2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
The new Mitsubishi Outlander Sport may share a name with the larger Outlander, but it actually has more in common with the Lancer sedan.
For starters, it shares the Lancer's aggressive trapezoidal grille, but beneath the sheet metal the vehicles also share a basic architecture and power plant.
The 2-liter MIVEC engine producing 148-horsepower may seem a bit weak for a compact SUV, but it gets the job done without much drama.
However, the same can't be said for the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which creates a rubbery delay between throttle inputs and actual acceleration and saps most of the "Sport" out of the Outlander.
In AWC (all-wheel control) trim, users have no choice other than the CVT. Fortunately, for their trouble they gain Mitsubishi's three-mode all-wheel drive system.
Handling is one of the Outlander Sport's strong points, whether it was in its 4WD mode or locked into the 2WD mode. Within its modest limits, we enjoyed our time behind its wheel, despite our qualms with the drivetrain.
Inside, the Outlander is pleasant and comfortable. Passengers remarked that it looked (and smelled) like an economy car, but were wowed by a few of its creature comforts.
One such creature comfort is the Outlander Sport's panoramic glass roof, which creates a dramatic view of the sky that stretches from the A-pillars to behind the second row. Even Mitsubishi's own photos don't do this feature justice.
The Sport's instrumentation uses crisp electroluminescent markings and features a full-color information LCD between two analog gauge pods.
Passengers will primarily interact with the Outlanders cabin technology via this full color touch-screen display.
A wide array of audio sources are available through Mitsubishi's interface, including USB/iPod connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a healthy chunk of a 40GB hard drive for music storage.
In our tester, audio was piped through a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system that is capped off by this 10-inch subwoofer. If you're thinking that 710-watts is too much, it probably is.
One way that the CVT does allow the Outlander Sport to shine is in the fuel economy column. In AWD trim, we averaged about 26.4 mpg--easily trumping the recently tested Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage.
Steering-wheel controls include a voice command button that activates Mitsubishi's FUSE hands-free link system, giving users voice control over the initiation of calls and the selection of digital media--for example, "Play artist Del the Funky Homosapien." OK, it may have a bit of trouble with that one.
Map data is stored on the 40GB HDD and, though legible, is a bit chunky and low-res. Traffic data is included, thankfully.
The Outlander Sport's menus are full of all sorts of neat features, such as this external conditions log. However, the menu structure is so confusing that you'd be hard pressed to find anything you're looking for on the first shot.
A rear-view camera is a must-have safety feature that's included as part of the navigation package.
While we're sure that prospective owners could get more performance, power, and economy out of a similarly equipped Lancer Sportback, the Outlander Sport trumps the hatchback in pure storage space and flexibility. Choose wisely.