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

Pick your poison
While we have our reservations about the Subaru Outback, it's the clear winner here. Yet we could justify each of these cars for a different buyer. The Grand Vitara's charm lies in its old-timey SUV feel with excellent outward visibility and a can-do attitude. However, that also means the Grand Vitara feels less civilized than either the Outlander or the Outback. Considered with the dated interior and modest driving behavior, it can only be recommended to those who insist they need its off-road ability.

Subaru is the safe choice with hardware and dynamics suited to the comfort-oriented family driver. While the Outback is a bit soft for our likings, it is a practical package for moving four people. The interior is excellent and the engine is without competition in this group. Mitsubishi's Outlander does live up to its sporting intentions with impressive steering and handling that imbue it with an eager-to-play liveliness. However, the coarse, sluggish V-6 and a few interior rattles are distinct drawbacks.

Subaru has proven that it can build a very competitive product, but chasing a mainstream market has compromised the Outback's underground appeal and dulled the driving dynamics. The Outlander and Grand Vitara are understandably on the periphery of the compact crossover segment for a lack of polish in this demanding market. To follow ambitious Subaru, though, Mitsubishi and Suzuki don't need to shed their identities, but address the shortcomings that keep unique vehicles from becoming standouts.

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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