Snowy regrets on the ride not taken: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SE S-AWC

Warren Brown
Columnist January 3

You don’t miss your Mitsubishi Outlander all-wheel-drive vehicle until the weather turns foul. I’m beginning to miss mine.

Local television and weather reports are saying we’ll have at least five inches of snow in this Hudson Valley town beginning about now, which is late morning on the second day of 2014.

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post. View Archive

“At least” is a troubling conditional in these parts. It usually means more, sometimes, much more.

I wouldn’t be anxious about those climatic developments had I not gotten rid of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SE S-AWC (Super All-Wheel Control) crossover-utility vehicle temporarily in my possession. I had fallen in love with the thing a few weeks earlier at home in Northern Virginia. It was immensely reliable, a confident driver in nasty weather.

I passed on driving it up here, some 300 miles north of my Arlington residence, yielding to a chorus of passionate objections from wife, daughters, sisters and a longtime assistant — all of whom thought it unwise and unsafe to be behind the wheel while recovering from a bout of bronchitis aggravated by hypertension. They put me on a train instead.


2014 Mitsubishi Outlander SE Exterior. (Mitsubishi/Wieck)

The bronchitis is in abeyance. The snow is not. Abetted by freezing temperatures and brisk winds, it is falling and accumulating with a consistency that makes me long for the all-wheel-drive Outlander — an attractively dependable underdog.

That is what I like so much about the Outlander, substantially redone for 2014. It is not as stylish as a Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, or spiffily redone Ford Escape or Chevrolet Equinox. But it is greatly likable in a neighbor-next-door sort of way.

If you were to choose a crossover-utility vehicle for transportation to a posh event, the new Outlander would not be the one. It is more aggressively homely in demeanor than most.

But if you had to move a load of books, especially if you had to do it in snow and ice, you’d be happy if the Outlander with the all-wheel-drive option were available.

In that regard, the new Outlander’s “Super All-Wheel Control” moniker for its all-wheel drive system is more than marketing hype. It does more than transfer driving power from slipping to gripping wheels. It works in four electronically selectable driving modes — Normal, Snow, Lock (for modest off-road ventures) and AWC-Eco.

The various modes employ a combination of sensors (engine, braking, differentials) to distribute the right amount of power to the right wheels under given driving conditions.

I used the Outlander’s multimodal drive system in several “wintry mix” storms in Virginia and West Virginia. It worked perfectly, keeping the vehicle wonderfully under control, and me pleasantly relaxed on slippery mountain roads. I would have taken the Outlander with me to New York, and ignored the numerous pleas from The Women not to do so, if the Outlander 2.4 SE S-AWC had even the slightest amount of appeal in terms of road performance — get-up-and-go, hustle, that sort of thing.

It didn’t, which does not mean it is a slug. But a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine can do so only much in a compact crossover-utility vehicle — delivering 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque via a continuously variable transmission, which was the case for the Outlander used for this column. That’s adequate power for small hauling and family taxi chores. But it is nothing to look forward to on a 300-mile journey accented by intermittent coughing. A train seemed better.

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