Ah yes, the Outlander, aka the C-Crosser and 4007…
Yes indeed. Mitsubishi’s new Outlander, which arrives in the UK next March, is the perfect example of the interwoven intricacies of the current automotive market. It’s a soft-roader built on a platform jointly developed by Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler, powered by a Volkswagen-sourced diesel engine and a petrol unit co-developed with Hyundai, and both PSA Citroen and Peugeot will rebadge the Outlander to create their own versions, the C-Crosser and 4007. Expect a start price around the £19,500 mark for the entry-level Equippe, rising to around £25,000 for the top Elegance model.
It’s a hell of a lot better looking compared to the outgoing model.
True, the Outlander’s predecessor was the wallflower at the soft-roader ball, but the rakish and more aggressive new model should turn more heads. Mitsubishi is hoping for around 5600 sales in the first 12 months – around 10% of the UK’s mid-sized SUV market. That sales target shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve. As usual with Mitsubishi, spec levels will be generous. All models are expected to come with climate control, alloy wheels, traction control, anti-lock brakes, front airbags, a decent stereo and keyless entry.
Looks okay inside, too…
While the cabin has some cool design touches – the deeply cowled instruments, the arching centre console that’s replicated in the door handles and the neatly integrated console screen – too many of the plastics on display are shiny, hard and prone to scratching. That said, even during a fairly challenging off-road foray, the dash remained rock solid and squeak-free. The Outlander also offers the option of seven seats. Pull a cord in the boot and a small two-seater bench complete with integrated headrests folds out of the boot floor. Rather refreshingly, Mitsubishi is quite up front about the third row of seats being designed for occasional use by children only. For many families the additional seating will be a godsend on short trips. Family-oriented versatility is helped by that split tailgate – with the fold-down lower section capable of supporting 200kg – and powered fold-down seats in the second row. Hold down a small button hidden in the side of the boot for two seconds and the rear seats electrically flip forward for a flat loadbay. Handy.
Please tell me there’s a turbodiesel this time round…
Yes indeed. But the Outlander’s simple engine line-up – diesel from launch, petrol later in September – belies the complexities behind it. So pay attention. Mitsubishi bashed out a deal with Volkswagen at the early stages of the Outlander’s development to supply its 138bhp 2.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel powerplant. At the time, partner DaimlerChrysler didn't offer its 150bhp 2.2-litre CDI diesel engine because it didn’t have the production capacity to meet Mitsubishi’s needs. But the later decision by Peugeot and Citroen to badge engineer the Outlander into the 4007 and C-Crosser, complete with 163bhp 2.2-litre turbo diesel will mean Mitsubishi is almost certain to jettison the VW engine in favour of the more powerful PSA diesel come September. Which means if you want a diesel Outlander, it might be worth holding on if you can. A 168bhp 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine will also arrive in September, hooked up to a six-speed CVT 'box. Although it shares the same capacity as the engine in the outgoing petrol-only Outlander, this is an all-new unit, the flagship of the Mitsubishi-DaimlerChrysler-Hyundai ‘world engine’ family. Oh, and Mitsubishi’s now annulled relationship with DaimlerChrysler means the Outlander shares its platform architecture with some strange bedfellows like the Dodge Caliber and Compass, Chrysler Sebring as well as the upcoming Evo X. Got all that?
If it shares its bits with the upcoming Evo X, it must be pretty good to drive?
Yes, for a chunky softroader the Outlander feels engagingly keen and alert on the road. The steering is precise and slop-free, the firm suspension keeps unwanted body movements largely in check and it flows cleanly from one corner to the next. The suspension does a decent job of sponging away intrusions and refinement levels are decent enough. There’s a fair amount of early understeer in front-wheel-drive mode but switching the drivetrain to all-wheel-drive using the electronic selector dial on the central console improves things considerably and the Outlander can be punted along quickly and smoothly.
Presumably the diesel is the one to go for?
We didn't drive the petrol, but given the economy and muscular torque of the VW-sourced unit, you’d have to really hanker after an automatic to want the petrol. Keep the engine above 2000rpm – it’s quite laggy for an advanced – and it hauls the Outlander along with ease, delivering plenty of in-gear go. Gearchanges are long but direct, the brakes feel strong and although you’d never mistakenly tank the Outlander with unleaded, the engine is reasonably refined. It’s thoroughly capable off-road too. The Outlander’s switchable front-to-four-wheel-dive system means it’s capable of tackling muddy or snowy paths, or towing a few motorbikes on a trailer. And that simple twist-on-the-go dial means it's easy to switch modes.
Better looking, better equipped, more versatile and now with a fine diesel engine, the new Outlander is a now a far more attractive proposition for the UK market. While it lacks the outright kudos of a Land Rover Freelander or BMW X3, its combination of aggressive pricing, excellent reliability record, sharp styling and occasional seven-seat ability will have real-world appeal for buyers who place sense above status. And it will be even better when it gets that more powerful PSA diesel engine.