2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

The Outlander, Mitsubishi's new SUV, sticks its nose out with an Evo-inspired front end.

Although its looks lean heavily on the Evo, the 2010 Outlander GT is a sportier and more fuel-efficient model than its predecessor.
Powered by automated translation

It's hardly rocket science. If you are a car company blessed enough to have a trendy, even iconic, "halo" vehicle, marketing 101 says leverage that popularity to sell your lesser products. Make reference to said status-mobile's DNA in all your advertisements if you can. Emblazon your lesser offerings with nameplates that are constant reminders, no matter how idiotic (as in Chevette trying to ride the coat-tails of the Corvette) the association. And, if the association is still too distant, go overboard and have some trademark portion of the sports car's styling built into your mum-mobile.

If you're Mitsubishi, for example, you'd finally realise (and by finally I mean that the Evo is now in its 10th generation) that your Lancer Evolution is verily the epicentre of that brand DNA everyone talks about; so you should exploit that sporty sibling at every opportunity. So it is then that we find the company's 2010 Outlander looking suspiciously like it has had its snout grafted right from the front of the latest Evo. While you might think that such a transplant is a guarantee of good looks, I would suggest you all google both "911" and "Panamera" and tell me if the snout really does make the car.

The Outlander's transformation will probably not have such polarising effect on the populace (the Panamera, after all, does have its adherents, including, after a few strong mojitos, Yours Truly). Indeed, looking at the Outlander's new snout is one of those not-as-rare-as-they-should-be "why didn't I think of that" moments as it looks so natural. It turns what is otherwise a Honda CR-V type snooz-mobile into something with a modicum of attitude, something this mid-sized cross-over segment desperately needs.

The inside, particularly in the Outlander's top-of-the-range GT guise, gets a more substantial revision. Gone are the acres of awkward, angular plastic replaced by, well, almost as much, but far less angular, plastic. The bin atop the dash is gone, the switchgear has been dramatically simplified and, in the GT, there's even a touch of leather atop the gauge set's binnacle. Said leather also covers the GT's seats with what looks like Range Rover inspired stitching. That might by a market segment (or two) two far, but one has to admire Mitsubishi for over-reaching. In addition, the optional Rockford Fosgate audio system now boasts 710 arrhythmia-inducing watts of sonic power rather than last year's merely deafening 650W. Perhaps there's some form of gangsta wannabee for whom this is a meaningful upgrade, but really, how loud do you really need to play Chattanooga Choo-Choo, even the Steve Lucky & The Rhumba Bums version, before it loses its original je ne sais quoi? The only real downside to the interior revision is that much of the dashboard's plastic trim is still of the old-school rigid construction rather than the softer, more tactile stuff found in Hondas and Toyotas. The Outlander's cabin is a marked step forward for Mitsu, but it still needs a further jog to be on an even footing with the best in its segment.

In the drivetrain department, however, the Outlander is ahead of the game. Taking another page out of the Land Rover page book, the 2010 Outlander has a rotary knob in its centre console, which adjusts its Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) full-time all-wheel-drive system's many sensors and actuators for three separate settings - Tarmac, Snow and Lock. Additionally, the front wheels are controlled by an Active Front Differential so that if one wheel is spinning it directs some of the engine's torque to the wheel with traction. This might sound like the finest of splitting of hairs, but in testing the Outlander's hill climbing ability on a slippery snowy slope, the electronic diff (???) was as important to a rapid and controlled take-off as the lockable all-wheel-drive. It should be noted that, in North American markets at least, only the top-of-the-range Outlander gets the S-AWC system. Lesser models get a revised version of last year's "slip-and-grab" system.

The GT's 3.0-litre MIVEC V6, though mechanically similar, gets a 10 horsepower boost to 230, largely as a result of an increase in compression. The end result is a torquey engine that allows enough power and is accommodatingly smooth as well. Mated to a state of the art six-speed automatic, it may not be as powerful as a Toyota RAV4's V6 but it more than gets the job done. All Outlander V6 models also now feature a novel Idle Neutral function, which sees the transmission automatically shift to neutral when the vehicle is stopped with the brakes applied. The reduced drag, says Mitsubishi, saves about 0.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres of urban driving. While the top-of-the-line V6 has received most of the technical innovation, the Outlander still offers a 2.4-litre inline four engine sporting 168-hp, a continuously variable transmission and can be had in front-wheel-drive guise as well.

Finally, there's the question of how much all of this costs. While the base version's MSRP of US$25,498 (Dh93,666) might have you thinking that it would account for the lion's share of Outlander sales, Mitsubishi estimates that it will be the top-of-the-line GT, priced at a heftier-but-still-affordable $34,498 that will make up 40 per cent of Outlander sales. And, if that's not enough, you can add another four grand to the bargain by opting for the navigation and entertainment package, which includes a 40 Gig hard drive navi system (10 Gigs reserved for music storage), front and rear LCD screens (the rear one for a DVD entertainment centre) and a rearview backup camera. Mitsubishi has truly come a long way from marketing econboxes to freshly graduated college students. motoring@thenational.ae