Auto Review: A sportier sport-utility

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Feb. 6, 2013
- Contributed Photo

One of the reasons there are so many different types of cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles for sale is because people’s tastes can vary so much from individual to individual. A big reason why SUVs are so popular (especially in our neck of the woods) is their versatility and all-weather capabilities, and they really do come in all shapes and sizes these days. But if there’s one sub-category that’s a bit unusual, it’s the “sport SUV,” which includes as part of its resume a substantial fun-to-drive quotient.

Mitsubishi has long been a worldwide player in the SUV category, and these days, the U.S. market gets the Outlander as its midsized SUV. We tested a variant of this vehicle that is more compact, called the Outlander Sport, and this sharp, flexible machine has become a Mitsubishi best-seller by combining the attributes of the compact SUV class (including good fuel economy) and adding a more dynamic personality.

The Outback Sport rides on a generous 105-inch wheelbase that helps stability, yet the vehicle is still compact in feel and has a very tight 34.8-foot turning radius. Available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the lone engine is a 2-liter MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control) Inline Four with 148 horsepower. A five-speed manual gearbox is available for 2WD models, but if you opt for all-wheel drive, you get a very slick Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for manual shifting. It’s perhaps not the most refined drivetrain around in terms of noise, but thanks to some tweaks this year, it propels the Outlander Sport quite well and the transmission’s manual mode has six speeds and can make a winding road quite entertaining.

Our SE tester included Mitsubishi’s All Wheel Control (AWC) 4WD system, which includes Auto and Lock modes. All in all, the Sport can deal with winter driving easily, and when traction is good, it is downright sporty in feel. The suspension is on the firm side, but this is one of the reasons handling is very crisp, with excellent control. Brakes are sufficiently strong and easy to modulate, and this vehicle is loaded with the latest protective technology and is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The interior room is on a par with most compact SUVs, with the rear seat a tad more cramped than some of the competition. Mitsubishi’s instrumentation is always concise and attractive, and the controls overall have a familiar layout that’s easy to master. The exception is the radio interface integrated with the optional Navigation package, which, like all integrated systems, takes some getting used to. The optional Premium Package includes a superb Rockford Fosgate sound system and a panoramic glass roof with LED accent lights, giving the interior a more airy feel.

The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC is EPA rated 24 MPG city/29 highway and has a base price of $23,695. With options, our sticker came to $28,570.

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