Sometimes it's not a bad thing, if you're an automaker, to have a vehicle in your lineup that's nearly invisible. Since nobody has any preconceived notions about the car, you can try to reposition it. In the case of the slow-selling Outlander, Mitsubishi hopes to stretch its appeal beyond the Honda CR-V/Toyota RAV4 class to mix with crossovers like the Subaru Outback. This is a reach, but what does Mitsubishi have to lose?
In actuality, although all four trim levels of the Outlander have been face-lifted for 2010, only the top-of-the-line GT is gunning for the Outback. It's armed with a version of the Lancer Evolution's Super-All-Wheel-Control system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo, HID headlamps, and a sunroof, all as standard equipment. The new FUSE hands-free system, also standard, allows you to stream music from your phone via the in-dash touch screen.
The 3.0-liter V-6 in the GT and the XLS gets a slight bump in power, from 220 to 230 hp, thanks to an increased compression ratio. Acceleration with the standard six-speed automatic is smooth and refined, but the engine feels sluggish when you're climbing a grade. The Outlander has a more controlled highway ride than the Outback, although the Mitsubishi's steering feels a bit numb on center.
With a starting price of $29,990, the Outlander GT doesn't make a strong case for itself against the similarly priced Outback. Then again, the Outlander is better looking and provides a third-row seat - albeit a tiny one - in V-6 models. If that's all it takes to get customers into Mitsubishi showrooms, it's no bad thing.
ON SALE: Now
ENGINE: 3.0L V-6, 230 hp, 215 lb-ft