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Ingrassia: Conservative Outlander offers safe travel

So many car buying decisions are motivated by price alone and for good reason. And that’s why the Mitsubishi Outlander is a good value.

While there are drawbacks, overall, we found the Outlander delivers a compliant ride for families on a budget needing three rows of seating, albeit with small children not needing much legroom.

In the crowded crossover segment, there is competition, though, and the base Outlander is loaded with standard features to lure consumers.

Pros

• Attractive pricing

• Top crash scores

• Excellent warranty

Cons

• Lackluster acceleration

• Conservative cabin

• Mediocre handling

Five trim levels are available this year, including the base ES, SE, LE, SEL and GT with a starting price of $23,945. A lesser priced Outlander Sport seating five is reviewed separately.

There is an impressive list of standard features that can help tip the scale toward the Outlander.

It includes attractive 18-inch alloy wheels, climate control, rearview camera, voice controls, seven-inch touch screen and Bluetooth connectivity.

As you move up the trim levels, more safety gear is added, including blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, full stop adaptive cruise control and an industry acclaimed forward collision mitigation system. There also is an impressive 360-degree parking camera that rivals many upscale imports.

What we found lacking after a week of testing the Outlander SEL trim is sufficient engine power to safely move onto freeway ramps and the ability to pass with confidence.

A 2.4-liter four cylinder engine producing 162 pound-feet of torque is the culprit. Mated to a continuously variable transmission with standard front wheel drive, our Outlander reached 60 mph in 10.5 seconds, finishing behind the pack of rivals. No turbo option is offered.

There is an available six cylinder in the top-of-the-line GT that will increase performance, but its price tag compares with top rivals’ Kia Sorento, Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5.

We put the Outlander through its paces in city and highway driving and, overall, we were pleased with its performance. Knowing its limitations is important, especially when pulling onto traffic lanes.

Electric steering works well in keeping the crossover firmly in place on back roads under power. Sticky all-season tires provide excellent grip and all but large potholes are absorbed for a fairly smooth ride.

Front seats are comfortable, however, we found second- and third-row seats lack cushioning. Access to third-row seats is clumsy and requires a two-step process folding second-row seat bottoms and folding the seat back over.

Cabin noise is minimal once up to speed and rear visibility is excellent. Combined fuel economy is 26 mpg and we were able to duplicate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency average easily. The larger V-6 engine requires premium fuel.

The Outlander is rated among the safest in crash test scores performed by government and independent testing agencies.

We recommend consumer testing the Outlander against rivals to determine if it meets your specific driving needs. If so, the Outlander will be a good choice and value.

• Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

FAST FACTS

Vehicle: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC

Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 166 horsepower

EPA estimated fuel economy: 24 city, 29 highway, 26 combined

Assembled: The Outlander is assembled in manufacturing facilities at Okazaki, Japan. U.S./Canadian parts content – 0 percent. Major source of foreign parts content – Japan – 99 percent. Country of origin for engine and transmission – Japan.

Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Outlander its highest five star rating overall with five stars for passenger, front and rear passengers in frontal and side crash protection and four stars for driver in frontal crash and for rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Outlander its highest rating of “Good” in all tested categories and a ‘Superior” rating for its Forward Collision Mitigation when so equipped.

Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper; 10 year/100,000 miles powertrain

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