From the outside, the Outlander is a very good-looking SUV, with sporty lines and nicely molded lighting. The front has a prominent skid plate coming up from underneath, indicating a good approach angle for off-roading. The bumper bisects the grille's honeycombed top and bottom to give it a strong performance look. The prominent wheel arches are pretty common these days, but the clearance inside the wheel wells suggest the Outlander is ready for bigger wheels. We were surprised to find a third-row seat in the cargo area. It folds neatly into the floor, but its minimal padding makes it appropriate mainly as a torture device.
Our review car, a top-of-the-line 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS, didn't come with the navigation option, but we saw a similar system on the Mitsubishi Lancer. What we did get in ours was the standard Bluetooth cell phone integration and the premium stereo, a raucous 650-watt Rockford Fosgate system with eight speakers and a 10-inch subwoofer. It plays MP3 CDs and satellite radio and has an oddly placed auxiliary audio input.
Test the tech: Sound field measurement
Because of its massive wattage, we were intrigued by the Rockford Fosgate stereo. We couldn't miss the massive subwoofer mounted in the cargo area or the neat little tweeters next to the A-pillars. While trying out the audio settings, we found equalizer presets for different types of music, including rock, jazz, and classical.
We also found a setting for Sound Field, which let us choose between Normal, Stage, Live, and Hall. The car's manual told us that Stage is designed to place the sound source in front of you, as if you are watching musicians play. Live is a surround-sound effect, while Hall maximizes reverb, adding an echo-effect to the sound.
For our test, we measured the decibels using each sound field from the front and back seats. We played a steady tone through the stereo and had the volume up at 15. We first put our sound meter on the console between the two front seats, then placed it in the center of the back seat. Here are our measurements in decibels:
The back seat experienced a greater volume variation, but its lower decibel levels and static numbers from Stage to Live suggest it benefited less from the sound field changes. The sound field changes were very noticeable in the front of the car from a qualitative standpoint. We also find it interesting that the Hall setting showed the largest variation between the front and back seats.
In the cabin
Although our 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander came with leather seats, the interior felt about right for a car priced in the mid-20s. It's not particularly luxurious, but most of the buttons are well-integrated with the dashboard and the steering wheel. The one glitch was the ill-fitting hatch over the central storage compartment. With the navigation system present, the housing for the module would replace this hatch.
As part of the Outlander's Sun and Sound package, our car had the aforementioned Rockford/Fosgate stereo system, similar to the one we saw in the Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. This stereo produces better than average audio quality, but it's more of a blunt instrument than a surgical strike. It doesn't offer particularly great clarity from its eight speakers and 10-inch subwoofer, but it does have booming power. Its 650 watts can overpower the front speakers when it's really cranked up, rattling them in their enclosures.