2012 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC

Matt Tierney
2012-mitsubishi-outlander-3-0-gt-s-awc

I have a general feeling of "eh" about this vehicle, which might be unfair, but there it is. Let me explain. The Outlander's front-end styling is at least distinctive, if not attractive. There's good front and rear visibility from the driver's seat. I like the toggle switch for moving around the map in the navigation system, but where's the MAP button? I don't like the red instrument panel lighting. The engine has a little bit of a shrill metallic note, but it's a strong engine, and it works well with the six-speed automatic with manual control; the magnesium shift paddles mounted to the steering column are very nice. In the end, though, there's very little about the Outlander that makes it break through the clutter. There's not much about it that makes me want to buy it over so many other competitors in its class. And life for the Outlander isn't going to get any easier, with Honda introducing a new version of its perpetually popular CR-V. All that said, Automobile Magazine columnist and contributing writer Ezra Dyer has an Outlander in his family fleet, and he quite likes his.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor


Well, if it's good enough for Ezra Dyer...Actually, no. Ezra Dyer is a strange, strange man with the sensibilities of your weird uncle who collects anime toys. His decisions, stories, and actions are always interesting, but they're definitely not mainstream. Ask Ezra to justify his purchase and he'll cite the magnesium, column-mounted paddle shifters and the all-wheel-drive system derived from the Evo. These are great features -- if your driveway could pass for a Dakar Rally stage, but chances are it doesn't.

Mitsubishi's chief failing is that it builds cars as if this is still 1999. Build quality is decidedly unimpressive. The dashboard creaks, the suspension booms, and the third-row seat has the rigidity of an Indian rickshaw. The interior is worse than what you'll find in a $16,000 subcompact. The Outlander GT does steer nicely, and the powertrain is more than adequate. However, if you're shopping for a mid-size crossover you're probably better off with a Honda Pilot or a Subaru Outback or a Ford Edge.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor


I see it's up to me to mount a valiant defense of the poor Outlander. Here goes: the Outlander may have the best steering of any mid-size crossover. Nicely weighted, communicative, and precise. This doesn't surprise me, since Mitsubishi seems uniquely good at steering tuning. The powertrain is also a strong point - 230 hp is plenty for this segment, and the six-speed automatic shifts smoothly. The suspension is a bit firm but isn't harsh and furthers the perception that someone on the Outlander's development team secretly enjoys driving. I don't even mind the styling - as Joe DeMatio notes, it is distinctive.

There is no denying that the Outlander lags in interior quality. Considering that Mitsubishi essentially puts the same dashboard in the Lancer, Outlander, Outlander Sport, and Evo, it should be able to invest a little bit of money in the materials and the electronics. Or maybe not. Mitsubishi's best days selling passenger cars in the United States seem to be behind it, and the mother ship in Japan is much more interested in micro cars. Still, the Outlander's dynamic competence indicates that the company retains some engineers who know what they're doing.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor


The Outlander has many decent qualities: engine power is good; steering is direct and has excellent on-center feel (although it fades a bit as you turn the wheel); the low front cowl and slightly elevated ride height provide good road visibility and step-in is effortless; and the exterior is unique enough to stand out in the crowded crossover class. Unfortunately, though, any number of good qualities can't make up for the Outlander's truly dismal interior. It has some high points, like the contrast-stitched leather on the seats and gauge surround, but the overall look is fairly crude and unstylish. To me, this is the Outlander's Achilles' heel, as its driving dynamics and general refinement are decent. Until Mitsubishi puts a priority on interior quality and design, the Outlander will remain on the fringes of the mid-size crossover segment.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms


I've always enjoyed how many of Mitsubishi's lesser models still managed to provide some of the traits we love in the Lancer Evolution - notably sharp, well-weighted steering that's first-class. As my colleagues note, the Outlander is no exception, although I'm not quite as enthralled with the handling as everyone else seems to be. The Outlander GT's S-AWC system, which is adapted from the whiz-bang driveline found in the Evolution, promises to shift torque from front to rear and between wheels in order to improve both traction and handling, but it's a little slow to respond. A hard launch onto a fast-moving divided highway delivered a surprising amount of torque steer. I'd be interested to see how this feels compared with the standard (i.e. non-torque-shuffling) AWC systems offered on lower Outlander trims.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor


Let's start with the nice things I have to say about the Mitsubishi Outlander: It's the perfect-size vehicle for a family like mine with two small children, especially when you consider that the Outlander has a minuscule third row of seats for occasionally toting around your kids' friends. Steering has pretty good feel. Styling is attractive inside and out, at least to my eye. The interior seems to be put together well (although the materials are clearly subpar, as my colleagues have already mentioned). The Rockford Fosgate sound system sounds pretty darn good.

That premium stereo is critical, however, for helping drown out all the noise that penetrates the Mitsubishi's interior, be it wind noise, road noise, or engine noise. This 6B3 engine sounds almost as unrefined as the old 6G72 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V-6 that powered three of my family's cars, from a 1987 Plymouth Voyager to a 1993 Plymouth Sundance Duster to a 2003 Dodge Stratus R/T coupe. Back then I enjoyed the noise, but I've since been exposed to many more refined engines, and this Outlander's powerplant just makes it feel old.

I'm having a hard time believing that this car is all-wheel drive, by the way, because torque steer is just as bad as it was in my front-wheel-drive '03 Stratus.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor


The fact that we're all so captivated by the magnesium shift paddles tells you something about this car: it's not very interesting. I drove the Outlander for an entire weekend, and was bored the whole time. Yes, the steering feel is good and the engine has a decent amount of power, but the Outlander just feels very bland. The interior looks and feels cheap, and I don't particularly like the exterior design. Ultimately, my strongest memory of the car was touching those infamous magnesium paddles -- which says a lot.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

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