I still recall my first experience in an Outlander. We used it as a ‘support car’ at an early Mamaku Winch Challenge, and though it looked wildly out of place, it did its job really well.

And that’s what I thought about the latest iteration of Mitsubishi’s mid-size SUV. Not that it looked out of place, but that it did its job so well.

From what I had read about the new Outlander Sport, I wasn’t expecting much. It had had some pretty average reviews overseas, and getting a bit long in the tooth, despite the odd facelift as it’s gone on.

At first glance it looks good. And second and third as well. The new nose treatment suits the vehicle and reflects its relationship with the Eclipse stable mate.

Mitsi have added a matt black body kit to emphasise the big black 18” alloys, and help bulk up the appearance. Together they work well.

Inside it’s all black, with leather highlights, and brushed chrome trims that stopped it feeling like a cave. I’m not sure if it’s my height, but I found overseas reports of uncomfortable seats, and uncomfortable driving position were way off the mark. It was a nice place to be for quite an extended period of time around the bush back roads we took it out to play on.

One of the key areas anything should be judged on is ‘fit for purpose’, and cars are no exception.

Time and again we see motoring journalists decrying SUVs for perceived handling, performance, and ride flaws, but often you have to wonder if they have forgotten what they are driving.

If you are looking for a spacious, comfortable, nice to drive family wagon to take exploring, camping, picnicing, skiing, or heading off to the supermarket, school, sports, or whatever, then the SUV makes a whole lot of sense.

If you are looking for a high-speed highway eater, chances are it won’t be an SUV.

The demise of the big Aussie 6’s can pretty much be laid at the feet of the SUV rage that used to be regarded with so much derision, but these mid-size wagons have come an awful long way since the early Surfs and Terranos started appearing in the Japanese import flood.

I’m not sure Mitsi did itself a lot of favours when they set up the Sports suspension package, because it really only suits one application. Adventuring. And maybe that’s what they should have called it.

Around town the Sports fairly rough riding, a bit noisy when empty, and in traffic it’s a bit jerky. The Sport doesn’t really feel at home in the city.

BUT!

Fill it up with kids, tents, surfboards, chilly bins!!! Even hang a caravan or camper trailer on the back, and head into the ‘get away from it all’ territory, and it really comes into its own.

The Outlanders all-wheel drive even becomes a proper 4WD at the push of a button, and it will get you a lot further than you would imagine it would.

That hard riding suspension soaks up the load easily and becomes nicely compliant when the road becomes a bit more demanding, without rocking and rolling like a ferry in a southerly.

 

And that’s where ‘fit for purpose’ comes into the equation.

If you are looking for a soccer mum SUV, buy an Outlander by all means, but probably not a Sport.

If you are looking to go city to city, buy a car.

But if you are looking for family adventures in this limitless outdoor playground we live in, buy an Outlander Sport. It’s not a full out bush basher, it lacks the ground clearance and suspension travel for that, but to get you away from the crowd, be it a nice grassy picnic spot, or a DOC campsite in the hills, it’s perfect.

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