A first look at the redesigned Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi’s compact crossover utility vehicle, the seven-passenger Outlander, is transformed for model-year 2014, with a redesigned exterior and interior, a new engine, safety upgrades and a boost in fuel efficiency up to 31 mpg for highway driving.

“The shark-nosed grille is gone,” said Bryan Arnett, senior manager for product strategy at Mitsubishi Motors North America. Arnett, speaking at a 2014 Outlander media introduction last week near Bend, Ore., said the main principle behind the vehicle’s new design was improved aerodynamics. The 31-mpg figure, which applies to Outlander ES and SE trim levels with front-wheel drive, is pending EPA certification. The 2014 Outlander’s combined (city and highway) mileage is “best-in-class for a seven-passenger SUV,” Arnett said.

One more trim level, the GT, rounds out the lineup. ES and SE models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine generating 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The GT engine is a 3.0-liter V6 with 224 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque.

Only the SE model offers a choice between front-wheel drive or Mitsubishi’s four-wheel drive system, called Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC). The ES comes only in two-wheel-drive configuration, and the GT only with S-AWC.

The four-cylinder engine is paired with a continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT), and the V6’s partner is a six-speed automatic.

Expected EPA fuel economy ratings for the four-cylinder engine are 25 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with two-wheel drive, and 24/29 with four-wheel drive. For the V6, the numbers are 20/28.

A driver-selectable ECO mode is standard on all models. To increase fuel efficiency, it slightly reduces engine power on initial acceleration, and the airflow volume of the air-conditioning system. When an Outlander with S-AWC is driven with 4WD engaged, the ECO mode enables the vehicle to run in 2WD until a need for more traction is sensed electronically, at which point it instantly kicks into 4WD.

Outlanders equipped with S-AWC also have Normal, Snow, and Lock modes.

Through the generous use of highly-tensile steel in the new Outlander’s body, engineers were able to reduce the 2014 model’s weight by about 200 pounds compared to the previous model.

Suspension improvements were made to deliver an Outlander with a smoother, more comfortable ride.

Serious measures were also taken to produce a quieter passenger cabin for the new Outlander, and to furnish it with upgraded materials for further refinement. All models come standard with a third-row seat that splits 50/50.

Other standard features include air conditioning with micron filter, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, electric power steering, cruise control, audio system controls on the steering wheel, security system with remote keyless entry and engine immobilizer, halogen headlamps, intermittent rear wiper with washer, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player and MP3 compatibility.

All 2014 Outlanders are equipped with stability control, traction control, hill start assist, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, and seven airbags including curtain airbags for the front and second-row seats.

Included on the comprehensive list of optional equipment are heated front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, a power-operated tailgate, rearview camera, premium Rockford-Fosgate audio system, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a FUSE Handsfree Link system with USB/iPod port featuring Bluetooth phone and streaming audio capabilities with voice recognition and commands.

On the safety front, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, and super-wide high-intensity discharge headlights are available as options.

Exact pricing for the 2014 Outlander wasn’t announced at the Oregon event, but according to Mitsubishi representative Arnett, it will start at about $20,000 and top out at about $32,000. He said exact pricing will be announced on March 28, to coincide with the New York Auto Show.

The new Outlander is scheduled to arrive at local dealerships in late spring or early summer of this year.

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