The congenial contender

This week, our garage resident was the congenial Mitsubishi LS Outlander 5+2 petrol 2WD. In the pecking order, it sits just above the base entry level five seat ES variant, which is the first and cheapest option in the broad 13 model Outlander Lineup.

You can choose the LS in either standard 2WD like our test vehicle, or opt for the slightly more expensive sportier AWD configuration, offering improved stability and on road dynamics across a wider range of driving surfaces and conditions. However, there is no efficient Plug-in Hybrid power train at this level I’m afraid. That option is reserved for the AWD ES, Aspire, Exceed and flagship Exceed Tourer.

If you’re after a hybrid, then check out our feature review on Mitsubishi’s Exceed Plug-In Hybrid here.

Starting at $41,890 drive away for the modest ES 2WD in plain white. Our slightly augmented LS 5+2, also in white, rolls off the showroom floor for $45,790. What you gain over the ES is third row seats, auto dusk sensing headlamps, electrochromic rear-view mirror, rain sensing wipers, a bigger 9-inch touch screen for infotainment and vehicle information and sat nav, plus some additional features which I’ll cover shortly. If you’d prefer something a little more elegant than simple white, choose between smart Cosmic Blue, elegant Sterling Silver or a handsome Titanium finish for an extra $740.

But they do say bold is beautiful, and if you’d like your LS to stand out from the crowd, then you can have it dipped in striking Black, Red or White Diamond in a catwalk treatment that will set you back an additional $940. There’s also grouped accessory packs and a long list of individual exterior styling options so you can personalize your new LS to suit your individual tastes and budget.

When I think about it, the Outlander is a good example of why demand for SUVs in Australia has surpassed the conventional sedan. With clever design and utilisation of available space, this type of vehicle brings higher levels of practicality and functionality to families and couples who enjoy the extra versatility that the Outlander delivers.

Visually the front end is bold and distinct with those dominant three-tiered headlights and unabashed splashes of shiny chrome.  There’s no mistaking it’s an Outlander behind you or driving toward you.

With our LS’s burly proportions, muscular fenders and crisp body contour lines emanating outward from what Mitsubishi call their “Dynamic Shield” grille, your eyes naturally follow the sharp-edged waistline down the side of vehicle toward the rear where it culminates with a wing-shaped D-pillar just below the appealing floating roofline.

Even the standard 18-inch alloy five paddle design rims work well with the LS’s more conservative exterior bling.

The rear end has achieved a clean and uncluttered look that’s both elegant and understated that works in perfect harmony with the rest of the Outlander’s external styling.

With keyless entry, open the door slide into the driver’s pew and um… well, I began to wonder if the Mitsubishi interior designers had taken the day off to recover from celebrating their flamboyant and stylish efforts in the flagship Exceed.

In a well laid out interior, if it wasn’t for the occasional metal highlights on dials and moldings with the carbon fibre look trim highlights, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d been transported into a monochromatic reality where everything was 50 shades of boring!

Dash, door skins, console, steering wheel, carpets all from the same grey colour swatch, the tiny hints of red on the release buttons of the seat belt buckles, the AC fascia and instrument cluster were a welcome relief. I suppose it provides a near blank canvas for the creative interior designers amongst us to add some panache with seat covers or floor mats that break up the sea of sameness.

Yet despite the LS having all the interior ambiance and contrasting colour flair of a flight recorder, its saving grace is in its comfort and practicality, which it does rather well indeed.

The seats are finished in a dark cloth fabric; warmer on cold mornings and not as sweaty as leather on hotter days, reducing the need for expensive fancy heated and cooled seats. It’s all manual adjustment, no fancy electric gismos here. But what was appreciated was the range of adjustment, not only with the tilt and reach of the multifunction steering wheel, but noticeably with the seat height lever. There’s plenty of adjustment to accommodate both taller and shorter drivers. Crank it up high for an SUV style seating position with great visibility over the front comer edges – great for negotiating tight carparks or picking your way through stop-start traffic. Then lower it down to honker yourself into the interior for a more relaxed driving position for long-distance drives.

Second row passengers don’t miss out either, there’s plenty of headroom to accommodate tall teenagers and thanks to the slide adjustment you can alter the amount of leg room with a simple lever action. Handy, especially if you have to squeeze an unexpected adult passenger in the littluns only third row, and they’d prefer to avoid having their knees in their mouth.

And Mitsubishi doesn’t make any false claims here, clearly stating the LS is a 5+2 and not genuine 7-seater.

Flexibility to deal with life’s little challenges, I like it!

When it comes to comfort and convenience, the LS isn’t overly endowed, but there are a few nice indulgences.

Up front there’s a multifunction leather steering wheel, and shift lever, standard dual zone cooling and heating, but rear riders will have to remain content with just console outlets. Still a very handy feature in those summer months when temperatures move north on the thermometer, but an additional fan speed control to boost air flow would be appreciated.

What was disappointing was Mitsubishi didn’t deem it worthy to install those clever and practical rear door blinds as seen on the Exceed as standard, a must for Mum’s and Dad’s with little kids offering better protection from the sun.

For charging duties, there are the usual twin 12v sockets one front and the other in the rear, with dual USB ports for first and second row passengers. Interestingly, the LS does provide handy smart phone wireless charging. And whilst we’re on the subject of mobile phones, you’ll enjoy wireless Apple Car Play but still only cable connect Android Auto. Mind you, even the flagship Exceed tourer with all the bells and whistles still hasn’t worked that one out yet.

There’s the standard cup and bottle storage positions, front console, and rear arm rest, with drink bottles in doors, plus a moderate sized console bin.

On the entertainment front, the LS allows you to enjoy the larger 9-inch touch screen atop of the dash. It’s a shame the display interface feels reminiscent of Windows 3.11 and about as engaging. Flick over to Apple or Android phone mirroring and it comes to life with a much more enjoyable experience.

You get standard analogue instrumentation, which is crisp and easy to read, with a digital display in the center for vehicle information and settings. There’s nostalgic AM/FM frequencies for those who still use them, with proper DAB for those who enjoy a richer sound.

Although you won’t be throwing any long distance karaoke concerts with family and friends on the long haul to the favorite holiday spot, as the 6 speaker audio is adequate but not what you’d call immersive, so Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall sounds a little more like Pavers on the Ground.

At the back is where things start looking more practical in terms of available and useable space. With all three rows in place, you can slip a few small shopping bags behind the third row with an available 163L.

Fold the third row and put the head rests into the floor storage compartment, where you can also keep the rear security blind, and it will open the rear to 478L. Plenty of room for fur kids, suitcases, car fridge or that flat packed coffee table from IKEA.

Drop the second row, which is a convenient 40/20/40 split configuration allowing multiple storage and occupant seating options, and with all three sections down you’ve an available 974L measured to the tops of the seats or 1,461L from floor to ceiling. So, you can go pick up that big screen TV, maybe those large ornamental garden vases.

And check out the genuinely useful optional accessory for protecting the rear from muddy paws or garden centre essentials.

It is disappointing that the LS misses out on a standard power rear tail gate or the additional handy feature of hands-free operation. Due to ongoing supply constraints and increasing material, manufacturing and logistical costs, Mitsubishi Motors Australia adjusted the standard specs of certain Outlander models to ensure production and minimise supply delays. At least for now, ES and LS owners will have to make do with manually opening and closing the rear door.

Lift the lid on the engine room and you’ll find a simple rudimentary front wheel drive layout. An east west engine coupled to a transaxle with driveshafts out to each front wheel, supported by radiators for cooling and condensers for AC comfort across the front behind the grille.

No fancy wastegate controls, variable turbos or intercoolers in sight. Just a well-mannered 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine leveraged from the partnership in the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. It’s coupled up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), equipped with paddle shift enabled Sport mode, to provide the flexibility of 8 preset gear ratios.

In combination with drive by wire technology and improved CVT control logic, Mitsubishi indicates it enables improved shift operation providing a regular automatic transmission like response to wider more assertive throttle openings. And, for the most part, it doesn’t do a bad job, reacting nicely to changing demands and working efficiently to keep the 2.5 in its comfort zone as it winds up and down through a seamless blend of ratios.

You can also optimise the vehicles setup for a range of driving conditions by using the console mounted rotary dial, allowing you to select either Eco, Normal, Tarmac, Gravel, or Snow. The latter three options seemed optimistic given it’s only a two-wheel drive configuration. But hey, if it means the difference between getting stuck and getting out, then kudos to Mitsubishi for providing this level of terrain techno wizardry on a 2WD variant to assist drivers where possible.

Any driver can appreciate an engine’s ability to deliver a broad torque curve that digs deep at low rpm for effortless acceleration from stand still or that relaxed mid-range confidence to hold gear and speed on a hill climb. 

Yet looking at our LS Outlanders performance figures on paper, it’s an odd juxtaposition to its real-world drivability. With peak torque not available until 3,600rpm and at a modest 244Nm, neither will you get maximum available power until the tacho is rapidly approaching the upper reaches of 6.000rpm to achieve 135kWs. It’s now that you begin to appreciate just how good a job the CVT does at exploiting the 2.5L’s best attributes and talents to allow it to feel stronger than expected. I wouldn’t call the FWD 2.5 LS Outlander sprightly, but it is satisfactory given a 1,640kg kerb weight.

So, what does that mean in terms of drivability? Well, thanks to the efficiencies of the CVT, I’ve no reservations or complaints when its unladen. I liked its easy going nature as a relaxed point A to B daily commuter, ideal for suburban lifestyles for couples and active families. However, dip into the LS’s additional load capacity of 715kgs with a full complement of passengers, additional luggage, and perhaps the tow ball weight of a small camper trailer, and I’d be making sure you allow ample room for any overtaking maneuvers. And whilst we are talking about towing, the Outlander has a braked towing capacity of up to 1,600kgs. Adding in a tow package will set you back $1,457 plus electric brake controller for anything over 750kg dipping into your pocket for another $815.

On the flip side, the smaller capacity 2.5 utilising the efficiency of the CVT is indicated to return a reasonable 7.7L/100km keeping in step with competitors in this segment. Over the course of a week, I was hovering around 8.6L\100, so close enough. Even with its modest 55L fuel tank, you should be OK for 700ks. Of course, that will change if towing duties are undertaken.

Ride and handling was a mixed bag of outcomes and not always complimentary to each other.

Up front you’ve MacPherson struts, with a multi-link rear end bolted into the Common Module Family (CMF) platform shared with Nissan and Renault. This new platform provides drivers with greater confidence and comfort through its innovative design. Utilising hot stamped ultra-high tensile-strength steel in key areas, torsional rigidity is augmented by 33% compared to the earlier Outlander. Additionally, the extensive use of aluminum components has further improved strength while reducing overall vehicle weight, benefiting economy and vehicle handling.

The steering is responsive and nicely proportional to driver input through corners or enjoying the long way home on those longer winding country roads. You never feel like you’re wrestling the LS Outlander through bends as it’s happy to follow your directional lead, making for a relaxed and enjoyable drive. And thanks to its 11.2m turning circle, I found it nimble to spin around in multistory carparks or shopping centers. Braking is diligent and linear responding equally and proportionally to your urgency, push your foot firmly on the pedal and you can wash off speed with reassuring confidence.

However, the firmness of the suspension which lends itself nicely to improved handling at freeway or open road speeds and reduced body roll through corners and greater stability over bumps and dips, does sacrifice some cabin comfort as you are made more aware of small corrugated imperfections in the road surface, speed humps are met with a thump and thud rather bump and bounce. I’d question the lack of local suspension calibration and tunning for our driving style and variable road conditions, which has delivered beneficial results to other brands.

Our LS 5+2 wasn’t backward in coming forward with a wide array of important safety features now standard across the Outlander range. There’s the convenience of two iso fixed points and three top tethers for child restraint, you get driver and passenger front, side, and center airbags with curtain airbags for 2nd row passengers, however, they don’t extend into the temporary third row. But you do get a rather extensive list of drivers assist systems including Predictive Forward Collision Mitigation system, with pedestrian detection, Driver Attention Alert, Lane Change Assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Active Stability Control, Trailer Stability Assist, Active Traction Control and Anti-lock Braking System.

Tested to the latest 2022 safety protocols, the all-new Outlander model range achieved a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

    When it comes to maintenance, Mitsubishi are keen to keep it all indoors. You can get up to 10 years from the date of first registration or 200,000 km, whichever comes first, as your new vehicle warranty.

    Mitsubishi state on their website, “With Mitsubishi’s New Car Warranty, you’ll experience worry free motoring well into the future. It’s complimentary with your purchase and tells you that we really believe in the reliability of every new Mitsubishi and gives you that extra peace of mind.”

    Sounds great, right? Well, here’s the catch to that carrot, in the fine print… this only applies when all regular services are completed within the specified service intervals at a Mitsubishi Dealership.

    Use any external qualified and registered automotive servicing agent, and Mitsubishi will cut your factory warranty in half… with only 5 years from the date of first registration or 100,000 km (whichever comes first). Sorry, how does that equate to Mitsubishi really believing in the reliability of every new Mitsubishi?

    As for servicing, the 23MY Outlander 4×2 and 4×4 2.5L petrol interval is set at 12 months or 15,000km. Spread over the full 10-year warranty period, maintenance costs will set you back an additional $4,340.

    The LS has a reasonable list of safety features for the asking price, but choosing the LS means you miss out on some handy features and niceties included in the higher model grade specs. Yet despite what it may lack in luxury appointments and window dressing, the LS is still a smart-looking vehicle with a sensible interior built on a safe and modern foundation. It’s a pleasant and easy drive as a daily commuter and doesn’t feel strained cruising the highways. There’s a reassuring solidness and quality feel about it, the comforting thud as you close the doors, and comfortable seats mean it’s a pleasing cabin to spend time in.

    The 2.5L isn’t going to intimidate other drivers, but it delivers what’s needed to execute a broad range of family duties and tasks with an acceptable blend of power and economy.

    Having the practicality to access a third row of seats when needed for those occasional necessities is a bonus. And given the slide flip fold second row to accommodate taller passengers or open the back for a cavernous storage space, it’s hard not appreciate what the LS provides in terms of comfort, practicality, safety, and the easier entry price into the Outlander range.

    Model as tested: Mitsubishi Outlander LS 5+2 2WD

    Price: $45,790

    • Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petro

    • Output: 135kW/244Nm

    • Transmission: Constant Variable Transmission (CVT)

    • Fuel: 7.7L/100km

    • Warranty: 10 year or 200,000km – or if serviced outside Mitsubishi 5 year or 100,000km

    Drive Editor - Ray Cully
    Drive Editor – Ray Cully

    About our Motoring Editor: Ray has been passionate about all things automotive since he first started collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels models when he was five. Since leaving his executive role at General Motors (GM), he’s been sharing his driving experiences with Australian audiences for nearly 20 years, commencing his automotive journalist career with a popular WA-based magazine and was writing his own column in The West Australian for 8 years.

    Ray’s strong love of automotive engineering and clever design has seen his articles and photography featured in prominent national magazines in Australia and the UK. He loves sharing his passion with other drivers, including via a long running stint as Senior Instructor for Land Rover Experience, providing training and education for new vehicle owners.

    Recently Ray has been presenting on TV shows including Ready for Adventure and the very popular Caravan and Camping WA, to showcase some of the great products, vehicles and companies that make getting out and exploring Western Australia that much more enjoyable.