A 2.2 litre twincam alloy turbo diesel has joined the new Mitsubishi Outlander line-up just in time.
The Outlander was once New Zealand's most popular midsize SUV, with some 7500 sales. But the wagon lost share in one of the auto industry's most viciously competitive and fastest growing segments as it grew older, and was hobbled by petrol-only engines.
In a candid press release announcing the new SUV Mitsubishi Motors says: "Outlander rapidly lost market share as the Mazda CX-5 entered the market earlier this year and Honda introduced the all new CR-V. An aged vehicle with an aged interior has meant the competitors have caught up and then overtaken Outlander on market share."
Mitsubishi's pinning much of its hopes for an Outlander revival on the diesel. It's the potential star in a trio of new engines that includes 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre single-cam four-cylinder units. The thirsty V6 has vanished from the range.
Mitsubishi's marketing prayers may indeed have been answered by the lively diesel. It was the pick of the trio during this week's extensive launch drive from Wellington to Wairarapa. Its 2268cc engine produces 112kW at 3500rpm and 366Nm of torque from 1500rpm to 2750rpm, providing excellent flexibility though its six-speed conventional automatic gearbox. Not only that, it's smooth and quiet, partly due to twin balancer shafts and backed up by added soundproofing in the body. You'd hardly know it was a diesel.
On the other hand, it lacks the power and torque of the diesels from two of Outlander's arch rivals, the CX-5 and Holden Captiva.
The petrol engines, mated to a CVT transmission with six shift points, are nice enough, but lack some of the diesel's eagerness to perform. Petrol Outlanders are rated to tow 1600kg braked, but the diesel can pull 2500kg.
The 2.0 produces 112kW and 193Nm, the 2.0 126kW and 224Nm. All three engines provide good fuel economy and CO2 emission levels. The diesel checks in at 5.8-litres per 100km while the 2.0 and 2.4 are rated at 6.6 and 7.5-litres respectively. Mitsubishi notes the diesel "almost matches the efficiency of Mazda's Sky-Activ system but without the need for Automatic Stop and Go".
Weight-paring helped gain better fuel economy. An average Generation 2 Outlander is about 100kg lighter than its predecessor. Aerodynamics were also improved.
"Eco" drive modes are standard on all models to help drivers get the most from each litre.
Mitsubishi admits customers complained about the hard plastics used inside the outgoing Outlander and responded with a generally better cabin with softer-touch plastics. It also redesigned the third row of seats. These are larger and easier to fold and reach. Folded, the second and third rows lie flat.
Although the new Outlander is no larger, designers freed up extra interior space. All versions are well equipped with standard gear: reversing sensors, camera and seven airbags. They carry an ANCAP five-star safety rating.
Top VRX models get satnav, leather seating, power tailgate, adaptive cruise control and Forward Collision Mitigation that senses a possible crash, primes the brakes, alerts the driver, then brakes if the driver doesn't take action.