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Mitsubishi? Now that’s a name we don’t hear of too often. But they’re still around – kicking and screaming. It’s become slightly evident that Mitsubishi doesn’t show much interest in the car world these days, having killed off their Eclipse many years back and now with the Lancer Evolution having its Final Edition Launch, Mitsubishi is focusing their concerns elsewhere. Nonetheless, where there’s profit to be made, they still want to keep their name in the limelight. Therefore, Mitsubishi did issue a small budget to their automotive division to freshen up a few of their current products – like this Outlander.

On the forefront, Mitsubishi updated the front fascia of the Outlander to give it a much more bold presence. The Outlander now looks more modern presenting additional chrome outlines and a glossy black grille. New attractive 18-inch wheels come standard on all models as well as LED accent lights and a set of new horizontal LED taillights. Presented on the streets of Phoenix, the Outlanders updated look had mixed opinions from random pedestrians and lookie-lues – considering the predecessors, this is definitely a step in the right direction – in our opinion.

Our sampled Outlander was the mid-range, high-volume seller, SEL with the base 2.4-liter, 166-horsepower, MIVEC four-cylinder engine. Now at 3400lbs, the Outlander isn’t exactly quick on its feet hitting double digits to 60 mph. Plan on loading all three-rows and you’ll have some throttle manipulation to do just to maintain speed. Using a “new enhanced” CVT transmission, the Outlander isn’t exactly flattering us with its smooth moves either. With this base engine, the CVT has to work extra hard to carry its porky self and the instant we left off the throttle, all power was lost.  The outcome however is for better fuel economy, EPA rates this 2.4-liter 25/31/27 (city/highway/combined) – even with our heavy foot, our fuel consumption hit the targeted EPA at 27 mpg’s for the week and roughly 420 miles of range. There is a fix, if you don’t like the 2.4L, but you’ll need some spare change. The 3.0-liter V-6 at 224-horsepower – it won’t set your pants on fire, but it certainly gets the job done quicker than this 2.4-liter.

For 2016, there was some tweaks to the chassis to add better stability and structural rigidity to the driving dynamics. Improvements to the suspension also add to a more stable ride and improved sound density throughout the cabin. While we found the ride to be a bit rougher than expected, it road etiquette was impressive with confident handling and a semi-responsive steering.

Not focusing much on the interior, only a few minor material alterations occur like swapping out the old fashion wood for this more contemporary styled dark wood trim, also adding additional soft touch materials along the door panels and dash as well as incorporating a redesigned steering wheel. The cabin maintains a fluid design with easy to reach accessibility and a decent attractiveness with the use of glossy black and silver trims. Setting wise the driver seat was fairly comfortable with a good range of power adjustments, second row passengers also have decent leg and thigh support from the well placed seats while third row is designated a child-only zone.

Our Outlander featured only one option, SEL Touring Package. It will put a dent in your wallet at a cost of $5250. But for that there are an array of features like Forward Collision Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, a Power Rear Liftgate, Power Folding Side Mirrors, Sun Roof, and Navigation. The standard 6.1-inch touch screen infotainment system here works nicely and sounds fantastic through Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio System; however, even though the system has been tweaked for 2016, it still has an aftermarket feel – the touch buttons are small and hard to read and the hard surface buttons feel like they’ll break off any minute.

As a journalist, we could go on and on with the items we didn’t like about the Outlander from how the seats rocked when we accelerated to the odd way we had to fold the second row seats. But every once in a while we need to be reminded who the targeted consumer is. With just about every car we test I brought the Outlander home to the family, secretly sneaking it up the drive hoping no one would notice it, like they usually do – but as a family member came out to greet us in the drive, they couldn’t help but mention “nice car, I like this one!” Clearly, I must be missing something here. But to them it was attractive, spacious, and decently optioned – the 3rd row is a nice standard feature for the “in case of moments” and fold flat away when you don’t need them. And for someone that doesn’t need a lot of power the 2.4-liter totes around town just fine.

The reality is, the Outlander is like the nerd trying to fit in with the cool kids – it tries to be popular but we all see right through it. For this SEL starting at $24,995, the Outlander makes sense – it’s well packaged for its price and features great standard equipment like that 3rd row. However once it reaches passed that 30k mark, we can’t help but think of better alternatives that can be had with better powertrains and refined interiors.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL $24,995
Destination: $850
Performance Specs:
2.4-liter MIVEC SOHC 4-Cylinder – 166-horsepower/162lb-ft of torque  – 0-60 MPH ±10.5 seconds
EPA MPG: 25/31/27 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 25 MPG’s | Fuel Range: ±420
Featured Options:
SEL Touring Package: $5,250
Grand Total: $31,095