The Mitsubishi Outlander is a crossover manufactured by Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors. It was originally known as the Mitsubishi Airtrek when it was introduced in Japan in 2001, and was based on the Mitsubishi ASX concept vehicle exhibited at the 2001 North American International Auto Show. It was sold at Mitsubishi Japan dealership chain called Car Plaza. The ASX (Active Sports Crossover) represented Mitsubishi’s approach to the industry wide SUV trend for retaining the all-season and off-road abilities offered by a high ground clearance and four-wheel drive, while still offering car-like levels of emissions, economy and size.
The original Airtrek name was chosen to “describe the vehicle’s ability to transport its passengers on adventure-packed journeys in a ‘free-as-a-bird’ manner”, and was “coined from Air and Trek to express the idea of footloose, adventure-filled motoring pleasure.” The Outlander nameplate which replaced it evoked a “feeling of journeying to distant, unexplored lands in search of adventure.”
The second generation of the vehicle was introduced in 2005 and all markets including Japan adopted the Outlander name, although production of the older version continued in parallel. It was built on the company’s GS platform, and used various engines developed by Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and PSA Peugeot Citroën. PSA’s Citroën C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007, which are manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan, are badge engineered versions of the Outlander.
The Airtrek was first introduced to the Japanese market on June 20, 2001, priced from ¥1.7–2.3 million. It offered a choice of either a 126 PS (93 kW) 4G63 2.0 L or a 139 PS (102 kW) 4G64 2.4 L GDI, mated to a standard INVECS-II 4-speed semi-automatic transmission. Both front- and four-wheel drive were available. The four-wheel drive version uses open differentials for the front and rear axles, with a viscous coupling unit for the center differential. A high performance model, using a detuned version of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s 4G63T 2.0 L I4 turbo, was introduced in 2002. The engine produced 240 PS (180 kW) and 343 N·m (253 lb·ft), although in export markets the Outlander version’s output was reduced to 202 PS (149 kW) and 303 N·m (223 lb·ft). The return of four-cylinder engines under 2.0 liters offered Japanese buyers a vehicle that was in compliance with Japanese regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement, however, the exterior dimensions exceed Japanese regulations for the “compact” designation.
The Outlander arrived in 2003 in North America, replacing the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, with a modified front grille and headlights which increased the overall length by approximately 130 millimetres (5.1 in), and the two models were manufactured in parallel thereafter. It shared its platform with the Mitsubishi Grandis, also introduced in 2003. A version of the 4G64 powerplant was offered first, while a 4G69 2.4 L SOHC MIVEC I4 producing 120 kW (160 PS) and 220 N·m (160 lb·ft), and the turbocharged 4G63T appeared in 2004. All had the option of front- or four-wheel drive.
In several South American markets it was known as the Montero Outlander, to benefit from an association with the strong-selling Mitsubishi Montero Sport.
On October 17, 2005, Mitsubishi launched the second generation model, dropping the Airtrek in Japan in favour of adopting the global name. It features a new DOHC 2.4 L 16-valve MIVEC engine; INVECS-III continuously variable transmission (CVT), Mitsubishi’s AWC system which features electronically controlled four wheel drive and stability control, on a stretched Mitsubishi GS platform. The North American version, powered by a newly designed 6B31 3.0 L V6 SOHC MIVEC was shown in April 2006 at the New York Auto Show prior to its release in October the same year. Due to the availability of a V6 engine, Mitsubishi returned to offering a shorter version of this vehicle, and reintroduced the Mitsubishi RVR February 17, 2010. The usage of a four-cylinder engine under 2.0 liters offers Japanese buyers a vehicle that was in compliance with Japanese regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement, which has tax advantages, giving buyers the ability to purchase a vehicle capable of seating seven people without paying the tax penalty of a larger engine.
The Outlander, which features Mitsubishi’s RISE safety body, received a four star rating from the Euro NCAP car safety performance assessment programme. One of its unique features is something Mitsubishi calls a “Flap-Fold Tailgate”; it is a two-piece tailgate integrated into the rear bumper that folds down for easy loading, while serving as a bench when the tailgate is open, able to accommodate up to 400 pounds.
In its home market of Japan it was the best-selling SUV from October 2005 to March 2006, while in the U.S. market it achieved 1,694 and 2,108 sales in November and December 2006, the first two full months it was available; Mitsubishi ultimately hopes for at least 4,000 sales per month in the United States, and after the cancellation of the Mitsubishi Grandis in model year 2011, the Outlander is now Mitsubishi’s only MPV capable of carrying seven passengers with all wheel drive. In Chile, where both generations were on sale simultaneously, the new model was badged Outlander K2.
Increased demand for the new Mitsubishi Lancer, and the consequent effects on the capacity of the company’s Mizushima production facility, have obliged Mitsubishi to reassess production of the Outlander. In September 2007, they announced that from 2008, production of European market Outlanders would be transferred from Nagoya to its NedCar plant in the Netherlands, while the Citroën C-Crosser and Peugeot 4007 would have their production transferred from Mizushima to Nagoya.
The model was facelifted for the 2008 model year, although the 2007 grille carried over in the United States and Canada for 2008-09 until another facelift in the 2010 model year.
At the 2007 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the company displayed a Mitsubishi Evolander (now known as Mitsubishi Outlander Ralliart) concept, powered by a 240 kW (330 PS) supercharged version of the vehicle’s 6B31 V6 engine and equipped with suitably uprated suspension, brakes, wheels/tires, body kit and interior.
A second show car, an Outlander GT Prototype with a front grille based on the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, was exhibited at the 2009 New York International Auto Show, and formed the basis of the facelifted model introduced in late 2009.
Along with a major facelift for the 2010 model year, the top end Outlander XLS (GT in the US) introduced a new colour MFD dashboard display and the Mitsubishi S-AWC AWD system. The lower trims retain the previous MFD and the less advanced AWC AWD system. Likewise, the interior was also slightly revised to incorporate leather into the dashboard trim and doors.