The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport may have the word "Sport" in its name, but after spending a couple days behind the wheel and logging several hundred miles, I'd say it's a misnomer. In the Outlander Sport's defense, it looks the part, with a purposeful stance, sharp, modern lines, and a Lancer Evolution-style face. In fact, it's quite adorable especially in the bright blue paint of this test car -- the color is called Laguna Blue and is available only on the top trim SE -- and everyone who saw it wanted to know what it was.
The Sports' engine is where the name loses credibility. The sole engine choice is a four-cylinder that, in this example, was linked to the optional CVT; a five-speed manual is standard and offered only on the base ES. I haven't driven the manual, but the CVT certainly didn't make much of the 2.0-liter four's 148 hp. Floor the gas in automatic mode and, although the engine produces plenty of noise, it doesn't produce much forward motion. Fortunately, the CVT also adds steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, which look and feel great and were an absolute necessity for highway passing. Should you decide that the five-speed manual isn't for you or you want to step up to the SE model, these paddles will likely prove invaluable. The SE model is a $1300 price jump over the ES, but the additional cash also includes eighteen-inch alloys, HID headlights, and a better stereo.
Mitsubishi has never excelled at producing attractive or user-friendly multimedia systems, but the interface in the Outlander Sport is still disappointing. This Sport SE was equipped with navigation -- a $2000 option that includes a 40-gigabite hard-drive-based navigation system, a backup camera, and an auxiliary audio input -- and I was pleasantly surprised by the comprehensive coverage of the navigation maps, but the graphics are outdated and the display isn't bright enough or angled appropriately to compete with the amount of light let in by the oversize, fixed-glass sunroof. In addition, the screen-driven radio controls are a bit fussy to use. For example, the scan button doesn't live on the main screen and requires several taps to find, select, and stop each time you want to use it. It's not overly complicated but requires taking your eyes off the road for longer than should be necessary. There's also no reason not to have a volume knob on the dash instead of the up/down toggle that Mitsubishi uses here.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms