2018 Mitsubishi Outlander SE AWD and Outlander Sport SEL AWC, Distant Cousins Could Battle in Segment

by Tony West and Bill P.

The Mitsubishi family is steadily growing with new production models like the Eclipse Cross and revised Outlander Sport taking to the streets. The O.G. Outlander is the workhorse for the brand keeping it afloat the last few years. Now the 2018 Outlander has a robust new big-body design, fine-tuned rugged performance and auspicious leather-clad interior.

The Outlander’s rambunctious little brother, the Outlander Sport boasts a 2.0 liter and 2.4 liter 4-cylinder engine that’s sporty and efficient.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC

Though the regular Outlander is more powerful with lux perks inside, the Outlander Sport is leaner, so swifter on the highway and on curves. We reviewed the 2018 Outlander Sport SEL AWC in the rural Midwest this past winter, and the Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC on an adventure in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

Both whips have a base price of $30k and have available base ES, LE, SE and top-of-the-line SEL grades. The Outlander lineup also includes a super sporty GT model.

Most of the coolest design features are standard with the SEL models.


Muscular Body with Style and Aerodynamics

Both Outlanders got a lot of head nods and compliments, but many people didn’t know it was a Mitsubishi.

For 2018 the Outlander is long and wide – decked inside and out. The SUV now has standard halogen headlights with LED tail lights. LED headlights and fog lights are standard with the SEL package. Along with being more chiseled, the 2018 Outlander also has a cooler color scheme with a new Alloy Silver paint job matching its silver upholstery stitching. Chrome and silver give the big SUV a style boost, with a chrome grille, chrome beltline molding, silver roof rails and 18 inch two-tone alloy wheels.

2018 Outlander GT
2018 Outlander GT

At nearly 15 feet long there’s ample legroom in the 7-passenger Outlander. And an optional panoramic sunroof stretches back to the 3rd row. Heated power-folding outside mirrors are standard on the Outlander SEL along with a power liftgate. Heated front seats, leather steering wheel and shifter are also standard. The heated seats stretch up to the shoulders and down to behind the knees- dope.

The Outlander’s revised center stack gets major cool points. Gloss black panels deck out the dash, center stack and accent panels on the glove box and doors, and chrome trims the door handles. Driver’s and front passenger sit comfortably up high in super supple 8 and 4-way power folding seats.

2018 Outlander SEL AWC interior
2018 Outlander SEL AWC interior

While there’s ample legroom in the Outlander SEL, there’s limited storage with only small cubby holes, door pockets and small storage in the center. And the panoramic sunroof, though fun and innovative could leave the SUV as hot as an oven if left open in the sun. It’s especially problematic with kids jumping in on the hot leather seats. Luckily the dual-zone automatic climate control cools the Outlander quickly.

Meanwhile the Outlander Sport gets a lot right with its compact utility vehicle design. The 2018 Outlander Sport SEL offers jazzy paint jobs like the Rally Red Metallic whip we reviewed. With a shorter hood and smaller proportions the whip can accelerate like a sedan, and maintain efficiency. Plus drivers have many adjustable positions on their 8-way power seats. It’s also cool how the Outlander Sport sits up high, but still sports a short compact body and a large trunk.

2018 Outlander Sport cargo space
2018 Outlander Sport cargo space

The 2018 Outlander Sport is lower and shorter but still has ample legroom and headroom with an identical 8-foot wheelbase. The Outlander Sport also sits on 18-inch wheels with two-tone alloy design. Chrome also accents the Outlander Sport but in more discrete areas.

The Outlander Sport SEL has chrome beltline bolding and chrome garnish on the rear bumper plus a chrome tipped exhaust. The grill and rear fascia have been revised to give it an edgier look.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC

Similar to its big brother, the Outlander Sport puts drivers in ultimate comfort, sitting them up high with the ability to tilt the 8-way power seats way forward and lift way up.

While leather and chrome deck out the interior of the Outlander SEL, the Outlander Sport SEL has a more athletic cockpit with leather, chrome and gloss black accents.

The Outlander Sport SEL’s interior features standard leather seats, steering and shifter, mesh at the center console and gloss black buttons on the center stack.

The small SUV also sports standard aluminum pedals, chrome plated inner door handles and satin gray window switch panels. The Outlander Sport also offers a panoramic sunroof. But with a smaller cabin, the sun bakes the inside if left open on a hot day. And it takes longer to cool/heat the whip even though it’s smaller.

Both the Outlander and Outlander Sport SEL have a 7 inch display with rearview camera, Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Bluetooth. Bluetooth in both vehicles seems low-tech and kept cutting off. The SEL package features the 710 watt 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium audio system.


Powertrain Options for Multi-Demographics

Mitsubishi made vast improvements to the Outlander and Outlander Sport powertrains. The Outlander offers a 2.4 liter MIVEC SOHC 4-cylinder engine with 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm, and a 3.0 liter MIVEC 24-valve 6-cylinder engine with an impressive 224 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 rpm.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC

The Outlander Sport has less power, but makes up for it with an advanced suspension system and sporty efficiency.

The Outlander Sport has a 2.0 liter MIVEC 4-cylinder engine matched to a 6-speed Sportronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The 2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder boasts 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque while the 2.4 liter MIVEC 4-cylinder in the Outlander Sport SEL AWC we reviewed has 168 horsepower and 167 lb-ft of torque and is matched to a 5-speed Sportronic continuously variable transmission.

The Outlander SEL AWC rides smooth with handling on a utility vehicle level. The whip may need a moment to reach a 60 mph cruise but the Outlander can still corner and turn with surprising precision. With super all-wheel control (S-AWC) and active front differential the whip ripped through snow and ice at high speeds. It handled better than some luxury cars.

Suspension performance is on a Subaru’s level. A drive mode selector offers a sport mode that tightens the suspension and opens the throttle a bit.

There’s also an eco-drive mode switch and eco indicator light that’s supposed to illuminate when drivers exercise an efficient driving pattern. Yet even when cruising and braking the light barely came on. What would constitute efficient driving in the Outlander? Perhaps the 26 mpg combined fuel economy could be boosted by minding the eco meter.

The Outlander’s safety features have also been fine-tuned making the whip an all-around quality SUV. Standard features on the Outlander include the Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Active Stability Control and Hill Start Assist. The Outlander has a most annoyingly accurate Lane Departure Alert.

The $3,000 SEL Touring Package adds the Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Automatic High Beams, Adaptive Cruise Control and a multi-view camera.

Though the Outlander Sport SEL has less horsepower and torque, the whip accelerates faster with a cleaner lift-off, then floods with power. The Outlander Sport can easily maintain a high-speed cruise. And a great turn ratio allows the Outlander Sport to park in tiny spots like a compact car.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC

The Outlander Sport SEL AWD performed like a big SUV with sporty compact character. Suspension and all-wheel control allows the Outlander Sport to do dramatic dips and weaves at high speeds. Road bumps and craters are instantly absorbed.

And though more agile and more athletic, the Outlander Sport loses little in efficiency. The small SUV boasts a 25 mpg combined fuel economy (23 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.)

Standard safety features in the Outlander Sport SEL are nearly identical including active stability control, Hill Start Assist and traction control. The Touring Package in the Outlander Sport is $1,000 less than in the in the Outlander and includes less features – only the Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Automatic High Beam, a panoramic glass roof and the 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system.

Fully-loaded the Outlander 2.4 SEL AWC retails for $32k and the Outlander Sport 2.4 SEL AWC for $29k. But the Outlander Sport can be further customized with a Navigation Package, LED Package, All-Weather Package, Cargo Package, Chrome Package, Exterior Package, Protection Package and more.

Mitsubishi did a great job perfecting the individual designs of both siblings. Both whips appeal to multiple demographics, the 7-passenger Outlander ideal for growing families and older adventure seekers. And the Outlander Sport is ideal for the millennials, the young professional and small families.


Check out more photos from our First Drive with the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander and Outlander Sport on our Facebook Page!