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Used Car Advice: Mitsubishi Outlander (2003-06)

words - Cliff Chambers
Since its introduction Outlander has evolved from an also-ran to one of the top softroaders

Like a successful product of  'Extreme Makeover' television, the underpowered Outlander that reached Australia in 2003 was, within three years, transformed into a striking and sophisticated urban all-wheel drive.

Australian first saw the Outlander in 2003. Well-equipped even in basic LS form, it was powered by a single-cam, 2.4-litre four-cylinder lifted from the Nimbus peoplemover. Output was 100kW -- barely tenable in a vehicle weighing 1560kg and providing no manual alternative to its dual-mode, four-speed automatic transmission. At $37,000, the top-spec XLS was significantly dearer than Honda's 118kW CR-V, but justified its price with a goodie package that included ABS, side airbags, a CD stacker and sunroof.

The Outlander grew in appeal and credibility following the 2005 arrival of a VR-X version. While the chunky styling remained largely unaltered, a new twin-cam engine with variable valve timing boosted power to 120kW and torque by 10 per cent. Equally significant were drivetrain and suspension enhancements influenced by the rally-rocket Lancer Evolution that sharpened the Outlander's response and grip on bitumen or loose-surfaces.

For 2006 came the second generation Outlander, characterised by pronounced wheelarches, a smoothed nose and revised rear hatch design. The all-alloy 2.4-litre engine now delivered 125kW, with selectable two or all-wheel drive and constantly-variable transmission. A 3.0-litre, 170kW V6 was optional.

VR-X versions built from 2004-06 are the Outlanders everyone wants and used values reflect their popularity. A VR-X built during 2005 and showing fewer than 50,000km should retail in the region of $22,000.  Cheapest are 2003-04 LS models that have travelled more than 100,000km and are available from private vendors at $13,500-15,000. Post-2005 updates are beginning to appear in dealer yards at $26,000-29,000.

Be cautious when buying an early LS. Initial stocks were slow to sell and some vehicles weren't sold until they were 12-18 months old. Check the build and compliance-plate dates as significant variations will affect value at resale time.

Most Outlanders in the market are still covered by the five-year/130,000km warranty introduced by Mitsubishi in December 2004. Ask to see the service book and check that all services have been undertaken. While there, look for evidence of additional dealer visits or receipts for non-warranty repairs. The vehicle may have been abused by a previous owner or suffered recurrent faults.

With correct servicing, the 2.4-litre engines are reliable and need minimal maintenance. Camshaft drive-chains stretch and tensioners can fail, so be wary of rattles at start-up with higher-kilometre engines.

Other things to look for include:

  • Vehicles that will be used frequently for towing or sand driving need a transmission oil cooler. For those subjected to 'extreme' use, service intervals should be halved from the regulation 15,000 to 7500km.
  • Ensure that the foot-activated parking brake fitted to pre-2006 models releases without need for excessive force.
  • If planning to use an Outlander in isolated or rural areas, be aware that a temporary spare tyre with an 80km/h speed restriction and limited durability in rough going is all that's supplied. The storage well below the load area can be extended to accommodate a full-sized spare but compromises rear clearance.
  • The strangely-shaped rear hatch aperture exposes its rubber seal to damage from careless loading. Check the seal for rips that may allow dust and dangerous fumes into the cabin.
  • Extreme care needs to be taken when using the electric seat-folding feature on later models. Anything -- including pets -- out of sight when the switch is flipped could sustain damage or injury because the mechanism acts swiftly and with considerable force.

Thanks to: Keema Mitsubishi, tel (07) 3008 6000 and Mitsi Spares, tel (03) 9580 9244

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Published : Wednesday, 28 May 2008

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