The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander got a completely new face. Gone is the boring and flat look it had before, replaced with a set of bold chrome grille bars and jeweled headlights they call Dynamic Shield.
Our tester being a top-trim SEL with the Touring Package had halogen headlamps and fog lights to with its new face, along with LED positioning lamps. If you step up to the the GT you get LED headlamps.
The Outlander gets handsome new standard 18-inch wheels across the trim line, and new rocker trim with chrome inset that goes a long way to stepping up the curb appeal. At the rear is a new rear fascia and the power opening lift gate has new chrome trim and LED tail lamps.
Inside, Mitsubishi tweaked the trims and materials just a bit, bringing some new soft touch trims to the dash, a new steering wheel design, and new finishes throughout. Our tester had the top-level touchscreen infotainment system with Rockford Fosgate audio, and heated leather seats.
The folding rear seat has a new design for this year improved even over last year to be easier to use than before. Once you get the hang of it and get all rows folded down you’re rewarded with a perfectly flat cargo deck and a sizable one at that.
The Rockford Fosgate sub-woofer does take some space at the rear, but there’s still a nice under floor storage area behind the third row which makes for a nice place for its headrests. There’s a full size spare as well, located underneath.
The interior wins decent marks from me on its fit and finish, the material quality and its overall design. I picked on the folding seats a bit and that cramped third row, but overall it earns 4 out of 5 stars.
The driver assistance systems which include lane departure warning and forward collision warming with auto braking do function quite well. The fact they default to on is just a pet peeve of mine. These systems combined with an infotainment system that’s good, and great audio quality bring a total score for technology at 4 of 5 stars.
Under the hood of our front-wheel drive Outlander SEL was the standard engine, a 2.4 liter four-cylinder which comes only with a constantly variable transmission or CVT. It runs on regular unleaded and offers up 166 horsepower.
The CVT transmission is what’s largely responsible for the Outlander’s commendable fuel-economy. It’s rated by the EPA at 25 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. And that is exactly what I achieved in my time with it.
Power from the four-cylinder engine is adequate but the CVT sends driving enjoyment to that springy back seat. So scoring the powertrain comes in at 3 of 5 stars.
Moving on to the ride and drive experience, Mitsubishi made numerous improvements to the chassis, starting with increased structural rigidity, and a re-tuned suspension. Quiet tuning has been done by adding an acoustic windshield and rear door glass and a good deal more sound insulation throughout the interior.
I’m pretty impressed in the chassis department for not only the improvements made, but because this is a crossover SUV that isn’t so large and heavy that it feel like a cargo ship. It’s nimble enough to be rewarding to drive and its easy to live with earning it 4 of 5 stars here.
That solid feel comes from somewhere, and according to the IIHS the structural design has a lot to do with it. They gave it their highest honor of Top Safety Pick + due to it earning Good on their full range of crash tests and its available crash prevention systems.
The Outlander in the larger picture impressed me well with a level of quality, fit and finish that’s above many of its competitors I’ve tested in the last year. If you read its window sticker, it’s built in Japan with 100% Japanese parts content. That must mean something, as even with the springy back seat it earns 4 of 5 stars for quality feel.
With a few features missing in this class, the 2016 Mitsubishi SEL we tested was still well equipped for $31,095. Thus it earns a value score of 4 of 5 stars, contributing to a total test drive score of 4 of 5 stars.