Having reviewed vehicles for a long time now, you have a pretty good feel for the industry. I like to think I have my pulse on the American car-buying consumer. As such, I’ve been a vocal and outspoken critic of the Mitsubishi brand. Many of their previous models had lost their way and were out of touch with what the American buyer wants. So, I will also go on record, here, and say that my tester for the week gets Mitsubishi back on track.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander checks off a lot of the boxes of what a typical midwestern family wants from a three-row SUV. The fact that it’s incredibly affordable makes me fully eat my words about this Japanese brand being out of touch with the American auto industry.

EXTERIOR

The Outlander has modern, stylish looks. The front end has a bulbous, low-key grille. There’s nothing aggressive or overly stylish about the front-end styling, but it’s modern enough and good enough to have broad appeal without feeling dated. The chrome accents on the front, give it a nice look, and make the front look wider than it is. Aesthetically, that’s a good thing. The side profile is attractive and certainly timeless. It has a prototypical SUV look to it, while today’s SUV seem overly styled and somewhat garish. Not the case with the Outlander. The back side is the most attractive side of this SUV. The tail lights span onto the rear gate and there’s a nice chrome outline around the handle area.

ENGINE PERFORMANCE

Performance has been one of the issues I had with Mitsubishi in the past. Most of the Outlander trims come with an uninspiring 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine. However, my tester was the GT trim which had a 3.0-liter V6. This engine is surprisingly good. The 224-horsepower performance may seem small, but this SUV is athletic and quick off the line. The steering is fairly dull and detracts from the driving performance. It’s adequate as a family hauler, but may miss the mark with a younger driver, who aims for more enthusiasm. With this engine, the continuously variable transmission is bypassed in favor of a six-speed automatic. While the Outlander could use another gear or two, the transmission does a good job and is far less annoying than a CVT. I was impressed with how small the Outlander drove. It performed like a five-passenger SUV with less weight and length in both turning radius and handling.

INTERIOR

Inside, I tip my hat to Mitsubishi for making an effort to offer a nice cabin. Other models in the past have felt downright cheap. While there aren’t many soft touchpoints in the Outlander, the overall interior feels on par with other econo-friendly vehicles. Overall, I felt the Outlander’s interior was the best interior I’ve seen in a Mitsubishi brand in a long time. The first two rows are comfortable with firm, supporting seats. The third row is small and should only be considered for children. Behind the third-row seat is only 10.3 cubic feet of cargo area. While the Outlander may resonate as a seven-passenger vehicle for larger families, it’s best served with that third row folded flat to increase cargo room to 34.2 cubic feet.

The infotainment is good and certainly intuitive. And they get bonus points from me for having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as some of its competitors lack this basic feature.

PRICING/TRIMS

There are five trims available for the Outlander with the base trim ES having an MSRP of under $24,000. My tester was the top-of-the-line GT trim which has an MSRP of $32,95. The GT upgrades some of the interior to leather seats and leather steering wheel and gear shifter. There’s even a heated steering wheel. All of these features do add value to an SUV that is still competitively priced.

FUEL ECONOMY

The Outlander GT with all-wheel drive, has an EPA rating of 20 mpg/city and 27 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged around 22 mpg. That’s not bad for a seven-passenger SUV.

I will continue to be critical of any and all brands that seem to create vehicles that miss the mark. But, the Mitsubishi Outlander is not one of those vehicles. For 2018, they’ve created a viable mid-size SUV.

SPECS

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

Price/As tested price……………………. $32,095/$32,095

Mileage…………………………………… 20 mpg/city; 27 mpg/hwy

Engine……………………………………… 3.0-liter, 4-cylinder

Horsepower…………………………… 224 hp/215 lbs./ft.

Transmission…………………………… Six-speed automatic

Drive Wheels………………………. All-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point…………………. Okazaki, Japan

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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