SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: “A Mitsubishi. It’s a really good color.” That was the most I could muster as I walked into the house, my husband wondering about what I’d just parked in the driveway. “An Endeavor?” he asked, looking out the back window toward the garage. “No, an Outlander.”

Mitsubishi has a problem when neither half of a two-car-writer household recognizes its vehicles -- or even realizes that it’s been three years since a particular model went out of production. I think I’ve said this before, but honestly, most days I forget that Mitsubishi even makes cars. “What about the Evolution?” you say. Good question. At least for me, the Evo feels more like a standalone than a member of a wider Mitsu family of automobiles.

On the website, Mitsubishi declares the Outlander “award-winning,” but digging further, the accolade cited by Mitsubishi is one of the “10 Most Affordable 3-Row Vehicles” as dubbed by Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. But let’s be real, it’s hardly what I’d call a bona fide award; rather, it’s more a statement, along the lines of, “Chevrolet Cruze Is One Of America’s 4-Door Sedans.”

Even so…being among the “most affordable” is a far cry from being a “best value.” The Outlander actually makes a good argument for buying used. Used anything.

Its deep, jewel-blue paint, looking so much like the ocean at anglerfish depth, definitely gives the ute a rich feel, but alas, that’s where its appeal ends for me. The interior materials feel very 1995, the seat bottoms flat and completely unsupportive, and the controls give the Outlander a very fleet-vehicle vibe. And that’s the good stuff.

Oy, that transmission! Combined with a four-banger that struggles to produce enough oomph to move the 3,472-pound carcass off the line, the CVT sucks every last ounce of power and swishes it around like so much cheap mouthwash, only to spit it out in frothy spurts to all four wheels. Seriously, Mitsu would go a long way toward making this a halfway acceptable ride by either deleting the all-wheel drive or putting a real powertrain underhood. One or the other, Mitsubishi.

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander SE is equipped with a 2.4-liter I4 coupled with a continuously variable transmission.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I can overlook the tinny doors, the extensive use of recycled Rubbermaid plastic for various components, the flimsiness of the switchgear or the sad interior woodgrain -- the Outlander is a cheap (and I do mean cheap, not merely inexpensive) way to get into an SUV of this size, and the stated fuel economy is not too shabby for a bigger three-row vehicle.

As I’ve probably said before, I don’t mind cheap cars that are at least honest about their intentions. Like shopping at Kmart, buying a base-level Lancer or Mirage is not something you really do because it’s a fun experience -- you do it because it meets a certain price point, because (by necessity or by choice) you prioritize value over luxury or ambiance. There is no shame in that. And to its credit, Mitsubishi isn’t pretending that the Outlander is a Mercedes-Benz GL.

Also to its credit, I guess: This is one of the few cars able to make me laugh out loud while behind the wheel, a distinction it shares with the Dodge SRT Challenger Hellcat and the Alfa Romeo 4C. Unfortunately, I was laughing at the car here, not with it.

Why? Step on the so-called accelerator pedal and you’ll find out. The 166 hp and 162 lb-ft of naturally aspirated fury mated to a CVT was never going to yield luxuriant smoothness; here, however, it’s a recipe for unintentional hilarity. Between the whine of the transmission and an engine screaming for mercy, you’ll alternate between laughing uproariously and feeling sorry for the car. You won’t be going very fast, though.

On a smaller, lighter car costing half as much (like, er, the Mirage) I could let this slide. On a $30K family hauler? I’m sorry, but this won’t do. Subaru proves a CVT, while not ever thrilling, need not be painful; nearly every other automaker demonstrates that an inline-four need not be excruciatingly underpowered. Mitsubishi somehow managed to ignore all the progress made by other automakers over the past decade. Not even the most value-oriented of buyers deserve to be subjected to this painful throwback.

I’ve heard rumors of an upcoming Outlander refresh. After driving this car, I can see why an otherwise premature-seeming reworking is in order -- seems like they just redesigned the thing, after all. I only hope that a better motor joins the restyled fascia, because you can make a case for cheap, yet relatively high-feature, vehicles like this. If only because of the manufacturer warranty. As of now, though, Natalie is right -- a used crossover seems compelling by comparison. 

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander SE receives an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined fuel economy.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander SE S-AWC 

Options: SE Premium package including power glass sunroof with tilt and slide function, leather seating surfaces, black roof rails, 710-Watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system including 9 speakers, 10-inch subwoofer with Punch control, DTS neural surround Premidia-wide surround and Dolby volume, SiriusXM satellite radio with 3-month subscription, power driver’s seat with seat back pocket, wood grain interior trim panels, power remote tailgate ($2,600)

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