Driver's Seat: Mitsubishi Outlander outperforms Kia Sorento on the road

The Mitsubishi Outlander didn't get up to freeway speeds with quite the snap of the Kia Sorento, but it got better mileage, and its performance was plenty good.
The Mitsubishi Outlander didn't get up to freeway speeds with quite the snap of the Kia Sorento, but it got better mileage, and its performance was plenty good.
Posted: June 21, 2012

2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD vs. Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC: In Part 2 of 2, how the three-row crossovers compete on the road.

Price as tested: Kia, $37,150; Mitsubishi, $33,605.

 Base prices: The Sorento SX starts at $34,850 for the all-wheel-drive version. A 2.4-liter four in a front-wheel-drive version starts around $23,000. (It's just changed over to the 2013 model year.)

The Outlander two-wheel drive with a 2.0-liter four starts at $22,345. All-wheel drive boosts that to $24,845.

Other options: The Outlander had a $2,900 touring option package (leather seats, cool sound system), and $2,000 bought navigation with rear camera.

The only option on the Sorento was the $1,500 panoramic sunroof.

Up to speed: In last week's column (www.philly.com/driversseat), I focused on the interior accommodations of two crossovers that surprised me with three rows of seats.

On the road: Though no one buys either vehicle for full-throttle acceleration tests, both handled the job just fine. The Sorento's 3.5-liter and the Outlander's 3.0-liter six-cylinder engines were coupled to shiftable six-speed automatic transmissions.

The Sorento's added displacement did give it an edge in getting up to highway speeds, but the Outlander performed admirably.

The Outlander Sport model I tested for a week came with a 2.0-liter four and a CVT. I would expect that combination of small engine, big vehicle, four-wheel drive, and CVT to feel like a dog, but its performance was as good as the GT's.

Zigs and zags: Though the Sorento is a bigger vehicle, its steering responded better to driver input. The Outlander kind of left me feeling a little distant from the operation. In fact, the five-passenger Sport model seemed even less connected to the driver than the seven-passenger GT.

Shifty: Neither automatic transmission's shift mechanism provided the Zen "one with the car" feeling that car guys like me enjoy. But it's there if shifting gets your motor running.

Rocking: A line item of note in the Mitsubishi touring option is the Rockford Fosgate sound system.

The touchscreen interface is tricky and the graphics are dull, but, oh, the sound. At first, Bob Dylan had an awful hip-hop bass thump added to his song and I wondered whether I was stuck with this unfortunate fusion of discord. But after digging around I found a way to adjust the settings from hip-hop to rock (or country, or other genres).

Suddenly, the CD played extremely well and, bonus, I could still adjust the bass, treble, and midrange tones. They were not overridden by the genre settings. Sweet.

The Sorento offered a typical Hyundai stereo, with fine sound and a workable interface.

Mental pause? I wondered whether I was developing hot flashes while driving both of the vehicles. Neither the Outlander nor the Sorento could offer consistent heating performance, requiring frequent adjustment. The Outlander also had a redline and hash marks on its control knobs, and neither one seemed to match up with the settings.

Fuel economy: But here's where one pays for the Sorento's acceleration. I observed 21 m. p. g from the Sorento, which included a trip to Washington. The Outlander surprised me, averaging about 24 m.p.g. while staying closer to home. (Unfortunately, its average mileage memory resets with each shutdown.)

Where they're built: Sorento, West Point, Ga.; Outlander, Mizushima, Japan.

How they're built: Both get "Recommended" ratings from Consumer Reports. The Outlander has an above-average reliability rating, and the Sorento's is average. And both vehicles come with a 10-year/100,000-mile power-train warranty, and both feature fuller coverage for five years or 60,000 miles.

In the end: If you need better accommodations for the occasional sixth or seventh passenger, the Sorento wins hands down. Yet, despite a few flaws, most notably the stereo interface, the Mitsubishi Outlander would be my preference for its combination of good performance, comfort, reliability, and better fuel economy.

Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or ssturgis@phillynews.com.

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