2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL Test Drive

Terry Box | January 2, 2018
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL Test Drive

Perfect teeth and inner peace might be nice, along with fewer wrinkles in my shirts and my so-called life.

I suppose I could even wear socks occasionally and maybe buy a watch.

My resolution for this New Year is to avoid resolutions altogether, leaving me free to suggest a few for the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL I had recently.

Yes, that does indeed make me a hypocrite, but I’ll work on that in ’19 or ’20 – along with procrastination.

Hey, I just need a few dents popped out, a new coat of paint, a tune-up and better tires. Easy money, right?

Unlike me, though, the new Outlander arrives with an attractive, nicely shaped exterior that outshines many of its competitors and hints – we hope – of some sizzle under the hood.

It all started with a curved upper grille and graceful headlamps that gave the Sport presence without resorting to silly excess. (See Toyota, Honda and Nissan.)

A fairly long hood etched with character lines conveyed an image of power – or relative power in the case of a four-cylinder cute-ute that is the smallest model in the Outlander line.

Meanwhile, decent-sized 225/55 tires on 18-inch alloy wheels anchored the far corners of the body, while the rear flashed a semi-Euro truncated look -- all pretty good stuff.

It got better. A curved top dropped down onto a lean body pulled tight by character lines high and low.

In back, large high-mounted taillamps wrapped around the hatchback, adding to the Sport’s contemporary vibe.

In fact, I think the Sport looks better than a Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Crosstrek.

I’ve got to tell you kids: Mitsubishi should resolve to provide more content for its attractive, well-designed container. Maybe lots more.

Although my Outlander Sport came equipped with the optional 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, it struggled to be merely adequate – and that was in a vehicle that weighed just 3,300 pounds.

Whatever happened to the Mitsubishi that built turbocharged, fire-breathing four- and six-cylinder cars that would plaster you to the seat and steal your breath with the mere push of a pedal?

With 168 pretty weak-kneed horsepower, the Sport’s engine had to move roughly 20 pounds of crossover for each horse it could muster.

If that sounds akin to a two-horse stagecoach, consider this: The Sport jogs to 60 mph in a languid 9.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver, leaving it near the back of the subcompact-crossover pack.

Aggravating the power deficit was a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that felt dated compared with the belt-and-pulley units in Toyota, Honda, Subaru and Nissan vehicles.

While capable of jumping away from stops with a little burst of spirit, the engine and CVT quickly lapsed into abidingly average.

They sounded almost despondent under heavy throttle, moaning and braying as they loped along.

Those sweaty efforts appeared to affect fuel economy as well, with the four-wheel-drive Outlander registering just 23 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. (The subcompact crossover is rated at 28/34 and is quicker than the Mitsubishi.)

The sleepy engine and irritating CVT are a shame because the Outlander rolls on a solid, contemporary platform with a decent suspension.

The feisty-looking crossover turned into corners with some enthusiasm and though the steering felt numb – as do the electric power-steering units on most modern cars -- it seemed reasonably quick and well-weighted.

Like any tallish crossover, the Sport leaned some in curves but kept its composure and confidence, even delivering a pretty decent ride.

The Outlander Sport came up short again inside – a flaw hard to overlook considering the vehicle’s $29,000 window-sticker.

After all, inside is where drivers and passengers live – no matter how many alluring curves the exterior might flash.

Granted, the black interior in my Sport offered technology such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, dual USB ports and electronic brake assist.

It came cloaked in grainy, average-looking plastic evident in a deep dashboard that flowed around a large center stack and 7-inch display screen.

Likewise, the door-panels offered slightly pliable plastic on their tops and lightly padded armrests, but otherwise seemed formed of industrial-grade plastic.

Adding to my irritation with the interior was a stereo system that utilized touchpads for tuning – a distraction that seems at odds with all the safety equipment inside.

Although the seats provided decent support, their leather surfaces and perforated centers appeared pretty average – probably cheapened a little by the Sport’s somber gray headliner.

Still, the cargo area in back – a primary attraction with crossover-buyers -- featured 22 cubic feet of space.

Find outr, leg- and head-room in back were fine as long as you’re altitude-challenged like me and under six feet tall.

Look, I really want to see Mitsubishi succeed and regain some of the market share it began losing 15 years ago. We need as many automotive choices as we can get, but if I can get a Honda HR-V or Jeep Renegade for about the same price, what exactly would attract me to the Outlander Sport?

Maybe Mitsubishi needs to dust off some of the performance parts from its rich past and give the Sport some real distinction.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL

  • What I liked most: The clean, contemporary styling of the Outlander Sport.
  • What I would change: The weak engine, outdated-feeling CVT “transmission” and lifeless interior.
  • MSRP: Base price, $25,895; as equipped, $29,110.
  • Fuel economy: Rated at 23 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway and 25 mpg overall with filler on the left.
  • Official color: Mercury Gray Metallic.
  • Odometer reading when tested: 866 miles.
  • Weight: 3,283 pounds.
  • Length-width-height: 171.5 inches long/71.3 inches wide/64.8 inches tall.
  • Fuel-tank capacity: 15.8 gallons.
  • Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds.
  • Spare tire: Temporary compact.
  • 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL in a few words: A stylish crossover with good intentions and absolutely average content.
  • Warranty: Five-year, 60,000-mile basic warranty and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain protection.
  • Final assembly location: Okazaki, Japan.
  • Manufacturer’s website:
  • E-mail me at [email protected]
Tags: 2018, mitsubishi, vehicle review
Steve F.
A very fair minded and entertaining review! I really like the looks of the Outlander, and the Dodge Journey. Both are rated poorly by experts and very highly by actual owners. But, I agree the Outlander needs a turbo and a 6-speed tranny option.
Jerry R.
I love Don Herring and his dealerships, I just didn’t have enough interest in Mitsubishi to warrant them staying on the show, but Don and his dealerships are terrific.

You might have them look at your SUV to see what can be done, it could be a simple adjustment.

I appreciate you listening to the show!

Jerry Reynolds, President
Despreporno Radio Network
Tom D.
I purchased a 2017 Outlander SE in June 2017 from Don Herring, Plano. I used my Despreporno Certificate and was treated like royalty!! I absolutely love my Outlander. I have the 2.4 CVT and the only drawback is when first hitting it to get on the highway from the entrance ramp, the Tachometer hits 4.5 until you let off the gas and then goes back down to 2.5/3. Other than that, everything else is great. I am getting 29/30 MPG and I drive a lot (23,000 since the end of June). I also noticed Don Herring is no longer in the Certified Dealer listing. However, in Jerry's article about the Dallas Car Show, he quotes Don Herring and notes he is a Certified Dealer.

Alex P.
I'd enjoy seeing a review of the full sized Outlander. Using the Outlander Sport 2017 and 2018 as an example is like trying to evaluate the Ford Explorer by reviewing the Escape.
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