Crossover SUV Comparison: 2010 Subaru Outback, 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander, and 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Mitsubishi Outlander GT
From the Outlander's aggressive snout, new for 2010, it's clear that Mitsubishi wants to sell the sportiest crossover on the market. The gaping trapezoid grille is virtually identical to that of the rally-bred Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and the Outlander makes a powerful impression when seen through a rear-view mirror.

Mitsubishi's unique contribution in this test is a third-row seat. Only Toyota's RAV4 offers seating for seven in a similar-sized package, and a small set of buyers will appreciate the Outlander's versatility. But to most, it's of dubious value. The first annoyance is the six-step process to raise the bench into position that requires a series of tugs, flips, and shoves that you need to relearn every time. Once it's in place, you'll be underwhelmed by the crude construction that shakes and rattles and a space that's only fit for kids who tell their age by holding up the fingers on one hand. Fortunately, the seat folds (with a different but equally cumbersome six-step process) and conceals neatly in a low and flat floor, causing no noticeable compromise to cargo room. Anyone who uses seven seats regularly should be shopping for larger, more accommodating third row.

Our test car was priced at $32,990, placing it in the middle of our comparison. Equipment-wise, the Mitsubishi sacrifices little to the Subaru that's about $2500 more expensive. The cabin reflects the sporting intentions with black and silver finishes. The navigation display is clear and well designed though our chief complaints are that surrounding physical controls aren't the most friendly and few of the dash materials are a bit cheap.

I love that the Outback is still basically a wagon. It would fit my needs for a family hauler, flyrod holder etc. And you don't have to step up on footboards to get into the thing. But when I got into one, looked at the dashboard and asked the saleman where the temperature gauge was ..... and he said there wasn't one but it had this nifty MPG gauge! Needless to say I was dumbfounded. No temperature gauge on a $25-$35,000 car? I get miffed getting into pickup trucks without voltmeters, oil pressure gauges and transmission oil temp gauges. Idiot lights are for idiots. Subaru design management must think I'm an idiot. Sorry Subaru, sale lost.
@bob_adams I agree that the lack of a temperature gauge is a significant oversight on Subaru's part. I also agree that analog, instantaneous MPG gauges are largely useless. In fact, they're a distraction.
I've been shopping for a replacement for my 1992 Volvo 240 S/W. I love this rear wheel drive car with room enough to put a 9 ft flyrod in without breaking it down everytime a drive to a new spot on the river. But she's getting long in the tooth. And even though I drive her everyday to work but I want something I can absolutely trust to use on long trips with the family.So I was interested in the Outback. But I won't buy one. You know why? Subaru doesn't put a temperature gauge in any of their cars. They put this instantaneous MPG gauge in its space. Inquirying minds might want to know. Since this test mentioned how soft the ride is on the Outback maybe Subaru put that MPG gauge in there for the soccer mom. They might be the only type of driver that would be interested in that sort of thing. Are the moving away from their original target market and headed mainstream?

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