2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SEL AWC: Bigger Engine Reboots a Venerable CUV By Cliff Leppke Remember Mitsubishi? The onetime up and coming Japanese auto brand arrived stateside as the maker of the 1970s Dodge Colt. Eventually, Mitsubishi distributed its cars and trucks under its own three-diamond logo. It partnered with Chrysler producing vehicles at a Diamond-Star plant in Normal Illinois. When CBS broadcast the original Murphy Brown, Mitsubishi offered a full lineup from sports cars to SUVs. Things change. Murphy Brown returns to CBS this fall. Mitsubishi, in contrast, discontinued most of its autos. It now focuses on Outlander crossover—an SUV-like machine with car-type chassis. Sensible. Recent U.S. light vehicle sales data show car buyers comprise less than 30 percent of the market. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Outlander is Mitsubishi’s bestselling model. Outlanders come in two sizes: small and medium. This review examines the Outlander Sport SEL with all-wheel drive called all-wheel control. A Sport badge denotes the smaller two-row version. This nomenclature relationship echoes Nissan’s Rogue/Rogue Sport. Mitsubishi has skin in the AWD vehicle game. Its Lancer Evolution was a sensation, a stellar AWD rally car. The Outlander Sport, however, isn’t an Evo. Its people hauling capacity is more important than heady performance. While it’s optimistically dubbed a five-passenger vehicle, only a child could fit in mid-rear spot. That position has a seat belt/shoulder belt combo that retracts into an overhead bin. Rear knee room is tight, too. Seats are firm. The driver’s throne puts pressure in the wrong places. You cannot adjust lumbar support. Four very friendly adults, therefore, might squeeze into the Sport. Drivers get a few soft-touch spots including a leather-grain dash face and upholstered front console. The AWC button’s decorative panel is handsome, too. That button selects 2WD, AWD and 4WD. Front-wheel drive or 2WD is the most fuel-efficient setting, AWD works on any road surface, while 4WD permits modest off-road capability. There’s a nifty first-aid kit in the glove box. Otherwise, the Sport’s interior is spartan. Overhead, a large panoramic roof with LED surround light opens up the greenhouse. Push the start button and a raspy 2.4-liter 164-hp mill fires. A maze-like shift gate makes operating the continuously variable transmission’s shifter awkward. Besides drive, there’s a sport slot meant to eke out higher performance. A simple, single unlit dashboard button lets you chose the instrument cluster’s info-screen data. Due to the CVT’s elasticity, the engine apes a vintage avocado-green Sunbeam Mixmaster. In sport, it revs to 3,500 rpm at 60 mph. That’s great for making cake batter, crummy for this crossover. As a result, it’s a raucous, not particularly zippy runabout. In drive, engine noise is subdued, about 1,800 rpm at 60 mph. EPA estimates 23 city, 28 highway, 25 mpg combined. I observed 25. An eco light rewards a light right foot. Riders get leather trimmed seats. Drivers fiddle with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a leather-covered shift knob. The animal hide looks, feels and smells and like easy-to-clean vinyl. Sport’s ride is flinty. Handling is uninspired. Neither is enhanced by the sudden jumpy throttle response. Steering lacks feedback. Yet, wheel twirling nets acceptable arcs. Two-wheel drive cornering carving culls relentless squealing from the 225/55/R16 Nexen tires. Grip is modest. Select AWD. This reduces front-end push. Pedal placement is more step down than step at. Hence, the best driver position is high, which doesn’t suit this tall-low rider. Convenience is an afterthought. The Rockford Fosgate audio system’s volume knob, for example, is ridiculously small. Forget a tuning knob. Instead, you open an over-the-air station menu, scroll and then tap the one you want. You’ll find steering wheel controls for audio, phone and voice. The seven-inch display infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Mitsubishi offers a smartphone slot with USB port. Forward-collision mitigation and lane-departure warning are part of a $2,000 touring package. Unlike some competitors, the Sport doesn’t have radar-based cruise control. A light-blocking three-panel sunroof shade tidily retracts. A button lets you adjust the overhead halo light. The sun visors swivel but don’t extend to cover the side window. The Sport’s MSRP is $29,110. One expects more driving aids and nicer confines for that fee. A comprehensive warranty (10-year/100,000-mile powertrain; five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper) is part of the deal. In a sense, Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport is similar to CBS’s Murphy reboot; it’s rebuilding a franchise by appealing to those who grew up watching original TV sitcom.