With the discontinuation of the Lancer Evolution, Mitsubishi has officially thrown in the towel on the enthusiast-minded market that it once dominated with the Eclipse in the 1990s. While there’s a chance some of the spirit will return in the future, the brand will focus its near-term products on popular, high-volume vehicle segments, and there is perhaps no bigger market right now than that of mid-size crossovers. For Mitsubishi, that’s where the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander comes into play.
Just two years after a major redesign for the 2014 model year, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander has been heavily updated with a more aggressive exterior design, improved interior and more than 100 individual updates to the chassis. To see how this redesigned and reengineered 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander stacks up against the competition, I recently spent a week putting Outlander through its paces in the new mid-grade SEL trim level.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Exterior:
The first thing the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander had to do to better compete in the mid-size class was to sport a style that was worth showing off. Inspired by the 2013 Mitsubishi XR-PHEV Concept, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander debuts a new design language for Mitsubishi that starts with a bold, imposing front end. The new headlights are now more angular with standard LED running lights giving the Outlander a mean look, and the new fascia adds to this with a mix of thick chrome trim and a blacked-out lower center portion. The rear view has also been greatly improved with larger LED taillights, more upscale trim between the lights and an SUV-like rear fascia. Just for good measure, Mitsubishi also added a new set of 18-inch alloy wheels with a unique triple-spoke design.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Interior:
Inside, changes made to the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander are more subtle than those made to the exterior, but from the driver’s seat, they are instantly obvious and far more appreciated. The easiest change to spot is the redesigned steering wheel, which is leather on all trim levels, and it gets a new three-spoke with added trim and sport-inspired thumb grips. To offer a more refined cabin experience, Mitsubishi has also improved the seating surfaces, accent trim and even the headliner. My biggest gripe about the interior is the abundance of glossy black trim that is a magnet to dust, dirt and fingerprints.
Even in base form, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander offers plenty of value and space making it the perfect all-around family car. The biggest reason to check out the new Outlander is the standard three-row, seven-passenger seating capacity that gives this crossover a distinct advantage in its price class. In the second row, passengers are welcomed with a 60/40 split folding bench that is able to slide and recline for maximum comfort, but even more importantly, these adjustments help sneak a few extra inches here and there for rear-seat occupants. For adults, the 50/50 split third-row seat offered on the Outlander may seem more like a gimmick than anything else, but it is perfectly sized for kids or young adults without taking away any space from the second-row seat. To fold the rear seat, the headrests must be removed and stored, but other than this, folding the seats down is a simple task. If more cargo room is needed, the storage capacity of the Outlander can swell from 10.3 cubic feet with all the seats in place up to 63.3 cubic feet with the rear two rows folded flat.
New for 2016, Mitsubishi has added the new SEL trim level, which provides most of the same content as the V6-powered Outlander GT without the higher cost or fuel economy penalty. Standard features on this trim level includes leather seats, leather on the door armrest, gloss black accents and an eight-way power driver’s seat, and for even more options, this tester was equipped with the $5,250 SEL Touring Package navigation that ads 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, power liftgate, rains-sensing wipers, SiriusXM Radio, power folding side mirrors, automatic headlights and the latest in driver assistance safety technology. The navigation and touchscreen are far from the best on the market, but they are simple to operate with a clear display.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Performance:
Under the hood of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander ES, SE and SEL trim levels is a 2.4-liter inline-four that is rated at 166 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque, but if you want more power, there’s always the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT with its 224-hp 3.0-liter V6. The smaller engine is paired solely to a continuously variable transmission that has been updated for 2016 to provide improved acceleration, performance, shift feel and torque delivery. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the Outlander’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system, but the smaller engine and front-wheel drive configuration of this tester did return this crossover’s best efficiency with EPA fuel economy estimates of 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway**. During my week with the crossover I saw an average just under 27 mpg in mixed driving.
In addition to the CVT, Mitsubishi also improve the chassis of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander with a more rigid structure and updated tuning to the suspension and steering, but the Outlander still suffers from a moderately harsh ride in daily driving. Where this crossover made huge gains, though, is in regards to its overall quality with new acoustic glass, added sound insulation and improved door seals that resulted in a much quieter cabin at highway speeds. It isn’t easy to make a sub-$30,000 vehicle with a CVT quiet, but Mitsubishi managed to do just so.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Safety:
One area where the third-gen Mitsubishi Outlander needed no improvements was to safety as it was already an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ and it had a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (AWD models only; the FWD models have a four-star overall crash rating). The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander continues this trend thanks to standard safety features such as seven airbags, Hill Star Assist and Active Stability Control as well as optional safety features like Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control, which were all part of the aforementioned SEL Touring Package.
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Overall:
After a week with the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander I was left with mixed emotions about this crossover. With a starting price of $22,995* can easily brag about being the lowest-priced three-row crossover on the market, and even this particular 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL 2WD, which carried an as-tested price of $31,095, felt like a lot of car for the money. On the flip side of the value coin, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander does seem to leave out a few of the fine touches that prevents it from fully competing with bigger mid-size crossovers like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot or Chevrolet Traverse leaving it to feel more like a larger compact with a cramped rear seat. At the end of the day, crossovers are all about compromise offering the space of an SUV with the efficiency, price and maneuverability of a car, and with that in mind, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander is the perfect tweener for crossover buyers to consider.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Mitsubishi dealership and test drive the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2016 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.