2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

GT can mean different things to different car manufacturers.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

I’m not referring to some interpretation of languages and something lost in translation. I’m saying automakers want to conjure different imagery with those two simple letters.

If you’re sitting in some Italian super car wearing a GT badge, you’ll enjoy a Gran Turismo ride of extreme speed and elite handing. If you take the wheel of a luxury GT sedan, you’ve got a hold of a Grand Touring model decorated by every fancy feature a long ride might demand – including GPS, satellite radio, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, etc.

For the 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander GT, I’d guess the Japanese company was aiming for the latter – which was a good call, considering it’s a SUV crossover.

The Outlander GT is the top of the line for this particular model, with a 3.0 liter V6 serving up 19 city and 26 highway mpg. For this kitted out version, you get an automatic transmission, traction control, stability control all-wheel drive, airbags everywhere and third row seats wedged into a fairly small SUV.

For this week-long test drive, I had a version maxed out with optional features – including the satellite navigation setup, Bluetooth smartphone and MP3 player connection and AM/FM/CD/Satellite radio.

The ride is similar to other vehicles in its class – smooth, stable and adequately maneuverable. The handling is a little numb, but I have yet to drive a crossover that wasn’t a little lifeless at the wheel. That’s not a major issue because SUV drivers buy their vehicles for comfort and cargo capacity – not nimble steering.

The acceleration gave me enough to get in and out of Los Angeles traffic with confidence. It’s not a thrilling drive, but we come around to that same issue of driving a crossover SUV. They’re not built or designed for thrills and excitement. They’re built literally for utility with a more manageable size than their full-size relatives.
As for that third row of seats and its place in the Outlander GT’s payload bay, I needed an associate’s degree in engineering to figure out how to get the seats down in order to get more gear into the back. Mitsubishi isn’t the only offender in this ongoing collective act of criminal frustration, but it often seems like it would take less effort to load the Hubble into a space shuttle than to get sears down, in or out of an SUV.

Even with the instructions printed out, it took me and two friends several minutes of pushing upholstery and pulling straps to put that third row away. Can one company – somewhere, somehow – put a simple end to this rear seat conundrum?

But, I digress.

While there’s too much to delineate the Outlander GT from its rivals like the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Subaru Forester, the Ford Escape and the Toyota 4Runner, it’s a worthy competitor on its own behalf. While I wouldn’t be comfortable taking it too far afield off-road, it serves up a comfortable street and highway ride with adequate straight line power.