The 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander tries hard to stand out from the crossover crowd by catering to specific needs. Does it succeed in making its case?
The compact crossover segment is as crowded as they come, with strong offerings from nearly every manufacturer. We’ve recently written about the perennial stalwarts, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, strong contenders like the Subaru Forester, even next-level luxury options like the Porsche Macan and Mercedes GLC. With competition this heated, it can be hard stand out. So how does the Mitsubishi Outlander stack up? Let’s find out.
How does the Mitsubishi Outlander distinguish itself, then? It’s not through a fancy interior, which is decidedly spartan. And it’s not through spirited driving, even for a CUV, the Outlander is rather stodgy. Instead, the Outlander makes a case for itself as one of the few 3-row options in the compact crossover segment (only other contenders are the slightly larger Kia Sorento and Volkswagen Tiguan) and the only options for a plug-in hybrid.
Unfortunately, these two cases are mutually exclusive as the PHEV doesn’t come with a third row, since that space is taken up by the battery pack. But, if you’re wanting a budget friendly option for a third-row crossover or a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander is your go-to.
The Outlander gets three powertrain options. The first is the base 2.4-liter inline-4 paired with a CVT making 166hp and 162 lb.-ft. of torque. This set up is about as powerful as you might expect, which is to say, not very. The fuel economy, like the power, is at the lower end of average for the segment with 25 city and 30 highway mpg for the FWD version and 24/29 with AWD. The 2.0-liter has a tow rating of 1,500lbs.
You have to jump all the way up to the top GT trim level for the larger 3.0-liter V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic and producing 224hp and 215lb.-ft. of torque. The extra horsepower doesn’t translate to much once you’re on the road, and the 3.0-liter gets a rather embarrassing 20/27mpg in its AWD-only configuration. You do, however, get a significant boost in towing, up to 3,500lbs.
As we mentioned in the intro, one of the principle reasons to consider an Outlander is the plug-in hybrid option, which pairs a 2.0-liter engine with two electric motors. This system does get you 190hp and improved torque off the line, but the real excitement is the 22 miles of pure electric range.
Cargo capacity is shy of segment competition at 10.3 cu. ft. with the third row in use, 34.2 cu. ft. behind the second row, and 63.3 cu. ft. with all the seats down. The PHEV gets even less behind the second row, with 30.4 cu. ft., but a little more in total capacity with 66.6 cu. ft. A plus for the Outlander is the ability of the seats to all fold down flat, a rarity in SUVs of any size.
People haven’t flocked to SUVs and crossovers for driving excitement. We adjusted our expectations for the Outlander accordingly. And yet, the 2.4-liter felt poky, performing at or below the segment average. Highway passing with the Outlander is be a test of planning and patience.
This is partly the fault of the CVT, which eschews artificial gear shifts for a more “traditional” climb up the rev count. In practice this means when you put down the accelerator, the Outlander gets up to speed in a perfectly linear fashion, no muss, no fuss. Some will dislike this behavior since it only highlights the harsh engine note of the 2.0-liter. But, on the other hand, it’s rather refreshing that Mitsubishi didn’t bother having the Outlander’s CVT pretend to be something it’s not.
If you’re hoping the 3.0-liter and 6-speed automatic available on the GT trim would add some pep to the Outlander’s step, you’re in for disappointment. The 3.0-liter adds little in the way of punch. The only real reason to go all the way to the GT is the combination of a third row alongside a 3,500lb tow rating.
The handling on the Outlander is about what you’ve come to expect from smallish crossovers. That is point-and-go driving without much in the way of excitement. There is slightly more body roll in the Outlander compared to the average CUV thanks to the soft tuned suspension. Cornering demands care and restraint for the sake of your passengers. The steering in the Outlander can be described alternately as disconnected or “light.” Here again, Mitsubishi erred on the side of ease of use over excitement.
Comfort is another area where the Outlander performs about average. From the inside, the Outback is inconspicuous and unremarkable. Materials aren’t bad and soft plastic abounds on high touch surfaces, but the quality doesn’t rise to the level of other segment competitors.
The same can be said of the overall design, which positions function well ahead of form. In some ways this is admirable. Ease of use predominates (this goes for the infotainment system as well, for good and ill). But aesthetically the Outlander looks and feels a few generations behind the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe or Honda CR-V.
The harsh engine noise, even from the base 2.0-liter, gets in the way of an otherwise well insulated cabin. Road and wind noise are well contained, so you’ll have to judge for yourself whether you find that engine note inspiring or annoying.
Suspension performs adequately over even roads but gets jumpy on bad ones, skipping over pavement imperfections like a stone. The experience isn’t exactly jarring, but it’s a lot of feedback from the road in all the wrong ways.
As we’ve said, the two biggest attractions for the Outlander are the 3rd row and the PHEV options. But this didn’t stop Mitsubishi from offering a deep roster of trims to choose from. There’s a collection of the typical safety and comfort features, but the biggest attraction here is generous 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty covering the powertrain, including for the PHEV. For our money the SE is the best budget option of the bunch with a decent suite of add-ons and safety features available.
USB port, Bluetooth, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, six speakers, 7-inch touchscreen.
8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, power front seats, AWD upgrade (+$2,000).
Sunroof, rear cross traffic alert, roof rails, blind spot monitor, power folding mirrors.
The SP is an LE with an appearance package giving the Outlander a “sportier” look.
Leather upholstery, power liftgate, chrome accents, “Touring” package ($2,700) includes heated steering wheel, 8-speaker stereo, 360° camera view, and adaptive cruise control.
The SEL is also the first trim where the PHEV powertrain is available. The upgrade raises the price to $36,295.
V6 engine, 360° camera view, sunroof, 8-speaker stereo, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors (adds $585).
GT PHEV option starts at $41,695.
Choices are legion in the compact crossover segment; and the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander makes its case in a narrow slice of that larger pie. A less than modern interior and tech, alongside a sluggish driving experience doesn’t balance out against the admittedly generous warranty or options for a third row or PHEV.
Therefore, only consider the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander if you’re adamant about getting both a PHEV and a compact crossover in the same vehicle or really want to save on a third-row SUV and don’t mind compromising in other areas.