- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2009

In keeping with today’s trends to scale back, Mitsubishi has made a smart move. It has added third-row seating to the compact 2009 Outlander 2.4-liter four-cylinder crossover.

The third-row seating has been added to the 168-horsepower Outlander SE model, which is offered in 2WD and 4WD. A third row, once reserved for the large SUV class, opens up more choices to buyers who are looking for more capacity from smaller engines in order to stretch a dollar.

At full occupancy, passengers are very likely going to feel squeezed inside the small four-cylinder performer. However, being squeezed is a long-term lifestyle that is now part of our lives. The headlines in my local paper said county government needs to increase property taxes 25 percent, sewer rates 10 percent and cut its work force by nearly $5 million. Adjusting to having less is the new emerging mind-set that is cutting across every pocketbook in every community and every industry. Smart automotive decision makers are responding appropriately.

Getting less for less - it’s the new way of having more. You’ll have less room, less power, but get more for your buck. The base price on my Outlander SE 4WD tester was $25,180. Seven-passenger seating added $500 to the price. When the two-passenger third-row is not needed, it is folded away as an underfloor stowable seat, allowing for the convenience of a cargo-storage area. Additionally, the second-row seats further increase storage room with the 60/40 split fold-and-tumble seatbacks.

Mated to a continuously variable engine, the four-cylinder engine has a horsepower rating of 168 at 6,000 rpm and only 167 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,100 rpm. The Outlander does feel slow. Nothing wrong with it, though; it’s just the mechanical nature of this model. The EPA rates the fuel economy on the 4WD crossover at 20 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway.

The Outlander is offered with a V-6 engine option. This model, the Outlander XLS, is coupled with a six-speed Sportronic automatic transmission and has a horsepower/ torque output of 220-hp/204 lbs.-ft., respectively. The 2WD version of the V-6 delivers 17/25 mpg.

Included in the base price comes the standard safety equipment of side curtain head airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags, dual front airbags and active stability control.

The Outlander has received a “Top Safety Pick” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, having attained the highest ratings in each of the crash-testing categories including the rollover, side and front impacts. Consumer Reports magazine in its April issue on car buying has placed the 2009 Mitsubishi Outlander on its “Recommended” list - its best rating - after stringent road, safety and crash testing.

The Outlander tester also included Mitsubishi’s optional $1,999 Navigation Package. Its hard-disc capacity is increased for 2009 to 40 gigabytes, up from 30 GB. The available package contains the HDD navigation system with music server, plus a CD/MP3/DVD head unit. A hands-free Bluetooth system is a $225 option. Mitsubishi applies $715 destination and handling charges to the 2009 Outlander.

The Outlander crossover vehicle is based on the same car platform as the Lancer, so the Outlander driver can expect nice, stable ride and handling characteristics. The compliant ride goes with the exterior looks. Smooth lines around the front end wrap around the side and to the rear for optimal aerodynamic forces.

• Send e-mail to keane@motormatters.biz

Spare Parts

2009 LINCOLN NAVIGATOR: The Navigator’s commanding design brings a unique elegance and an unrivaled presence to the full-size luxury utility segment. Navigator’s frame and independent suspension deliver superior ride and handling while its acoustic windshield, thicker glass and “tuned” mirrors contribute to Navigator’s “whisper quiet” interior. Power is provided by Lincoln’s 5.4-liter V-8 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that generates 300 horsepower and 365 lb.-ft. of torque. Price: $49,795

WORLD PERFORMANCE CAR: In preparation for the World Car of the Year Awards program April 9 at the New York Auto Show, the top three “World Performance Cars” finalists are the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, Nissan GT-R and Porsche 911 Carrera. The World Performance Car award winner must demonstrate a specific and overt sports/performance orientation. Vehicles are selected and voted on by an international jury panel made up of 59 automotive journalists from 25 countries.

KATV OK: KATV’s parent company, Allbritton Communications, is doing its part to help the auto industry. Allbritton is offering employees at KATV and the six other stations it owns cash to buy cars. KATV President and General Manager Dale Nicholson made the announcement in Little Rock, Ark., at a staff meeting. “The company has told every regular, full-time and part-time employee that if they choose to purchase an automobile from a local dealer in the next 60 days, the company will pay $2,000 toward the purchase or lease of a new car - and $1,000 toward the purchase or lease of a used car.”

Source: KATV Little Rock, Ark.

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