Big SUVs (sports utility vehicles) with at least seven seats are ideal for large families who want spacious cargo capacity as well as high ride height and a commanding view of the road.
They are also suitable for companies that want to ferry business associates in comfort, when going off-road to visit plantations or work sites.
These large SUVs with monocoque have six-digit price tags, and thus feature car-like premium comfort and safety features as well as spacious seven-seater cabins.
A prime example is the latest 2.4-litre Mitsubishi Outlander which arrived in Malaysia in late February, and carries an attractive introductory price tag of close to RM172,000 for units booked and registered before May 31.
This time, Carsifu pits it against a fellow Japanese rival, namely the 2.5-litre Nissan X-Trail (4WD Premium Impul edition) which has a similar price tag.
Both SUVs have their own strengths, and it won’t be easy for buyers to choose between these two global products.
They have nice features such as four-wheel drive modes, push-start ignition and keyless operation, automatic LED headlamps with daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, dual zone climate control, and audio systems with six speakers, reverse camera, USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
Like the X-Trail, the Outlander offers four-wheel drive with automatic and lock modes via a convenient round dial or button control.
However, there is a slight difference in the SUVs’ two-wheel drive mode.
The X-Trail has the usual two-wheel drive mode, while the Outlander’s 4WD ECO can engage four-wheel drive mode when loss of traction is detected.
Interested buyers might also want to note that the Outlander is imported from Japan and only available in 4WD form (also equipped with heated front seats), while the X-Trail is locally-assembled and also has a 2.0-litre two-wheel drive variant.
The Outlander was given a substantial facelift in Japan last year, featuring Mitsubishi Motors’ Dynamic Shield front design and improvements to the powertrain, body and chassis.
With this mid-life update, the Outlander’s front end looks more dynamic and powerful, especially with the skid plate styling for the underside of the bumper.
There is a premium feel to the cabin with the black leather upholstery, and ebony wood grain-like panels for part of the dashboard and door trim.
The revised Outlander also gets an improved suspension which results in better driving feel, steering accuracy and response, and body stiffness.
According to Mitsubishi Motors, it also received more than 30 updates to reduce engine, tyre and wind noise intrusion. These included extra sound absorbing and insulation, and anti-vibration materials.
Under the hood is the familiar 2.4-litre Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control (MIVEC) engine with 167PS and 222Nm of torque. Still, the Outlander gets a new CVT transmission which helps in improving acceleration performance and fuel efficiency.
Running on Goodyear Eagle LS 225/55 R18 tyres on quiet township roads, we found the Outlander to be quite nimble for a large SUV.
We like its steering which was responsive and precise when we took bends at some speed.
We kept it in 4WD ECO mode all the time, as we did not have occasion to take it on off-road or very muddy terrain.
The suspension is biased towards ride comfort, and that’s in line with the Outlander’s target market of soccer moms, large families or corporate high-flyers.
The second row seats can be reclined for more comfort and they can go further back to improve second-row comfort, but our only major gripe is the lack of rear air-conditioning vents.
However, this was not an issue for our rear passenger who complained of being too cold when we had the blower at near-full blast on an extremely hot day.
As for equipment, you get nice stuff like an auto dimming rear view mirror to reduce blinding glare, a large 6.1-inch touchscreen display mated to a reverse camera, and lots of safety features.
In our opinion, the revised Outlander continues to be a family-oriented and solid, refined, well-engineered SUV with good road manners.