Road Test Review – 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL – Bigger, Better, Is It Finally Worth It?

When we last saw the Mitsubishi Outlander, it was a few years ago; it reflected the dire shape that Mitsubishi was in at the time. The company suffered from declining sales and the lingering effects of a fuel economy scandal that revealed that it falsified fuel economy ratings for several of its models. The resulting fallout saw the company enter an alliance with Nissan, which helped it avoid complete collapse. However, it also helped the company revamp its model lineup, and the first to benefit from the part sharing was the all-new 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander. The Outlander was once considered a proverbial afterthought in the segment, but has the infusion of Nissan parts finally made the Outlander a winner?


Revamped Styling Gives Outlander New Lease On Life

The 2022 Outlander is built on the same platform as the Nissan Rogue, but while the core platform is all Nissan, the exterior styling is a whole different story. Mitsubishi claims the design follows what it calls I-Fu-Do-Do,” a Japanese mantra that means “authentic and majestic.” While the jury is still out on whether the Outlander meets the “majestic” portion of that translation, the design is undoubtedly very authentic. The front fascia has a reworked front grille, and it now features two-piece headlights that all help give the Outlander a meaner yet more bold face. The side profile is typical SUV, but designers added two creases that run along the upper and lower portions of the body.

The side profile also allowed our SEL grade tester to fully flaunt its 20-inch alloy wheels, with the Mitsubishi being one of only two in its segment to have 20-inch hoops. The other is the Volkswagen Tiguan, but unlike the Mitsubishi, the VW only gets them when it’s equipped with front-wheel drive. The rear of the Outlander is arguably where in SUV tradition, the styling falls a bit flat with the droopy taillights and the faux exhaust tips serving as reminders of the Outlander’s role as a family SUV.


New Interior Adds Luxury And Technology

While the exterior focuses on being the sporty life of the party, the interior is where things change for the better. All semblance of cheap plastics and shoddy seat materials have been banished, with our range-topping SEL model having appointments that would be commonplace in luxury SUVs. The dashboard is a classic exercise in elegant simplicity, and many of the controls and switches have an upscale feel, and we appreciated the knurled controls and even the aluminum trim that was splashed in certain spots of the interior.

The hard plastics have been banished to areas that are unseen by owners, and the quilted leather seats were very comfortable places to spend time in, especially on long journeys. The 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is easy to use. While it comes with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto users (like this author) will still need to formally plug their mobile devices into the Outlander. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster has an impressive degree of configurability and crispness, but the wheel-style layout did take our eyes a moment or two to get used to.

Unlike the Rogue, all Outlanders have a foldable set of third-row seats. They help increase passenger capacity, but they are best left for small children since tall adults will not be thrilled with the tight leg and headroom. The seats also eat into the 12 cubic feet of cargo space, and more often than not, buyers will have to fold them down to help expand it to 34 cubic feet.


Rogue Shared Performance Hardware Makes Outlander A Slug

With the exterior looking like it leaped off the pages of a sports magazine and the interior blurring the line between luxury and mainstream. It’s a real pity to see that the Outlander is still a slug when it comes to formal performance. Like the Rouge, the Outlander is powered by an anemic four-cylinder that produces 181 hp. The Rogue was given a beefier turbocharged three-cylinder, but so far, Mitsubishi hasn’t said whether the Outlander would be getting in on the act too.

The Nissan sourced CVT doesn’t help matters either, and we got to experience this first hand on our way to a friend’s birthday party at Sagano’s Japanese Bistro in the Flint area. Merging into freeway traffic was frustrating at times, and the SUV had the personality of a Bassett hound when asked to make its way down on ramps. The Outlander’s formal performance numbers are still competitive with rivals. However, in a world where turbocharging is transforming the utility vehicle driving experience, the Outlander feels like it’s still left behind the pack.

That’s a shame, too, because just like how the food at Sagano’s wowed our palettes (at the expense of our wallet,) the Outlander’s handling and commendable agility managed to redeem things somewhat. The steering wheel has a nice amount of weight to it, and the suspension’s taut ride allowed our SEL tester to have minimal amounts of body roll. The larger 20-inch wheels and the lack of extensive sound-deadening cause some road and wind noise to enter the cabin, but it does little to mute a driver’s enthusiasm. It’s just too bad that a platform and suspension this commendable had to be paired with a powertrain setup that feels like two different brain trusts designed it. Hopefully, when Mitsubishi gets the ok to add a turbocharged engine into the Outlander, it will help the SUV become a complete offering.


Value Quotient:

Pricing for the 2022 Mitusbishi Outlander starts at $28,790, which gets you a front-wheel-drive ES that pitches alot of the frills for a pure focus on functionality. As you climb higher up the trim ladder, pricing goes up accordingly, with SEL models starting at $34,045.

Our SEL grade tester arrived at the office with the $2,700 SEL Touring Package, which adds a Bose 10-speaker premium audio system, semi-aniline leather seating surfaces, and more which worked with some other minor options to help push the price to a final total of $38,590. That’s just short of the $40,000 barrier, and it does cause the Mitsu to enter territory occupied by better-equipped rivals, but while the Outlander does get slightly worse fuel economy than its sibling, 30 mpg in freeway driving and a combined figure of 26 mpg are still nothing to scoff at.


As far as whether the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander is indeed worth your hard-earned dollar, it entirely depends on what flavor of the SUV you pick. If you choose a lower trim, then you’ll be reminded of Mitsubishi models of yore. Still, if you go for the range-topping SEL, it provides a glimpse into Mitsubishi’s future and what could be a renaissance for the troubled Japanese automaker.