2014 Mitsubishi Outlander makes some key updates

Mitsubishi’s Outlander crossover utility vehicle is refashioned for 2014, sporting a simpler and more aerodynamic exterior that enhances fuel economy, and an updated interior constructed of materials several notches above those of the previous version.

The Outlander is a compact SUV but it has a third-row seat, so in some vehicle rankings it gets lumped in with bigger and more expensive vehicles, then gets dissed for having a cramped third row and less cargo space than others.

I assume drivers who frequently have need of a third-row seat will buy a bigger SUV, and drivers who prefer a small SUV but on rare occasions need an extra seat or two will accept a cramped third row as part of the deal.

People in the latter group will love Outlander’s generous amount of rear-seat leg room (there’s also a lot of rear-seat foot room, thanks to unusually high clearance beneath the front seats), and the very large, fully flat rear cargo area when the third-row seats are folded.

ES, SE and GT are Outlander’s three trim levels. ES has front-wheel drive, GT has all-wheel drive, and SE is available in either configuration. Base pricing, including an $825 destination charge, ranges from $23,820 to $28,620.

ES and SE models are powered by a 166-horsepower four-cylinder engine whose fuel economy rating with FWD is 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. With AWD, the numbers are 24/29. The GT has a 224-horsepower V6 getting 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and a premium fuel recommendation.

The four-cylinder engine comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT); the V6 transmission is a six-speed automatic.

My tester was an SE with all-wheel drive. Its $26,620 base price was increased by a $6,100 SE Touring Package adding navigation, lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, power sunroof, leather seats, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, satellite radio, power driver’s seat, power remote tailgate, auto on/off headlight control, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

If my own money were on the line, I’d nix the Touring Package and opt for the $2,800 SE Premium Package, which includes everything in the Touring except navigation and the systems designed for people who aren’t alert when they drive.

The premium sound system is non-negotiable. It’s fantastic, a must-have for people like me who consider listening to great music while driving a reason to live.

The four-cylinder doesn’t rock the casbah, but good fuel economy redeems it. And, at least the engine does liven up right away when given a good rev.

Exterior design is tame compared to last year’s Outlander, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As with all design – be it architecture, furniture, clothing or cars – the more extreme something looks now, the worse it will look later.

Mitsubishi could have shown less restraint when designing Outlander’s new interior. There’s nothing wrong with it, but a little more flair would be nice.

2014 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER SE AWD

Base price, including destination charge: $26,620

Price as driven: $32,720

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers, advertisers or auto dealerships control the content of the reviews.

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