You may not think, “Oh, that’s like the Land Rover Discovery Sport,” when I point to the Mitsubishi Outlander. But someone does – and that someone works at Mitsubishi with a bunch of other someones who describe the Discovery Sport as their “robust, dynamic, prestigious” stretch goal in terms of a rival model.

This very handsome cabin will run you well into the $40,000s, though the Outlander’s base price starts in the $30,000s.

Mere mortals such as me, however, associate the Outlander with the Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sorento, Chevrolet Equinox and Hyundai Santa Fe to name five of about a dozen competitors in the very, very crowded compact/midsize crossover game.

The Rogue is particularly interesting because the Outlander shares the Nissan’s mechanical bits and pieces – the stuff under the skin. Mitsubishi and Nissan are part of a global alliance, so sharing the hard bits makes sense.

For the average buyer, all that insider mumbo-jumbo is just so much fluff and nonsense.

What generally does catch his or her eye, however, is the new-for-2022 array of head-spinning updates:

  • the design (less boxy, sculpted sides, wider stance, strong shoulders at the rear, a distinctive face, and 20-inch wheels);
  • the improved build quality and much, much nicer cabin;
  • the cavernous cargo space, hands-free liftgate, seven-passenger seating and panoramic roof;
  • the quiet ride and high stance (for ease of entry and visibility);
  • the technology array (12-inch driver display, excellent 10-speaker Bose audio, wireless charger and CarPlay);
  • a strong engine (2.5-litre four-cylinder), decent fuel economy and six all-wheel drive modes;
  • and, nearly endless safety gear (11 airbags and all sorts of driver-assistance features).

Mitsu has upped its game here, and with it everyone’s expectations for this refurbished, fourth-generation Outlander.

Tidy rear end.

The plan is to make you forget about the slightly dowdy image cultivated by previous Outlanders – practical, economic, ecological and a bit dull – and force you to hone in on the fancy new version of an Outlander that was often bought by budget-conscious types. Mitsu’s marketing types call the old Outlander people “Versatile Utilitarians and ValueSeeker”: most past 50, almost a third retired, almost all married and very middle class (household income $90,000/year).

The 2022 pricing reflects the new thinking at Mitsu. Now it’s a chase for “Aspirational Attention Seekers” with more money to spend on the family car: $31,998-$42,178. If you’re older and looking for a Mitsu rig with the old Outlander pricing, that would be the now slightly bigger Eclipse Cross, the entry compact crossover from Mitsu.

Again, all this car company insider stuff is fluff to the general buying public. I’m just here to tell you that the reinvented Outlander is something different, clearly better and more expensive than the 2021 and older versions.

The background is here so that you won’t be stunned by the new Outlander plan. I mean current owners are typically family types chasing value, manageable monthly payments, safety and utility. What Mitsu has wrought — the new strategy — will spin the heads of the casual car buyer and the uninitiated. If you’re ready to trade in your old Outlander for something less worn but selling for a similar nickel, that is now the Eclipse Cross.

Digital gauge cluster. Very fancy.

(By the way, I haven’t even touched on Outlander plug-in hybrid types. Warning: a new Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) is coming, but not here yet.)

If you’re 35-45, married with kids at home, active and making about 100 grand a year, you are the “Attention Seeker” Mitsu has in its sights here for 2022.

How many will care, actively notice, the dramatic improvements to the driving experience remains a question mark, though. But the more rigid body structure delivers a solid ride, one lacking the sorts of jerkiness and twisting that triggers carsickness for those in the second and third rows.

And if you’re the driver, you’ll notice the feel of it all, and the responses: less roll in corners, tight-ish steering and sure-footed braking. And it’s quiet at highway speed thanks to a million little things – door glass, insulation, rubber mouldings…

The conversation starter – the technology you can chatter about at the backyard barbeque — has to do with all the different AWD modes you can dial up: normal, mud, snow, gravel, tarmac and eco. My bet is that almost everyone will pick normal and stay there forever.

But you do have a few other choices which might make a difference in exceptional circumstances. Mitsu has a whole chart that explains all the ins and outs here, but suffice to say the Outlander can manage varied terrain, miserable weather, and bad or emergency driving manoeuvres.

Six AWD modes. Most will stick to normal.

As for the engine, it’s a 2.5-litre four-banger shared with the Nissan Rogue (there’s that global alliance at work): 181 horsepower/181 lb-ft torque and combined fuel economy of 8.9 litres/100 km using regular gas. This Outlander has put on a lot of weight, 120 kg, yet the engine improvements result in quicker acceleration and better fuel economy than the 2021, as well as 2,000 pounds of towing capacity.

The continuously variable transmission is efficient and unremarkable in every way.

But I do want to mention the near-self-driving piece of the puzzle. It’s called MI-Pilot Assist and it pulls together adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist to keep you centered in your lane. Not quite Autopilot, though if you’re a bit dozy and start to drift, this technology will straighten you out. It will even read speed signs and adjust speed accordingly.

Of course, you should pull over and rest if you’re tired. And don’t think MI-Pilot is an invitation to watch videos on your smartphone, either. If you take your hands off the wheel, the Outlander’s driving nanny will tell you to pay attention.

As for the rest, the seats are well padded and generous; the cabin is festooned with storage spots and cupholders; wireless phone charging is now a must and it’s here in this rig; and the 12.3 digital driver display is customizable. For instance, you can change the traditional gauges to barrel-type. Cargo versatility is another bonus, and, frankly, more important. There’s a big space behind the seats and a wide-open rear hatch.

The infotainment screen on the cheaper models is a measly 9.0 inches, so I’d recommend spending a bit more to get the 12.3-inch display. Worth every penny. Unfortunately, Mitsu also makes you buy other fancy stuff at the same time. The packaging details…well, there’s a lot to them. At the top of the range is the GT Premium model with its two-tone leather in saddle tan and some handsome accents.

All very nice. But is this rig a challenge to the Land Rover Discovery Sport?

Ah, no.

It does compare favorably to some of the biggest players here, including the RAV4 and the CR-V, however. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Mitsu is the brand itself. We know what a Toyota stands for, and a Honda, too. Mitsu remains a work in progress.


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