I've had a recurring dream of a beastly, rally-bred SUV that devours Toyota RAV4s whole and burps up bits of Honda CR-Vs. But the sporty SUV of my dreams wouldn't cost $90,000 like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo; instead, it would be no more than a family sedan. Can Mitsubishi's new Outlander make my dream come true? It has a shot--after all, it's built on the same platform as the next-generation Lancer Evolution.
The Outlander's first job is satisfying the masses, so Mitsubishi has given it all the key specs of a modern crossover. A navigation system, Bluetooth, keyless start, and a third-row seat are optional, and stability control is standard. The rear bumper flips down for easy access to the cargo hold, and the upholstery and plastics would impress an Audi owner.
Still, to generate real buzz, the Outlander needs something different. Something Evo different. It has an aluminum roof (just like the Evo), available all-wheel drive, and eighteen-inch wheels. The steering is nicely weighted, and the six-speed automatic can be controlled via paddle shifters. Yet with only 220 hp, the Outlander's V-6 sucks exhaust fumes from the 269-hp RAV4, and ride and handling are no better than the Toyota's.
To distinguish itself in this crowded market segment, Mitsubishi can't play catch-up. The Outlander needs Evo-style passion. Then we'll really have something to dream about.