Test Drive: Mitsubishi Outlander GT

Palm Springs ? Crossovers make a lot of sense because they take the best parts of two or three kinds of vehicles, blend them together and then fold in with some innovations to make them better than the original products.? It?s like taking different ingredients and making some sort of dish that has a greater appeal than the original, like with a good soup, pasta dish or casserole.

The Outlander hasn?t been the best selling crossovers on the market because Mitsubishi hasn?t had the marketing budgets like some of the bigger brands to entice people into their vehicles.? Nevertheless, it?s a very good vehicle that has ranked very high on some of the ratings.? For example, U.S. News and World Report ranks the Outlander fourth of 24 compact crossovers just behind some big names.? Consumer Reports gives it a good review and a ?Recommended? rating.

I recently spent a day driving the new Outlander GT and some of the other 2010 Mitsubishi vehicles through the mountains near Palm Springs.

The redesigned Outlander takes design cues from the popular Lancer, especially with the addition of the distinctive jet fighter-look, front grille along with new panels all around.? The interior is upgraded on all models, and the XLS and GT now have the sophisticated look of double stitched (synthetic) leather on the dashboard and upper doors.

Buyers may be going for smaller vehicles now, but they don?t want to give up the luxury features, so the GT appears to be right on target for those shoppers.? Priced at $30,015, including the destination charge, the GT S-AWC V-6 has the premium features buyers are looking for, like Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, magnesium paddle shifters, automatic climate control, moonroof and 18-inch alloy wheels. ?It also has Mitsubishi?s FAST-key hands free entry and starting system and FUSE? Hands-free Link System featuring Bluetooth 2.0 to handle hands-free calling and streaming music.? The sound system is a Rockford-Fosgate 710-watt blaster and it has Sirius Satellite radio.? With the optional navigation and leather package, all-weather mats, backup sensors, rearview backup camera and remote engine start, the GT tops out at $35,540.

The other versions start at $21,605 for the front-wheel drive ES and go up to $27,155 for the XLS- AWC.

The Outlander ES and SE models come with a 168-hp, 2.4-liter engine and a Sportmatic? continuously variable transmission (CVT).? The SE has magnesium steering-wheel paddle shifters that simulate a six-speed transmission.? Both of these models are standard front wheel drive with four-wheel drive as a $2,350 option.

All Outlander models have a full spectrum of standard equipment including stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, air conditioning with cabin air filter, power windows and locks, cruise control, keyless entry

The upper-level XLS and GT are both powered by a new 230-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 engine with the six-speed Sportmatic? Automatic transmission with Idle Neutral Logic that improves fuel economy by automatically changing to neutral wherever the vehicle comes to a stop.? The XLS is also available with front- and four-wheel drive, but the new GT features Mitsubishi?s new Super-All Wheel Control and Hill Start Assist.? The S-AWC is the first vehicle in its class to use an Active Front Differential system that distributes the driving force from side to side on the front axle and from front to rear.? The system also allows the driver to select the conditions: Tarmac, Snow or Lock from a selector knob.

The Outlander GT may not have the same outstanding performance level as the Lancer Evolution, but it has the same spirit.? It drives very nicely, handling more like a sport sedan than crossover.

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