By: Jag Dhatt
Vancouver to Whistler: July 30/31, 2015: For most of us, summer is just a beautiful season – period. Long warm days, shorts and t-shirts, sunglasses, and cool beverages to sip on while soaking in the sun. Not too many people complain about this time of year and to make it better, summer driving. In mid-July, we were invited to a Mitsubishi launch event, showcasing the brand new 2016 Outlander. With over 100 enhancements made to the outgoing model, this was a vehicle we were looking forward to seeing and driving. Sure, it wasn’t a convertible or high-powered sports car, but it has wheels and we were willing.
Unlike the Lancer, which has a regular following and sells reasonably well because of great pricing, the Outlander has had only “acceptable” sales numbers in the past few years. Mitsubishi is hoping that with the new enhancements, some consumers will skip ship and buy this new “premium” compact crossover.
After a quick breakfast and product introduction at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, media personnel were taken outside to view the new Outlander. Mitsubishi’s “Dynamic Shield Design” language has certainly given a well-needed facelift to the Outlander. Next year, the RVR will be getting similar design trends, ones that the company will most likely carry through for other models.
Yes, it’s still recognizable as an Outlander, but the new model now boasts a more rugged and athletic look. The front fascia gets a “jet fighter” design, skis plate-styled lower chin plate, and up above, standard LED day time running lights. With the right package, LED headlamps are available, a first for any Mitsubishi. Around the side and back, there’s new garnishes that do a nice job of separating the metal while giving the vehicle a sleek look. Most of us really liked the new look and were positive consumers would too.
As we stepped into the cabin, we were pleasantly surprised by the enhancements. Don Ulmer, Senior Manager, Product Planning, said, “The enhancements may be minor individually, but the overall look and feel of the vehicle is noteworthy.” As we fidgeted around the inside, I would have to agree with Ulmer – the interior of the vehicle does have a more upscale look and feel as compared to the outgoing model. Now remember, this isn’t a luxury SUV or crossover and it’s not pretending to be; but that being said, it’s pretty darn good. I’m really glad that the Outlander has gone back to including some hard buttons/knobs for the infotainment system – they are just easier to use than a pure touch screen design. Another big and welcome change was the second row seat folding function. With last year’s model, you had to pretty much work up a sweat to fold the second row seats. Now, with the addition of pull straps, most of the operation is automatic, reducing the process to 3 steps. Is it on par with its competitors? Not entirely, but it’s getting close. Speaking of rear seats, the Outlander is also the most affordable Japanese compact SUV to offer a 3rd row seat, at $31, 198 and equally important – it’s standard on the upper V6 trims.
After about 20 minutes looking around the vehicle, it was time to set off through the streets of downtown Vancouver (Ugh…construction) and head out to Whistler. The Sea-to-Sky Highway provides excellent opportunities to test the power of any vehicle and thus, is a great route for test drives. The first thing I noticed in the V6 GT, my vehicle en route to Whistler, was how much quieter it was compared to the 2015 model. Don Ulmer had mentioned during the morning briefing that there were over 31 enhancements (including increased sound insulation, sponges, and weather stripping, acoustic glass, and even insulation in the mirrors) for noise vibration harshness and, it definitely shows. The six cylinder, which puts out 224 hp, is mated to a 6-speed automatic and is, “the only Canadian compact crossover with an available V6,” said Ulmer. Power is good, but sometimes feels a little sluggish at highway speeds. But not to worry, using the paddle shifters make the Outlander become more lively.
At Whistler, the team from Morrisport had lots of great activities for media personnel. I have to hand it to them for making press launches very enjoyable, and memorable.
The next day, I had the opportunity to drive the 4-cylinder version of the Outlander. Following recent trends, Mitsubishi’s 4-banger now has a CVT, called the CVT8. I initially thought this engine and transmission combination would be lacklustre, but surprisingly it was quite peppy; the company also mentioned that improvements are still in the works for the CVT8.
Upon reaching back to Vancouver, most of use were happy with the new Outlander. There are significant enhancements that will entice new buyers. John Arnone, Public Relations Manager for Mitsubishi Canada, said, “The Outlander is a great vehicle that provides premium quality at a very reasonable price range. And equally important, Mitsubishi’s warranty is one of the best in the business.” The 2016 Outlander is available in 4 trims, namely, ES, SE, GT and a limited production ES AWC Touring. With the availability of 7 package options, there is an Outlander available for almost every family.
Last but not least…during the Outlander launch event, I also had the chance to connect with one icons of the industry, Mr. Tony Whitney. I’ve been watching him on TV for a long time and now, it was time to call him a colleague and friend.
We will be giving an in-depth review of the 2016 Outlander in coming months. This in-depth review will include much more information on practicality, drive, and overall views of the vehicle.