Here it is, Mitsubishi’s moon shot. That might sound overly dramatic, but if the redesigned 2014 Outlander doesn’t make a dent in the compact crossover suv segment, where it competes against at least a dozen established players from America, Asia, and Europe, it is not beyond comprehension that after three star-crossed decades in the U.S. market, Mitsubishi could call it quits and pull up stakes just like Suzuki did last year.
Therefore, the new 2014 Outlander has a big job to do. First, it needs to establish Mitsubishi as the builder of something other than the legendary Lancer Evolution and the strange egg-shaped electric car with the name nobody can remember. Second, it is the platform that the automaker is using to introduce its new plug-in hybrid powertrain, a lifeline to whatever Mitsubishi’s future might be. Third, it needs to give compact crossover SUV buyers a really good reason to take a pass on the competition, especially considering Mitsubishi’s shrunken dealer network.
Right now, things are looking good for the Outlander, and not just because it comes with a terrific warranty. This SUV is affordable, it puts up impressive EPA fuel economy numbers, it gets a fantastic crash-test rating, and except for the redesigned 2014 Nissan Rogue, it’s the only model in its class that offers a third-row seat. Plus, that plug-in hybrid version is right around the corner, a compact crossover SUV exclusive, just like its available V-6 engine.
To find out if the new Outlander is as good in person as it is on paper, I borrowed one for a week, and Mitsubishi sent over a loaded GT model with a V-6 engine, Super All-Wheel Control (AWC), and a window sticker reading an improbable $34,720.