The name Mitsubishi is pretty much known world-wide as an excellent Japanese car manufacturer. Yet here in Canada, they seem to have been struggling to get the recognition that they deserve.
This puzzles me a little, as I come from Europe, where the Mitsubishi name is almost legendary.
I can still remember their Shogun / Montero 4×4 model, which won the European 4×4 of the Year Award for years in succession. It was a great off-roader. I know, I competed in 4×4 trials against many of them, and often came off the loser in my “British” rig.
On the road, it was as good, if not better than most of the other Japanese players.
When the company decided to bring the 2 door version of that model over to North America in the 80’s, they joint-marketed it as a Dodge Raider…it totally flopped!
The funny thing is, the people who did purchase them rave about how good they were, and you still see the occasional one on the road, which is a testament to their longevity.
When Mitsubishi decided to come into Canada under their own nameplate, few had ever heard of them. Although they had been producing vehicles since the 1920’s, and have a sound reputation, it was hard, at first, to convince Canadians that they weren’t a start-up operation.
Slowly, the word is getting out, and sales are now picking up nicely for the company. I see them “going places” in the near future.
Much of this is being driven by proven products like their sporty Lancer, and their well-priced small SUV, the Outlander. Later this year, the company is even set to launch on us their “world famous” Lancer Evolution 10!
Mitsubishi is also doing very well in terms of new dealership enquiries, with 14 new dealers added in 2006, and another 15 coming this year. Starting a new dealership today doesn’t exactly cost “chicken feed”, and so there are obviously a few shrewd people in the industry who share my views on the company’s future.
I’m truly looking forward to getting behind the wheel of an Evo, but until then, I’m going to give you my thoughts on the 2008 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Now this vehicle boasts a lot of stuff, but probably the first item that I should mention, is that it is the most affordable 6 cylinder Japanese SUV on the market. It also has more horsepower / torque than any other vehicle in its class.
That’s impressive, but it takes a lot to win the hearts and minds of the Canadian SUV buyer. With that in mind, Mitsubishi has added a whole host of available goodies to the vehicle which you don’t typically see in this price segment, and then topped it off with one of the best warranties in the business.
All this, and the Outlander is certainly no “ugly duckling” either. In fact, when you see one on the road, it is hard to believe that the Outlander can be purchased for so little (prices range from $25,498 – $ 36,998).
I can’t help but wonder if this hasn’t been what’s held them back for so long. It’s a little like asking someone how much Beluga Caviar costs. Most people couldn’t even guess. They just don’t know as it’s not something that most people have on their shopping lists.
That’s changing now for Mitsubishi, with the help of some very clever television advertising. Customer interest is building, and can be measured by the fact that the company’s website traffic has jumped dramatically since the TV campaign started.
The Outlander is certainly one vehicle which will help them achieve their sales goals, as the small SUV market is a hotly contested marketplace, and they are sitting pretty with this model.
The Outlander offers standard and available features like Bluetooth, paddle shift 6 speed auto box, selectable AWD, Rockford Fosgate 650 watt stereo, Keyless Ignition, Sat Nav. The list goes on and on, and reads more like the option list on a premium badge vehicle.
Then, there are clever design items like the stow-in-the-floor 3rd row seat, and their segment-exclusive Flap-Fold rear tailgate, which makes loading heavy objects a breeze.
I know, all this sounds very nice, but what’s it like to drive?
Well, let me put it this way…I’m not going to compare it to these vehicles, that wouldn’t be fair, but it did put me in mind of the Mazda CX7, and the Acura RDX. To be fair, that was maybe because the interior of the Outlander tends to resemble them in many ways.
The all new 220 hp V6 model, which I tested, certainly moved, and the suspension setup had definitely been designed to handle that performance.
Being honest, I did notice one or two squeaks and rattles, but then again, I’ve managed to find a few of those on some big ticket items in the past, especially whilst pushing them through the twists and turns at speed.
This brings me to another plus-point for the vehicle. The Outlander has an aluminum roof panel which lowers the centre of gravity of the vehicle.
The Outlander also boasts extremely high levels of body rigidity. In fact, when compared with the CRV, it is 26% better in Torsional Rigidity and a whopping 139% better in Flexural Rigidity.
This maybe accounts for the handling characteristics of the vehicle, and possibly even the squeaks and rattles. After all, it is hard to make a vehicle perform, be comfortable, and quiet all at the same time, unless of course you put “big bucks” into it.
That is where I’m going to end my story…on the price. At the end of the day, we all choose vehicles according to what we “want”, and what we “can afford”. I’m not going to tell you that this is “the best little SUV on the planet”. What I will say, is that “if you’re in the market for a small SUV, and your name’s not Rockefeller, then you have to check out the Mitsubishi Outlander”.