2004 Mitsubishi Outlander
    $18,449 - $22,349

    2004 Mitsubishi Outlander Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    Stronger engine strengthens the appeal.


    The 2004 Mitsubishi Outlander gets a new engine and transmission that give it a needed boost in performance. The 2004 Outlander offers more spirited acceleration than the 2003 model. Outlander is smooth and quiet, and feels rock steady at highway speeds. 

    Similar in size and character to the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, the Outlander has four doors and a roomy cargo area that's easily accessible. Like other small crossover sport-utilities, the Mitsubishi Outlander offers elevated seating for better visibility. 

    Outldander is neither tall nor tippy and its compact size helps it negotiate the often-hostile asphalt jungle. All-wheel drive is an option when the pavement disappears beneath snow and ice or dissolves into a dusty, rocky trail. 

    Taut and toned, the Mitsubishi styling is bolder and more aggressive than the Honda, Toyota, or the similar-sized Subaru Forester. Aggressive pricing makes the Outlander an attractive alternative. 


    Mitsubishi Outlander is available in two models: LS and XLS. Each is available with front-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). 

    Outlander LS ($18,397) and LS AWD ($20,197) are not a stripped-down trim levels. LS models come standard with air conditioning; cruise control; power windows and locks; power folding rearview mirrors; a height-adjustable steering wheel; height-adjustable driver's seat; a 140-watt, four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system; analog clock; center console with storage; two 12-volt accessory outlets; 60/40 split, folding and reclining back seat; intermittent windshield and rear window wipers, and 16-inch steel wheels. A cargo cover, floor mats, keyless entry, and roof rails come standard on the AWD model and are optional on the 2WD model. An Appearance Package ($500) adds privacy glass and alloy wheels. 

    Outlander XLS 2WD ($20,197) and XLS AWD ($22,297) add a rear spoiler, premium cloth seat fabric, a 140-watt audio system with six speakers, whiteface gauges and clock, see-through headrests, and alloy wheels. Options for the XLS include a sun and sound package with an Infinity audio system and sunroof and a luxury package with an auto-dimming mirror with compass and temperature readouts, heated outside mirrors and heated leather seats and side airbags. 

    Safety equipment includes three-point seatbelts for all five seating positions and child safety seat anchors. Side airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger and anti-lock brakes are optional equipment on the XLS model. Front air bags are standard. 


    The Mitsubishi Outlander presents a bolder appearance than the other sport-utilities in its class. Mitsubishi says styling is very important to its customers, so it wanted its entry-level SUV to be distinguished from the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester. Mitsubishi anticipated most Outlander buyers would be women, typically 30-45 years old, most of them married and with a young family or a large dog. 

    Mitsubishi Outlander buyers want an SUV with a muscular, masculine, aggressive appearance, the company says. To achieve this look, designers created a wide nose section that splits the grille and flows back over the hood. Mitsubishi thinks this thick, dynamic pillar with the triple-diamond emblem in the middle demonstrates that the Outlander owner isn't about to be intimidated. 

    This attitude is enhanced by the large, tinted headlight covers, and especially by the fog lamps mounted at the edges of the bumper on the XLS model. Gray cladding on the bumpers and side sills adds to the aggressive appearance, and the 16-inch wheels (the same diameter as those on the RAV4 and Forester, but larger than those on the CR-V) lend substance to the Outlander's stance. 

    The aerodynamic design minimizes excess noise going down the road. Mitsubishi Outlander presents a wind-cheating, wedgy profile that provides an 0.43 coefficient of drag, making it more slippery than the CR-V, RAV4, or Forester. Its standard rear spoiler and the optional roof rack with tubular rails give it a substantial appearance. More important, it has great door handles that are easy to grab. 


    The Mitsubishi Outlander offers a roomy and comfortable interior, a benefit of its long wheelbase. We found all controls easy to operate. 

    Getting in and out is easy. You neither have to climb up nor stoop down to get inside. The Outlander's h-point, what engineers call the distance your hips sit off the ground when you are sitting in the vehicle, was designed to offer easy entry. Once seated, you have a commanding vantage similar to that in a minivan. Low-slung sports cars have low h-points, while tall SUVs and 4X4 pickup trucks have high h-points. Once in, there's a good amount of headroom for taller drivers. 

    The seats use high-density foam padding and the standard cloth is nice. The driver's seat offers height adjustment and effective lumbar support. The optional leather seats are an option on the XLS model, and they feel a little firmer; the package also includes heated seats and side-impact airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger. The passenger seat and the back seat are comfortable and the vehicle feels confident, making it a good place to spend the miles. Both front seats feature seatbelt pretensioner and force-limiter technology, which can help reduce injuries in an accident. 

    The instrument panel features an analog clock in the middle of a large, titanium-texture dashboard trim panel. The clock is easy to set and has a black face in the LS model and a white face in the XLS version. Instrumentation includes a large speedometer and tachometer. The XLS comes with lightface gauges, which we find much easier to read; besides, they match better with the titanium. At night the gauges glow with orange lettering on black faces; the clock looks a little incongrous with its orange on white. Heating and air conditioning controls are plain and simple, easy to operate. A variety of storage pockets is available. Rubber retainer bands hold things securely in the lighted glove box. There's no compass. 

    The rear seat is designed with additional lumbar support. It is split 60/40. There's no need to remove the headrests before folding the rear seats, which reveals an extended, though not perfectly flat, cargo area. There is 24.4 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats, and 60.3 cu. ft. with the seats folded down. The rear seat has three headrests and three sets of shoulder belts. It also has a fold-down center armrest with two cup holders. 

    A single rear liftgate makes getting into the cargo area easy. A thin, divided storage area beneath the cargo floor cover offers some convenient storage, and the cargo area includes grocery bag hooks and a 12-volt power outlet. The cargo floor is about 30 inches off the ground to ease loading and unloading. A rear cargo cover is available for the Outlander to hide valuables, and Mitsubishi cleverly designed a place under the cargo floor to stash the cargo cover. Other SUVs do not offer a place to store the cargo cover (other than your garage), meaning it takes up space and is subject to damage when not in use. 

    Driving Impression

    The Mitsubishi Outlander is smooth, quiet and comfortable. Outlander's long wheelbase and carlike suspension work together to provide a comfortable ride. There is little road or wind noise. The primary sound that can be heard is wind noise from the large side mirrors, and we would not want to give up the nice, big mirrors. The Mitsubishi isn't as smooth as the Honda and some road vibration can be felt through the steering wheel. Two-wheel-drive Outlanders feel smoother and peppier than four-wheel-drive models and work quite well for zipping along on big-city freeways. 

    One of the first things we noticed about the Outlander is that it feels very stable at high speeds. The Mitsubishi feels more stable than the Honda CR-V In crosswinds and at higher speeds. The Outlander's 103.3-inch wheelbase (the distance between front and rear tires) is longer than that of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Subaru Forester. 

    The Outlander leans in corners, but handles well. Steering is on the slow side and there's a small amount of play in the steering, but it's easy to steer it smoothly, providing a nice ride for your passengers. This is an easy vehicle to drive. 

    Like many vehicles in this category, the Outlander has disc brakes in front and drums in the rear. Anti-lock brakes are optional, and none of the models we've driven was equipped with ABS. But the Outlander stops promptly, and stops calmly and quickly in a panic stop. It's easy to modulate the brakes to prevent wheel lockup. We recommend getting the ABS, however, as it allows the driver to brake and steer at the same time in an emergency stopping situation. 

    2004 models offer more power than the 2003 models (an increase of 20 horsepower). That's good news because we were disappointed by the power in the 2003 model. The 2004 Outlander is significantly more spirited, though it's still no rocket ship. With 160 horsepower, Mitsubishi's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matches the Honda CR-V's output and nearly matches the Subaru Forester. The Toyota RAV-4 offers 161 horsepower. Mitsubishi tuned the engine to deliver more torque at lower engine speeds while also providing more top-end horsepower by revising the intake and exhaust systems. Part of the credit for being able to do this goes to Mitsubishi's MIVEC electronic variable-valve setup, which helps the engine to operate at peak power and efficiency throughout the rev range. Even with its boost in power, the engine is rated by the EPA at 21/27 miles per gallon City/Highway in a two-wheel-drive Outlander. 

    The four-speed automatic transmission has been upgraded significantly for 2004 as well. The four-speed Sportronic automatic can be left in Drive and used like a regular automatic, or the driver can slide the shifter to one side to select gears manually. 

    The Outlander is built on a rigid chassis and benefits from Mitsubishi's extensive experience in international rally racing. rallies and raids. The Outlander benefits from such body-strengthening techniques as MASH seam welding and what Mitsubishi calls its RISE design (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution). Much of this technology was developed from the company's winning efforts in the Paris-Dakar raid as well as its involvement in the World Rally Championship with the Lancer Evo. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, a lobbying organization supported by the insurance industry, gave the Outlander its highest possible rating in its frontal crash-testing program, though it rated Poor in the side-impact category. 


    The 2004 Mitsubishi Outlander has been upgraded significantly with its revised, more powerful powertrain. 

    The Outlander, which makes an unusually strong styling statement in the compact sport-utility class, is smooth and quiet. While the Honda CR-V may seem a little smoother and the Toyota RAV4 a little more solid, the Outlander feels more stable at high speeds. It handles well on winding roads and its diminutive proportions make it easy to park and maneuver in tight, busy places. It also has excellent brakes. 

    Available all-wheel drive adds capability and safety in wet or winter weather, but the two-wheel-drive model feels more agile and is a little more enjoyable to drive. 

    The Outlander may not offer some of the special features that come with the big name brands, but it is competitively priced and provides an attractive choice for those who want carlike handling with roominess and versatility. 

    Model Lineup

    Mitsubishi Outlander LS 2WD ($18,397); LS AWD ($20,197); XLS 2WD ($19,897); XLS AWD ($22,297). 

    Assembled In

    Misushima, Japan. 

    Options As Tested

    Sun & Sound package ($1,150) includes power sunroof and Infinity AM/FM/CD player w six speakers. 

    Model Tested

    Mitsubishi Outlander XLS 2WD ($19,897). 

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