Mitsubishi has always had a reputation for solidly built and reliable vehicles that had a very loyal following, especially when you think about the now discontinued spectacular Evo and the never-say-die Pajero.
Local sales of the Japanese carmaker haven’t been shooting the lights out in the last few years despite the very capable and underrated Pajero Sport and Triton double cab with their unrivalled Super Select 4x4 system.
It seems to be on an upward trajectory again and with the recent launch of the third generation flagship seven-seater Outlander, and hopefully people will sit up and take notice.
There are two model ranges on offer; the GLS and Aspire which we had on test.
Built on an all new platform the exterior is based on the Japanese concept of I-Fu-Do-Do, which translates to authentic and majestic.
Make of that what you will, but for an SUV it’s pretty good looking and also employs the company’s front Dynamic Shield design.
It’s dominated by a large grille flanked by LED fog lights, sequential indicators and daytime running lights with a front skid plate pointing to its all terrain capability.
Wrap around horizontal tail lights, twin exhaust outlets and a diffuser round off the rear and it stands on two-tone 20-inch alloys giving the Outlander its 210mm ground clearance.
It employs a naturally aspirated four-cylinder 2.5-litre petrol engine producing 135kW and 245Nm, sending power to all four wheels via a simulated eight-speed CVT transmission using either Eco, Normal, Tarmac, Snow/Mud or Gravel Mode.
Mitsubishi have always prided themselves with their all terrain systems and in the Outlander it's no different.
Called Super All-Wheel Control the AWD system employs sensors to distribute power to all four wheels as needed, depending in what mode you’re in. So normally it would supply more power to the rear but when things get a bit spirited, and you’ve got your Colin McRae rally face on, it combines seamlessly with the Active Yaw Control to control braking and torque distribution between the left and right wheels.
The interior continues with the I-Fu-Do-Do theme with quality soft touch surfaces and premium materials throughout.
What struck me was how comfortable and ergonomically designed it is and how intuitive the 12.3-inch Digital Driver Display and nine-inch (eight-inch in the GLS) infotainment system was to use.
Especially welcome on a pre-dawn drive to the airport during another Gauteng cold snap were the heated seats.
There’s ample room for second row passengers but the rear seats are more suited to small people. A 60/40 rear seat split and flat folding seats provide a total of 1 473 litres of space, enough to cart around large items.
As you would expect there’s a host of safety features and technology including Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body, ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Emergency Stop signal System, Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control as well as Active Stability and Traction Control.
The many years of designing all wheel drive vehicles that provide a comfortable and well balanced drive translates perfectly to the Outlander.
Initially it felt a bit erratic on take-off but once you’re accustomed to accelerator inputs it responds smoothly providing a refined experience.
Not everyone (read motoring journalists) is fond of a CVT transmission but this one is certainly one of the better ones in the industry. It’s gentle if you’re cruising along and will “gear” down smoothly when the accelerator is pushed hard. There’s virtually no whine as the revs climb emphasising the well insulated cabin and it picks up speed accordingly.
If the mood takes you there are paddle shifters that provide an extra dimension, as I found out with that Colin McCrae face on a twisty gravel road using as much of the electricary as possible, they’ve taken so much effort to design and install.
For a vehicle on stilts it’s remarkably agile with all the elements combining to provide an almost fun driving experience given that it’s primary use is for family transport.
Steering is light and direct and feedback is decent for a C-SUV.
Mitsubishi claims fuel consumption of 8.1l/100km with our figures showing just under 9l/100km, which is likely to go down closer to their figures with more highway and open road driving when you load the family and luggage.
Buyers are spoilt for choice in this segment with the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Nissan X-Trail, Isuzu mu-X, Toyota Fortuner and the already mentioned Pajero Sport looking for owners especially if you want seven seats.
But do yourself a favour and put the Mitsubishi Outlander on your list if you’re shopping around in that market.
It comes with a three-year/100 000km warranty, five-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance and a five-year/90 000km service plan.
Mitsubishi Outlander Pricing (August 2023)
2.5 GLS: R729 995
2.5 Aspire: R759 995