The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander is a three-row SUV that's received new styling and upgraded features to better compete in the growing sea of SUVs and crossovers of all sizes in America. To help differentiate itself, the Outlander is offering three-row seating as a standard feature. The 2014 Outlander has also received extra attention on the interior that help raise the level of quality and style from the lackluster models of yore. For the new model year, the Outlander is available in three trim levels: the entry-level ES, midrange SE, or the top of the range GT model.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander counts on two engines, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 166 horsepower and a 3.0-liter V-6 that ups power to 224 horses. The four-cylinder comes paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission, while the V-6 hooks up with a six-speed automatic. Back when we first got a taste of the new Outlander's 2.4-liter engine, we were underwhelmed. But this time we were given the 3.0-liter V-6 and had a week to really gauge what the Outlander was all about. What did we think? Read on to learn more.

Model and Price

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander starts entry-level model starts at $23,820, though our top-of-the-line GT model with S-AWC--or Mitsubishi's all-wheel drive system--was priced at $34,720. That includes the $6,100 GT Touring Package, which adds navigation and upgrades the media screen from 6.1 inches to 7.0 inches. It also adds lane departure warning; a power glass sunroof with tilt and slide; leather seats; a 710-Watt, nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate premium audio system; a power driver's seat; and a power remote tailgate.

Safety and Key Features

You'll find the Outlander equipped with common safety features such as anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control, and a range of airbags. The Outlander also includes hill-start assist and additional safety features included in our GT Touring Package such as lane departure warning and forward collision mitigation; the collision mitigation uses sensors, which can detect an impending accident, work to alert the driver and can apply the brakes to help decrease the severity--or altogether prevent--an accident. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 2014 Outlander its Top Safety Pick+ designation, its highest possible rating. The Outlander scored a "good" rating in front, side, rollover, and rear crash tests, and an acceptable or good score in the newer, challenging small overlap front test.

Family Friendliness and Utility

Despite its higher ride height, the Outlander is easy to climb in and out of. During a Thanksgiving run, I was able to pile the full capacity of seven people into the Outlander, with my six-foot-tall brother and 12-year-old nephew occupying the rear, third-row bench. The verdict? Surprisingly, there were no complaints. While it doesn't look roomy, the second row is on a track, meaning it can slide forwards and backwards. On this particular day, we slid the second row bench forward a couple of inches, which made all the difference. It's still hard to climb in to the third row, but we were surprised that seven of us were able to fit comfortably. Cargo room comes at a premium with all three rows up, is sufficient with two rows, and becomes abundant and downright cavernous if you fold the second row flat as well. While we didn't hook in baby seats or use LATCH points, there is enough room to maneuver should you need to.

Comfort and Quality

Another surprise, aside from actually fitting seven people, was the attractive and highly upgraded interior. While the exterior is basic, and non-polarizing, the interior has a few things going for it. Sure, the center stack is a little button heavy, and the audio system isn't very intuitive--there's no setting for "bass," "treble," etc.--but what stood out was the surprisingly plush cabin. The center console arm rest is padded delightfully, and there is ample storage space for bottles, cups,cell phones and knick knacks. The seats were comfortable, and there's an overall cohesion that is unexpected. The cabin is also shockingly quiet, and even at higher speeds, there is very little road or wind noise present.

How it Drives

Our 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC was powered by the more powerful 3.0-liter V-6 engine capable of 224 horsepower. Despite what appear to be good numbers on paper, the V-6 doesn't feel especially powerful or quick. Acceleration is modest, but then again, you're driving a three-row crossover. For getting around town, or for a road trip however, the Outlander will perform amicably. Despite not being quick, you're never really wanting for power, which may be a more significant gauge. It's difficult to discern whether this is the fault of an inefficient transmission or by design, as engineers looked to increase fuel economy and tapered back power until later in the power band. If you're expecting a semblance of sportiness, you won't find it here. But our takeaway impression was the Outlander provided a smooth, quiet, and comfy ride, perfect for getting around town.

Summary

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander has been redesigned and upgraded, and features three trim levels and two engines for buyers to choose from. All models feature a standard third-row, and it's possible to get behind the wheel for less than $25,000. If buyers are looking for an affordable three-row crossover, the Outlander is worth checking out. But so too is the Kia Sorrento, and if you don't necessarily need seven passenger seating, the 2014 Toyota RAV4 and 2014 Mazda CX-5 may offer a little more bang for your buck. Still, we're pleased to see the improvements, and think the Outlander makes for a comfy three-row get about town cruiser.

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