2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport - "Compact Cross-Planetarium" - Review

"Drive...He Said"  recently made the rounds in the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport compact crossover utility vehicle. As the heavens darkened, and we momentarily stopped in traffic, we tilted our heads back to gaze skywards. Dozens of amber-colored LEDs trace the length of the 4x3-foot fixed tinted glass roof.  Privacy needs are handled by the power retracting shade. Such fun is yours to be had for a "mere" $2000 (gulp).

Sharing architecture with Jeep's own Compass crossover-ute , much of the Outlander Sport's reason for being is a list of options unavailable on the Jeep Compass Latitude 4x4. Sure $30,000 gets you a loaded Outlander Sport 4WD SE model with that panoramic roof, and a fancy-pants HDD navigation system with a rear-view camera. Only there is no leather upholstery option.

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Power comes from a relatively "low-output" 2.0-Liter twin-cam gasoline four-cylinder with dual variable valve timing. The yield of 148-hp is down 10 horses to the Jeep's related mill. The CV transmission is prone to becoming hung up.  Put mildly, the 3300-pound Outlander Sport AWD is hardly a hare. Call it a raucous 10+ seconds to reach 60  miles-per-hour. Nor is combined fuel economy of 23 miles-per-gallon the stuff of legend.

To ford the occasionally snow covered pavement, Mitsubishi pilfered from the the Evo's All-Wheel Control parts bin. Power can be allocated on-demand from the front wheels rear-wards, through a hydraulic center differential. An e-diff splits torque per axle, from side to side. In "locked" AWD mode the F/R split approaches 60%. Press the Outlander Sport harder on freeway off-ramp loops and there is surefootedness. Stability control is more meddling in AWD Auto mode. Before you ask, there's no low-range creep gearing here.

"Sport" in the Outlander Sport begins with a 106" wheelbase. The 225/55 Toyo A24 tires look impressive on 18" wheels. The four wheel disc brake network is of a pedal firmer than the "air-in-the-brake-lines" feel of the Compass. Simulated aluminum paddle shifters are where they should be: fixed on the column rather than rotating with the steering wheel. Mitsubishi has chosen a satisfactory level of damping against abrupt road irregularities without resulting in excessive rebound pitch. In a fast bend the Outlander Sport is less athletic, with more than its share of lean. Electric assist steering, glacial in its haste, contends with squalls of understeer.

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The exterior lines of the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport are mostly Lancer. That includes the trademark "wedgy nose" and near "Coke bottle" fuselage. Our arms noticed that the liftgate requires about the lowest effort in this segment. Wish the same could be said for the "rod-propped" hood.

Outlander Sport drivers are treated to a gauge cluster which is easy on the eyes. Seats feature useful hip bolsters. Filed under "annoying" are a multi-function display  which neurotically resets average fuel economy each time the Outlander sits for 4 hours. Driver and front passenger heater toggle buttons, inboard of each front bucket, become obscured by thighs pressing against the side bolsters. A sliding center armrest nominally compensates for a tilt steering wheel which doesn't telescope. Is a lower grade level of plastics and attention to detail bothersome? Close that roof shade and squint.

For the retro touch there is a 6.5" touch media head-unit / navigation display which insists on a late 1990's-style retracting faceplate to insert CDs or DVDs. It's menus take "comprehensive systems control" to a new level. Increasing the "Punch" effect of the 710-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo by any factor over "2" is as effective as "boxing" ears. The Bluetooth handsfree system won't auto-load phonebook entries.  Kudos to the software which read our near antique I-pod Nano 2, a feat becoming rarer and rarer.

While they might not want to make a habit of it, a real adults can make use of the second row mid-position. That's a "no-can-do" in the Compass Latitude. Less utilitarian is the muddying 10" subwoofer which bites off 2 cubic feet from hatch cargo capacity. Folding the split rear seat back expands the appetite to just 49 cubic feet.  That's 20 cubic feet down from the abondanza offered by the Honda CR-V.

One area of concern was the level of fit on our Outlander Sport SE AWD tester. The orthodontal gap between the front left fender and the hood amounts to "teething" due to the move of production to the former Diamondstar plant in Normal, Illinois.

Have we missed the 2013 Mistubishi Outlander Sport's veritable planetarium light display yet? Ask us next Halloween.

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