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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC

You’ve heard it and probably even said it. “If you can’t say something nice about someone”—or something—“don’t say anything at all.” I thought about stopping this right here. [long pause] But, obviously, I didn’t.
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You’ve heard it and probably even said it.

“If you can’t say something nice about someone”—or something—“don’t say anything at all.”

I thought about stopping this right here.

[long pause]

But, obviously, I didn’t.

So I need to point out that the Outlander Sport that I drove was painted Rally Red, and the vehicle looked absolutely great.


Better in red

And to double up on the niceties, it is worth noting that in when reporting sales through June 2014, Mitsubishi Motor American announced “Outlander Sport sales are up 23.1 percent year-to-date. This was the best January through June sales total in the model's history.”

That said. . .where to begin?

Maybe with this: the compact crossover utility market is, in many ways, one of the most competitive out there. No matter where you look, you’ll find really fine executions in CUVs including the Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson, and Kia Sportage.

In the cases of those vehicles, it is clear that those who developed them were aware of what the other guys were doing, and consequently they had to significantly up their game, whether it is a case of materials or amenities. Sure, the Outlander Sport has a leather-wrapped steering wheel and automatic climate control. It has a pushbutton start and heated front seats.


That plastic is as hard as it looks

But none of it seemed to be world-class. It almost seems as though the vehicle was engineered for an earlier time in a less-demanding market. And mind you: the vehicle that I was in was the premium model.

Speaking of premium, the vehicle has the “Premium Package” option, which includes a 710-Watt Rockford Fosgard audio system. The system has nine speakers, including a 10-inch subwoofer that’s back inside the hatch. You open up the liftgate, and there is one impressively sized speaker.

That is, as they say, all good.

But the knob on the face of the audio head unit has a diameter that is diminutive. We’re talking less-than dime-sized. It makes no sense. Powerful audio that has a tiny little knob. It ought to be something large, metal and knurled.

The Outlander Sport has a respectable 148-hp, 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four cylinder engine with variable valve timing. That’s good. But what isn’t good is the Sportronic continuously variable transmission (CVTs).


Nice taillights

Many of my car-reviewing colleagues have a knee-jerk reaction to CVTs, finding them as about as appealing as a cold sore. In my experience, many of the cars that I’ve driven—since, at least, one of the early circa 2004 Ford 500 models—to be good to really good. Nissan, for example, has decided that one way to achieve impressive fuel-economy numbers across the board in its vehicles is to use CVTs in cars and crossovers alike, and the implementation is well done.

I wish I could say that about this CUV. At times under moderate acceleration I wondered whether the vehicle was just going to, in effect, say “enough,” and bog down to a halt.

That, as my friend Peter DeLorenzo would say, is not good.

The Outlander Sport is built by Mitsubishi (with the engine and transmission sourced from Japan) in its plant in Normal, Illinois.

If only this vehicle was one that was designed and engineered with the new normal of CUVs.

If we go back to the announcement regarding how well the Outlander Sport is doing as regards sales through June, it is worth noting that according to Autodata, 15,322 Outlander Sports were sold during the first six months.

During the month of June, Honda delivered 26,129 CR-Vs.

Did I mention the Outlander Sport really looks good in Rally Red?

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I4

Horsepower: 148 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 145 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and head

Transmission: Sportronic continuously variable

Steering: Electric

Wheelbase: 105.1 in.

Length: 169.1 in.

Width: 69.7 in.

Height: 64.2 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Passenger volume: 97.5-cu. ft.

Cargo volume w/subwoofer: 20.1-cu. ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 24/29/26 mpg