Outlander is a real success story for Mitsubishi in New Zealand - in fact, you'd hate to think where the marque might be without it.
In many respects, in recent times this medium-sized SUV has not only been asked to offer itself to Mitsubishi customers as
POWER PLANT: 2.0-litre four cylinder SOHC petrol engine, 112 kW at 6000 rpm, 193 Nm at 4200 rpm. 2.4-litre four cylinder SOHC petrol engine, 126 kW at 6000 rpm, 224 Nm at 4200 rpm. 2.2-litre four cylinder turbocharged diesel, 112 kW at 3500 rpm, 366 Nm at 1500-2750 rpm. All engines have push-button economy mode.
RUNNING GEAR: LS petrol is front-wheel drive, all the rest are on-demand 4WD with push-button mode selection. Petrol models have continuously variable automatic transmission with six-speed sport mode, diesels have six-speed auto with sports mode. MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link setup at the rear. Electronic power steering.
HOW BIG: Length 4655mm, width 1800mm, height 1680mm, wheelbase 2670mm.
HOW MUCH: Petrol: LS 2WD $39,990. LS 4WD $43,990, XLS 4WD 7-seater $47,490, VRX 4WD 7-seater $54,490. Diesel: VR 4WD $49,990, VRX 4WD 7-seater $56,990. WHAT'S GOOD: Nice drive, very nice new diesel, sharp pricing.
WHAT'S NOT: Looks are fairly conservative.
OUR VERDICT: Introduction of diesel models should help the Outlander continue to lay claim to being a favourite medium-sized SUV.
It speaks volumes about the quality of Outlander that it has gone a long way towards meeting those requirements. More than 7500 of them have been sold here, which has allowed Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand to claim it to be our country's favourite mid- sized SUV.
Actually, right now it isn't. That spot has been taken over by the Holden Captiva, which from April has held a commanding lead over the opposition. And other vehicles to do very well this year include the Hyundai Santa Fe, the new Mazda CX-5 and the latest- generation Honda CR-V.
The MMNZ people reckon a major reason for the erosion of Outlander's popularity is because it has been an aged vehicle with an aged interior. It's also because most of the newer SUVs, particularly the Captiva, Hyundai Santa Fe and CX-5, have been offered with a choice of diesel power, which is something the Outlander hasn't been able to do.
But now it can.
A new third-generation Outlander has entered the Kiwi market, and for the first time it can be purchased with turbodiesel power. This is leading MMNZ to believe the vehicle can get back up to the No 1 spot in the fast-growing medium SUV sector.
"This new Outlander has everything we wanted in a successor model," said the company's head of sales and marketing strategy, Daniel Cook, at a media conference in Wellington last week.
"As a result, we are targeting at least a 15 per cent share of the market segment." At present the Outlander has about an 11 per cent share, and to see that increase it will need to boost sales from 100 per month now to at least 150.
Can it do it? The fact that the Outlander now offers a choice of diesel power suggests that it might be able to.
Over the past nine years, there has been a rapid shift in public acceptance of diesel for SUVs. It has now reached the point where more than 40 per cent of all SUV sales are diesel. So it makes sense that any manufacturer with an eye to the top of the sales ladder simply will not get there if it is unable to include diesel in its product mix.
The new Outlander is good- looking vehicle, with a pronounced crease running down the flanks of a quite square bodyshell. Whereas the previous model had Mitsubishi's so-called 'jet fighter' nose, this model has a nose that features a slim-line grille that doesn't look unlike that of the Ford Territory.
A major change is at the rear, where the Outlander's clam-shell door has been replaced with a conventional liftback. In the top VRX model, it is power-operated.
Exterior dimensions are roughly the same as before; but on the inside, there is 12 per cent more room. Much of this seems to apply to the the rear, where there is now good leg room for those in the third row of seats.
It can be made better too, via the ability of the second row of seats to slide fore and aft by up to 250mm. The third row is split 50/50, and the second row split 60/40, so both rows can be folded down flat to provide a huge amount of interior load space when the need arises.
Powering the new Outlander is a choice of new 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre SOHC four-cylinder petrol engines, which replace the old DOHC versions, and a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.
The 2.0-litre engine powers the only front-drive vehicle in the range, a $39,990 entry-level five- seater LS that offers 112 kW of power and 193 Nm of torque. This model sits right in the middle of 2WD competition in terms of price and specification, and a notable feature is that has an average fuel consumption of 6.6 L/100km.
The 2.4-litre engine is under the bonnet of 4WD versions of the five- seater LS, as well as higher- specification seven-seater XLS and VRX models. This engine develops 126 kW of power and 224 Nm of torque and has an average consumption of 7.5 L/100 km, which is 20 per cent less than the previous Outlander.
Then there's the big news - the new 2.2-litre 'clean' diesel engine that is an option on 4WD VR and VRX models. It offers 112 kW of power and 366 Nm of torque and has an average economy of 5.8 L/100 km, which almost matches the efficiency of Mazda's highly- regarded SkyActiv diesel which gives 5.7 L/100 km.
A drive programme into Wairarapa and along the rugged countryside at Palliser Bay last week quickly showed this diesel to be a smooth and economical unit, which gives the Outlander a range of more than 1000 km.
It easily cruised along the beaches, too. The Outlander can be operated in 4WD Eco which runs the vehicle as a 2WD vehicle until it senses all-paw traction is needed, or as 4WD Auto which changes the all-wheel drive to suit conditions, or as 4WD Lock which, as the name suggests, permanently locks the all-wheel drive in place for the really rough stuff.
Outlander also has hill start assist, active traction control, active stability control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, and the Smartbrake system that takes over if the driver inadvertently hits the accelerator pedal instead of the brake.
So - within reason - the 4WD versions of the Outlander, particularly the torquey diesel versions, do have the ability to get in and out of some quite hairy places.
The petrol Outlander models all have CVT automatic transmissions, while the diesels have a conventional six-speed auto that is capable of handling the extra torque and which also allows a tow rating of 2000 kg - the petrol models are rated to tow 1600 kg.
Daniel Cook told last week's conference that his company has deliberately kept the pricing sharp for the Outlander. The $39,990-$56,990 range is not much more than the outgoing models - despite the fact some of the models have $7000 worth of added equipment and specification.
As a result, there is a large forward order for the models, he said.
"We expect that come January we'll start to see significant progress," he said of potential sales.
- Taranaki Daily News
Was the weekend's rain welcome relief for your garden/farm?Related story: Yesterday's drizzle no drought breaker for Wellington, Hawke's Bay
Get Taranaki's frequent news and sport updates
Choose an iconic Taranaki photo as wallpaper for your computer
Astronomer Tom Whelan explains what is in the Taranaki heavens for each month.