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Weidel on Wheels: Outlander Sport can get the job done

Mitsubishi SUV handles well with all-wheel drive
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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Although the snow wasn’t falling too heavily, the wind that was whipping around Laramie, Wyo., as the new year approached was enough to make this driver stay off the treacherous roads as much as possible. Living in Northern California for more than three decades, one gets accustomed to no snow. Sure, a person can find it easily driving toward the Sierra Nevada range in the wintertime. But one can prepare for those trips, which is not the case in Wyoming, where the winter weather can change from hour to hour. On this particular venture away from California, I felt fortunate to be test-driving the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. While there have been some complaints regarding Mitsubishi’s new entry-level sport utility vehicle, none of the grumblings deal with the all-wheel drive Outlander’s ability to maneuver confidently in the snow. It was much appreciated on the icy streets of Laramie. The Outlander Sport is approximately 14 inches shorter than the typical Outlander. A smaller radius may be the reason it handles so well in all driving situations. It has a sporty suspension — perhaps that’s how the name Sport originated — and gives the driver a confident feel for the road, snow or no snow. When compared to a long list of competitors, the Outlander holds its own in a price comparison. Its base model goes for an affordable $18,495, while the high-end Sport is not that high-end at $22,995. However, what critics of the Sport will say is the Outlander falls short of the two industry standards for the class — the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. The Kia Sportage is another strong competitor, along with other small SUVs such as the Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Volkswagen Tiguan, Subaru Forester and several other models. The major knock on the Outlander Sport is performance. Equipped (some would suggest under equipped) with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 148-horsepower, the Outlander does not provide get-up-and-go power, evidenced by its underwhelming 0 to 60 mph clocking in a very modest 8.8 seconds. More appealing is the gas mileage of 25 to 31 miles per gallon. Yet the Outlander climbed some sizable grades without much trouble while making the trek from Denver to Laramie and back. If you don’t care for the performance and want more — too bad. There are two trims (ES, SE), but only one engine choice. There’s nothing too flashy regarding the Outlander’s interior. Yet it has all the basic controls, offering them in a well-conceived cockpit that’s easy to master and reach. Both leg and headroom is plentiful for 6-footers in the front cabin, which has supportive seats. It’s fairly roomy in a backseat that will accommodate three adults. The cargo area is also spacious, allowing for a fair amount of baggage for a road trip or some weekend chores. __________ 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE Price: $22,995 Power:2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine with 148 horsepower Mileage estimate:25 mpg city; 31 mpg highway Standard features include: Automatic xenon headlights; foglights; automatic wipers; climate control; keyless ignition/entry; sliding armrest; center pass-through; upgraded upholstery; rear privacy glass; heated front seats; hill start assist; traction and stability control.