Test Drive: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC

In a vacuum, this top-tier 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander V6 would be a perfectly acceptable compact crossover. It has a nice interior, excellent AWD system, plenty of standard features, decent highway manners, and even a vestigial third row. However, the red-hot crossover segment is far from a vacuum. In fact, it’s chock-a-block crammed with offerings from just about every automaker, all vying for a piece of this lucrative and continually enlarging pie.

The cabin quality is a revelation.

As such, new entrants are coming at us fast and furious, and that’s a problem for Mitsubishi. It is an aging product that, while getting a major refresh in 2016, fights to stay in the game.

All-wheel-drive system leans on Evo heritage

Tested here is the Outlander GT S-AWC model at $37,998. While lesser Outlanders run with a 166 hp 2.4L four hooked to a CVT, the GT model gets a 3.0L V6, making 224 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 215 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 rpm.

It is mated to a six-speed auto and drives all four wheels through Mitsubishi’s S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) system that finds its roots in the now-discontinued and legendary Lancer Evolution sedan. The S-AWC can shift power from the front to rear axles, as well as from side to side at the front wheels with its active front differential, a system exclusive to the Outlander GT.

There are four settings: Eco runs primarily in front-wheel drive to save fuel, while Normal engages AWD more proactively. Snow setting is programmed for slippery conditions, and Lock provides equal traction at each wheel for those really tough conditions. However, don’t expect all this groovy tech to turn the Outlander GT in some kind of jacked-up Evolution.

Compared to most competitors, the Outlander is lacking in dynamic refinement. It has a decent ride over smooth surfaces and tracks well on the highway, but hit some rough stuff and the suspension jars and feels stiff-legged. Its handling is a bit wallowy and imprecise too, exacerbated by wooden steering that is pretty much devoid of natural feel.

Additionally, the V6 feels a tad coarse and weak compared to some competitors – the 3.0L V6 in the Kia Sorento comes to mind. Not helping matters is a lazy six-speed that lacks the crispness of some more modern competitors. Yes, the Outlander sports some pretty racy looking metal shift paddles, but they don’t provide any inspiration to play Mitsu rally-dude.

Impressive interior and features

 

The GT S-AWD does come very well equipped. We get a crisp 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM, sunroof, leather, heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, power lift gate, auto high-beams, and a kickin’ Rockford Fostgate sound system. Safety kit includes back-up camera, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, hill start assist, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation with pedestrian alert.

 

There’s also a 360-degree camera view with a cool feature – press the camera button on the steering wheel twice and it zooms in on the right-side curb view – very helpful when parallel parking.

Compared with Mitsubishis past, the cabin quality in here is a revelation. The dash in this GT looks good, featuring nice plastics, crisp gauges, and convincing-looking trim. Outward visibility is good thanks to the Outlander’s high seating position, tall greenhouse, and relatively slim pillars.

Clumsy ergonomics

Ergonomics are a bit dodgy though – the “buttons” on the screen are small and fussy, and other than the tiny volume knob, there are no rotary controllers for any other functions. You also have to train yourself to not graze the first radio preset when going for the volume control, and if you’re wearing gloves….

Seat comfort in both front and second row is good, although access to the second row is a bit tight thanks to the impinging wheel-well. Folding the seats flat takes some finagling too. The lower cushions have to be flipped forward and the headrests folded before the seat backs come down, and if the front passengers are long of leg and have the buckets back a bit, the second row headrests have to come out. Many competitors have much simpler one-touch systems.

And so to the third-row perches. To be fair, the Outlander is the smallest crossover on the market to offer this feature (even the larger Nissan Rogue ditched the third-row option for 2018), so anyone expecting any semblance of comfort back there is dreaming. Let’s just say the little flip-up seats, which are only kid-friendly, are available when needed. A pair of aces in the hole, if you will.

Currently available on autoTRADER.ca

Taking all this in context, I drove the 2018 Mitsubishi GT S-AWC for a week and found it perfectly serviceable. Owning one of these would present absolutely no hardship – the problem being the competition has moved forward. Still, this Mitsu is a decent value proposition when considering all the equipment that comes with it. And you certainly can’t argue with the five-year/100,000 km bumper-to-bumper, 10-year/160,000 km powertrain warranty that adds credence to Mitsubishi’s reputation of toughness.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC
Engine Displacement: 3.0L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 224 hp
Peak Torque: 215 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 11.2/8.5/10.0 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 291 / 968 / 1,792 L behind 3rd / 2nd / 1st row
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC
Base Price $37,998
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,700
Price as Tested $39,798
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.0
6 Styling
6 Powertrain
7 Quality
7 Comfort
7 Practicality
8 Drivability
6 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value