it “Tarmac” on the Mitsu) and it perks things up, although even in standard mode you get around easily. Stay out of the Tarmac zone and you should be able to hit the 26-mpg combined easily.
Our tester had the optional Super All-Wheel Control all-wheel drive system, featuring six drive modes to adjust the electronically-controlled 4WD system, so whatever conditions you run into, you should be able to slog your way through.
We like the ride of the Outlander, it’s smooth, but never floaty, a little firm, but in a way that communicates what’s going on under the wheels. The steering has a nice weight to it, and overall, this is really an enjoyable SUV to drive. Long road trips? No problem. Zipping around town? Easy. Parking? Super easy, to thanks to 360-degree overhead view camera.
One excellent thing picked up from the Nissan library of tech is the Pro-PILOT Assist suite of driver assist, called MI-PILOT in Mitsubishi lingo. Including Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Lane Keep Assist and Departure Prevention and Traffic Sign Recognition, it’s state of the art and really takes the drudgery out of traffic.
You also get other good stuff, including Forward Collision Warning with pedestrian detection, Blind Spot Warning and Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Emergency Braking. It’s the best equipped Mitsubishi ever in that regard, and in the ultra-competitive SUV market, you need to have the goods – and the Outlander has got them!
Mitsubishi knows they’ve got to sell value as well as everything else get buyers to come through the door. You can get into an Outlander ES 2.5 2WD model for just $25,795, and for a big, well-equipped, and handsome SUV that’s a bargain. And every Outlander features a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty; 5-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty.
Our tester was at the other end of the spectrum, the SEL 2.5 S-AWC all-wheel drive model starting at $33,745. We also had the plush Touring Package which we loved for $2,700, White Diamond Paint added $595, and with a few accessories, and $1,195 for Destination, we rang the bell at $38,590.
There are a lot of SUVs out there, and the Outlander is an in-betweener in size. A comparable, slightly larger, Toyota Highlander comes in at $46,485, While a smaller Mazda CX5 comes in at $33,755. So, our loaded Outlander finds a very comfortable middle ground. And we’ll take the Mitsu’s style and interior over them every time.
The all-new 2022 Outlander is not just a great SUV, but a signal that the brand is ready to make an epic comeback. That’s something we can all cheer about!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.