Mit­subishi Out­lander

Austin American-Statesman - - STATESMANCARS -

At my house, we’re phas­ing out tele­vi­sion, with the sole sur­vivor a 13-inch Mit­subishi that’s worked per­fectly for 25 years. The com­pany’s cars and SUVs aren’t quite that bul­let­proof, but al­most. Mit­subishi ve­hi­cles are al­ways dis­tinc­tive-look­ing, and they are de­signed and en­gi­neered with care. I think the com­pany’s niche po­si­tion in the U.S. mar­ket re­sults from fuzzy mar­ket­ing, not in­ad­e­quacy of the prod­ucts.

The Out­lander cross­over, with re­freshed styling and a few other up­grades for 2010, feels heav­ier, more sub­stan­tial and safer than most crossovers its size.

The rear cargo area is huge, and it’s ac­cessed by a thought­fully con­ceived two-piece tail­gate. Up­per trim lev­els with leather up­hol­stery are re­ally posh for a non­lux­ury cross­over this size.

And if this is im­por­tant to you, the pre­mium Rock­ford-Fos­gate stereo with 10-inch sub­woofer is hard to beat. It’s a po­tent, thumpy sys­tem you hope the teenage boy next door never gets his hands on.

The base Out­lander en­gine is an ad­e­quate but not en­ter­tain­ing four-cylin­der. I pre­fer the three-liter six, juiced up 10 horse­power to 230 this year, and liq­uid-smooth six-speed au­to­matic. Han­dling and on-road dy­nam­ics are ex­cel­lent for this class of SUVs, which are typ­i­cally just tall sta­tion wag­ons with op­tional all-wheel drive.

The Out­lander all-wheel driv­e­train is more so­phis­ti­cated, with a sys­tem that switches to op­ti­mize trac­tion for pave­ment or snow, but bet­ter yet, pro­vides a dif­fer­en­tial lock for when the ve­hi­cle gets stuck. You may never use the lock, but if the need arises, it can be a face-saver and even a life­saver.

Base mod­els have an at­trac­tive in­te­rior, but

Con­tin­ued from D the op­tional leather pack­age adds stitched leather on the dash­board and the lus­cious seats. This com­pact cross­over is one of the best at ac­com­mo­dat­ing tall driv­ers and those with larger-than-av­er­age girth.

My Out­lander test model in­cluded op­tional rain-sens­ing au­to­matic wind­shield wipers, un- usual in this class of ve­hi­cle.

Out­lander prices range from $21,500 to about $34,000. And here, too, brush up on your horse­trad­ing skills. The dis­counts should be there at your de­mand.

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