The Mitsubishi Outlander has long been a dark horse of sorts in a crowded market dominated by the Proton X70, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5. Sold with two engines on offer locally - a 2.0-litre starter and perkier 2.4-litre range-topper - the seven-seat SUV has held its own relatively well given the stiff competition. But the current model is already showing its age, having been on sale here since 2016; four years after it first broke cover in Geneva. And after 2.6 million units have found homes across the globe, a replacement is here at last.
The fourth-generation Outlander is a brand new SUV from the ground up. The design language is familiar, with the 'Dynamic Shield' front end of the outgoing model replaced by the updated version fronting the Xpander, but in a more fittingly sizeable frame. Behind that angry face is a newly-developed 2.5-litre petrol engine with improvements in output and fuel efficiency of 8.9 and 2.6 percent respectively compared to its predecessor (presumably the 167PS 2.4L model). So, we might be looking at something in the region of 182PS once Mitsubishi finalises the numbers.
In contrast to what's on offer in Malaysia, that's not a lot of power for quite a sum to spend on road tax, considering the force-inducted, sub-2.0-litre mills of the CR-V and X70 are capable of generating more for less. But Mitsubishi remains confident about the torque and power delivery of its new engine at low to medium revs. The Japanese carmaker also claims that it's 'smooth and easy-to-handle at high rpm'. An eight-speed CVT with sport mode is the go-to transmission here. Again, not the most inspiring thing to hear. But its step-shift control supposedly 'changes speed crisply like a multistage automatic transmission'.
A 4WD model with S-AWC (super all wheel control), brake active yaw control and six driving modes (Eco, Normal, Tarmac, Gravel, Snow, Mud) offers drivers some degree of off-road capability. And while we don't doubt Mitsubishi's expertise off the beaten track, we have some reservations about putting the Outlander's new 20-inch wheels through the elements. The presumably more affordable 2WD model is probably a more realistic bet if it's kitted out with the right amount of creature comforts.
Speaking of which, the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander's three-row cabin is equipped with three-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, a 10-speaker Bose sound system, a mix of Type A and Type C USB ports and quite a bit of LCD real estate. The customisable 12.3-inch digital driver display is a first for Mitsubishi, and it's complemented by a 9.0-inch Android Auto/Apple CarPlay-ready infotainment system and 10.8-inch full colour head-up display to satisfy the screen addicts among us. The displays are also rather essential given the presence of ADAS features like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist that are part of the Outlander's Mi-Pilot Assist package.
Test drive: Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0 CKD
It's also good to know that the Outlander has more airbags (11) than it has seats or speakers. The two-airbag Xpander can surely learn a thing or two from its big brother.
As things stand, the 2022 Outlander is slated to take on the North American Market (USA, Canada and Puerto Rico) in April. Unfortunately, we don't expect to see the new Outlander on our shores anytime soon, what with the continued uncertainties of the market in 2021 and Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia's longer-than-average lead times on new model launches (did you know the Xpander was launched in Indonesia in 2017?). But things should get interesting if and when it does arrive, assuming the current crop of SUVs it has to fight hasn't evolved tremendously by then.