If sightings translate into popularity, I'd say Mitsubishi has a hit in its new Outlander.
I've seen far more of the new 2007 model than I've ever seen of the previous generation -- and that's surely good news for the struggling automaker.
One reason for its popularity, I suspect, is a bolder, more assertive look. The previous generation looked an awful lot like any number of SUVs. And for those in the market for a smaller SUV, the Outlander feels as though it has more room than its competitors.
The Outlander's second advantage is that it's unusually well equipped at a price that matches or beats most of the competition. Lastly, it has a basketful of unusual features -- and an optional all-important third-row seat.The 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander.
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The 2007 Outlander is somewhat longer and roomier than its predecessor, and comes in three trim levels: ES, LS and XLS models. Prices start at $21,370 for a well-equipped ES that includes active skid and traction control, air conditioning, AM/FM CD audio system, side impact air bags, curtain side air bags, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, keyless entry and power windows, locks and mirrors.
All Outlanders have as standard equipment advanced dual front air bag supplemental restraint system, side curtain air bags, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, and tire pressure monitoring system.
Sixteen-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth cell phone-ready switch, drivers's seatback pocket, leather-wrapped steering wheel, roof rails and other item distinguish the LS.
Meanwhile, the XLS has bigger alloy wheels, automatic climate control, fog lights, Sportronic magnesium steering wheel shifter paddles and under-floor stowable compact third-row seats.
The second row seats are reclining with a 60/40 split fold and a 3.15 inch slide range.
The Outlander, available in two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, is powered by a 220 horsepower, 3.0 liter V-6. Fuel mileage figures were not available.
I drove an Outlander for about a week, and I was surprised at how close in personality it was to a larger SUV. It had a good, solid ride, deep throaty exhaust, and plenty of sportiness. I was also intrigued by an unusual tailgate -- the lower part of it is built into the bumper and thus affords a bit more room for loading things, etc.
Problems? I would have preferred more substantial materials in certain spots inside the car, and I thought the paddle shifters were a bit outsized and awkward. I also had some glitches to deal with in the tire monitoring system.
But other than that, I enjoyed the Outlander.