2003 Mitsubishi Outlander
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Mitsubishi has dived into the compact sport-utility vehicle market with its new Outlander model.
The 2003 Outlander is reminiscent of the 1992-94 Mitsubishi Expo LRV (Light Recreational Vehicle), which was ahead of its time.
The Outlander's bold front styling makes it look more distinctive than many small sport-utes, such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.
There's no manual gearbox to help provide quicker acceleration because the Outlander comes only with a 4-speed automatic transmission.
The Outlander weighs 3,461 pounds with all-wheel drive and 3,240 pounds with front-drive, so those wanting the best acceleration should opt for the latter trim. But no matter which version they own, some Outlander drivers sooner or later will wish for a V6 or at least a manual or 5-speed automatic transmission.
Fine in Town
Estimated fuel economy is competitive with rivals, at 21 mpg in the city and 26 on highways with front-drive and 20 and 25 with all-wheel drive. The fuel tank holds 15.7 gallons and only 87-octane gasoline is required.
Based on Mitsubishi Sedan
The front seat's hip point is 26 inches from the ground, so occupants can get in and out without requiring unnatural shifting or lowering of hips. Once inside, they sit rather high, with a good view of surroundings.
Despite an adventuresome name, the Outlander is designed to be used mostly as an on-road vehicle. For example, the all-wheel drive has no low-range gearing for tough off-road use.
Pretty Good Handling
A long 103.3-inch wheelbase helps provide a ride so smooth that one might initially expect handling to be mushy. The brake pedal is soft, but has a progressive action.
The XLS adds special alloy wheels, upgraded seat fabric, roof rails, privacy glass, rear spoiler, white-faced gauges and color-keyed outside mirrors. It also has more distinctive looking Lexus-style taillights.
Anti-lock brakes with an electronic brake force distribution system for surer stops are optional for the XLS. So are front side airbags. Other XLS extras include a sunroof, heated leather seats and a higher-powered sound system.
LS options include keyless entry, privacy glass and special alloy wheels.
Nicely designed outside door handles are easy to grab for quick entry, but the plastic inside door handles look and feel cheap. Front seats are supportive, and the steering column is height-adjustable.
Controls for the radio are small but placed high on the dashboard, which has a classy looking analog clock. Climate system controls are large, but somewhat notchy. Secondary gauges are small, but have a custom-vehicle appearance.
Above-average cupholders are in the front console, and there's a handy compartment for tollway change. Power window controls are easy to quickly reach on the driver's door. Front shoulder belts are height-adjustable, and the XLS has see-through headrests.
Average Cargo Capacity
While refined and generally quite decent, the Outlander has nothing unusual to offer. And it remains to be seen if the distinctive appearance works for or against it. Still, the fact that the Outlander is solid, carlike and comfortable should win it buyers.