What do Cabo San Lucas, Mitsubishi, sexy dancers (with killer abs) performing fire stunts and a hip resort on the Sea of Cortez have in common? Well, plenty if you happened to be me, one of a handful of fortunate people taken along to test drive the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport in Mexico this fall. For this event, the surroundings fit the product.
Mitsubishi, you ask? Yes, the company is striving to go beyond their current fan base of tuners by positioning its new compact crossover—a smaller version of the 7-passenger Outlander—towards Gen Y as a fun, expressive, affordable and eco-friendly vehicle. In the past couple of months Mitsubishi’s Facebook fans have doubled and they are launching Mitsubishi Live Drive, the world’s first online test drive, using an actual Outlander Sport in November.
With a base price of price of $18,495, the Outlander Sport is coming into a very competitive market. Poised to compete with the Nissan Juke, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and VW Tiguan, Mitsubishi is pitching its newly designed Outlander Sport. Their claim–it comes equipped with more content for less money.
On design, the front end is an attention grabber with a shape inspired by jet fighter air intakes—same as on the Lancer Evolution—the company’s high-performance sports sedan. The body is lean, muscular and low, buffed with 18″ wheels and available extra-wide HID headlamps that cast an 80-degree (over the typical 60-degree) spread and have a luminosity 35% greater than normal HID lamps.
Engineered to be nimble for the city, The Sport drove with lots of punch and personality. The normally-aspirated 4-cylinder engine features the same architecture as the Lancer sedan and high-performance turbocharged Lancer Evolution and produces 148 bhp @ 6,000 rpm and 145 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,200 rpm. The Sport models will be offered in two trims: the 2WD ES with a choice of either the manual or CVT transmissions and the more upscale, technology-wise SE edition that is available with either 2WD or 4WD. The miles per gallon boasts a high of 25 city and 31 highway.
Another standard, and a first for Mitsu, is electric power steering along with a brake regeneration system — an additional fuel saver that captures energy during deceleration.
Weight-reducing factors include the front fenders made from recycled plastic that flex under light contact. The Sport is also two decibels quieter than its bigger cousin, thanks to a sound-deadening spray on the floor and a sound-absorbing material in the headliner, plus low-noise tires.