By David Colman
Hypes: Based on Agile Lancer Chassis
Gripes: Saddled With CVT and Low HP
Now in its third year of production, the Outlander Sport gets a fresh face and rump for 2013, along with larger wheels and new color palette. The revised snout and upturned, spoiler-topped tail impart a hunting hound rake to this crossover SUV based on the Lancer chassis. In the SE model, more up market interior trimming than before belies the Sport’s modest $22,295 base price. After spending several hours in the manually adjustable driver’s seat, I had no complaints about lack of comfort or support. The steering wheel is also manually positionable for rake and reach. The leather trimmed wheel itself features useful audio volume and band controls on the left spoke and effective cruise controls on the right spoke.
An extra $2,050 Premium Package garnishes the Sport with an enormous glass roof which admits plenty of light to the interior but does not slide or open. But it does confer fantasy status on the interior at night thanks to a long row of orange LED bulbs that illuminate both sides of the roof opening. The package also includes black roof rails, rear view camera, and a knockout loud Rockford Fosgate 710 Watt, 9 speaker audio system with 5CD/MP3 dash-mounted head unit. Since Mitsubishi thoughtfully provides the Sport with standard SIRIUS radio, there’s no lack of choice in the infotainment department.
The Outlander Sport is one curvaceous beauty. Its interior design is so full of arcs and parabolas that you can’t lay anything on a flat surface. The exterior is equally sloping, so if you want to store your coffee cup while you fumble for your keys, your only choice is the ground. But the cabin’s severe tumble home has a positive effect on outward visibility. The side and rear windows are tall and informative, and the included rear view camera helps you check all the safety boxes when you back out of a parking place.
Given Mitsubishi’s years of success with Lancer on the World Rallye Championship, it should come as no surprise that the Sport’s handling is precise and informative. The new 8-spoke, 18 inch alloys plant 225/55R18 Toyo A24 tires at each corner. These all weather radials never lose their footing, even when the softly sprung Sport achieves some rather dramatic lean angles in tight corners. However, neither the refined chassis, the athletic suspension, nor the sticky tires will determine how effectively you cover ground in this Outlander. That final measure of performance is determined by the engine/transmission combo, and here the Sport is sorely lacking. The engine is an inline 4, making just 148hp and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. Given that the Sport weighs in at 3,032 pounds, the power-to-weight requires each horse to move 20.4 pounds. Further complicating the equation is the SE’s lethargic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), which is particularly hard put to find the right gear ratio when you most need passing power. Although Mitsubishi optimistically equips the Sport with large paddle shifts next to the steering wheel rim, these tools are rendered virtually useless by the engine’s lack of power and the vague speed ranges of the CVT’s stepped “gears.”
If you like the Sport for all its admirable qualities – looks, finish, utility – then forego the SE trim level and opt for the base model, $19,170 ES, which comes standard with a real 5-speed manual transmission. This transmission is not available on ES versions. In the long run, you’ll still get great mileage (25 MPG City/31 MPG Highway) without paying the performance surcharge that the CVT extracts.
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE 2WD
- Engine: 2.0 Liter Inline4, DOHC, 16 Valves
- Horsepower: 148hp
- Torque: 145 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $27,170
- Star Rating: 7.5 out of 10 Stars