WASHINGTON -- This week, I drove the new 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE with all-wheel drive and seven seats in a tidy package.
The redesigned Outlander has a more soft and rounded styling on the outside, which makes it look like a more upscale crossover than the previous Outlander. The new Outlander seems to be a seven-seat bargain, starting at just $23,000 for the base ES model.
When I first saw my tester, the $32,000 mid-level Outlander SE with the everything-included touring package in the driveway, I couldn't believe there could be a third row. But there it was -- and with a second row that moves forward so you can fit seven people. I'd say the third row is best used for shorter trips or for children. My daughter loved sitting all the way in the back, and her car seat was easy to fit back there.
The rest of the interior was a nice place to sit, with comfortable heated leather seats for the front seats. The second-row seats have lots of leg room, and there is still room for most people with the second row moved up to make room for the third row.
I can almost hear again after turning up the 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with surround sound. It sounded nice. The seven-inch touch screen NAV is easy to use and includes the first two map updates -- a nice touch. I drive many cars that don't have MD 200, also known as the Intercounty Connector, in the navigation system, so updates are very welcome.
I would like to say I used the power glass sunroof, but it was much too cold. The all-wheel drive system worked well. And the power rear lift-gate kept me from getting dirty in the sloppy, salty winter weather, as I never had to touch the rear door.
More importantly, the safety features really set the new Outlander apart from other cars in its class. The adaptive cruise control keeps a nice safe distance from the car ahead, and the lane-departure warning keeps you honest. But the Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM) could help save you from an accident by alerting you of a problem and applying the brakes to help avert or reduce the severity of a crash -- a nice safety feature that you can get on the mid-level SE trim.
With the 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine, the new Outlander SE had just enough horsepower, and for once I didn't mind the CVT transmission. It drives nicely and its size is perfect for city driving and wheeling into that tight parking space. I drove the 2014 Outlander in some of the coldest weather and I still managed 25.5 mpg with a lot of stop-and-go and warming up before I buckled children in the car. I could easily see getting 29 or 30 mpg on the highway.
Something to note: If you're going to be hauling things, or carting around several people, you might want to consider the top-of-the-line GT trim. This adds a V6 and a regular six-speed automatic transmission. The gas mileage doesn't suffer too much, but you have to use premium fuel.
The new 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander is a mid-size crossover that is priced like a small crossover. Kelly Blue Book just awarded the new Outlander its "five-year cost-to-own award," so it should be frugal to own and operate. With seven seats, many available safety features, optional V6 engine and dealers looking to make deals, you could get a lot of crossover for your money this way.
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