With its circuit board-style grille and taillight details, the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander looks every bit the modern car whose name always brings to my mind a Sean Connery Sci-Fi flick should.
Available in four-cylinder (SE) and six-cylinder (GT) models, the all-new crossover comes standard with seven seats at a starting price of just twenty-four thousand dollars, making it one of the most affordable vehicles in the three-row class, even if it’s kids-only for the cheap seats.
An all-wheel-drive system is available with both engines, and offers several modes, including an Eco setting that should deliver on the 224 horsepower V6's EPA fuel economy rating of 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway. Both numbers are on the high side for a CUV this size, thanks in part to its surprisingly low weight, but the optional high-tech safety features are what help it stand out in its increasingly crowded segment.
The Outlander offers lane departure warning and radar cruise control, which includes a collision avoidance feature that can automatically apply the brakes if it thinks you’re about to rear end the car in front of you. These sorts of systems have been slowly trickling down from the luxury car ranks, but can’t be had yet in Outlander competitors like the Kia Sorrento and Hyundai Santa Fe, so there’s your space-age trump card. A IIHS Top Safety Pick comes along for the ride.
It also has stable, pleasant enough ride and is very quiet inside, but features less forward-thinking styling there than on the exterior. In fact, it’s got the same “oh yea, we need a dashboard and stuff” vibe that most Subarus exhibit, which seems to be working out fine for them. You can fit it with a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo, however, and add a navigation system that includes a screen with your exact coordinates and altitude -- add a few inches to the latter figure for the high, truck-like seating position.
That's the sort of information that comes in handy in the great unknown, but despite its adventurous name, the only place you're likely to get lost in the Outlander is the mall parking lot. It's a soft-roader, through and through. The V6 can tow up to thirty-five-hundred pounds in case you go crazy on a shopping spree, though.
Next year, however, the Outlander will go where no crossover has gone before, when a plug-in hybrid version arrives. US specs aren’t available yet, but based on the overseas version already on sale, it could offer an electric range of over 25 miles and a fuel economy rating near 100 miles per gallon. Now that’s progress.
As is, the 2014 Outlander is an entirely acceptable effort that makes good on its reasonable price tag and shouldn’t disappoint current Outlander owners, while appealing to the few, daring Mitsubishi cross-shoppers that happen to stumble upon one of its few and often far between showrooms.
Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com's Automotive Editor.