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Restyled front (and rear) of the 2016 Outlander reflects new Mitsubishi design language.

Mitsubishi refreshes Outlander

Mitsubishi is working to bring the brand into the mainstream and on the shopping lists of more buyers, and the 2016 Outlander seven-passenger, three-seat row crossover, introduced at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, represents a major undertaking. It will go on sale at the end of the year.

Compared to its predecessor, body dimensions see no big differences; the 105.1-in (2670-mm) wheelbase is the same, and the 184.8-in (4694-mm) overall length is a mere 1.5-in (38-mm) increase from 2015. However, the Outlander exterior was a "clean sheet" vehicle just three years ago, and what it needed was a front-to-rear effort to create a more appealing driving experience. Virtually all the weight reductions were taken in the previous model, and the 2016's more than 100 changes were made with moderate total increases 11-22 lb (5-10 kg) in vehicle weight.

Emphasis on quiet cabin

The front and rear of the new Outlander were restyled and now reflect a new design language. Delivering a quality experience is where Mitsubishi invested. Under the skin are structural upgrades to improve body rigidity, the suspension was retuned front and rear, and electric power steering was reprogrammed for ride/handling.

The vehicle already had a Top Safety Pick+ rating with the previous model.  It had earned a good rating in each of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's five categories, including the small overlap front crash test that has been the most challenging. Forward-collision mitigation and lane-departure warning are in an option package for the 2016 SEL and GT trims.

Making the Outlander quieter was a priority and the vehicle has a range of additions, from more sound insulation throughout, to improved door weatherstripping and body sealing, and a thicker, insulating windshield and rear door glass.

Major technical changes were made to the standard CVT (continuously variable transmission), which is used on all trim levels with the 2.4-L four-cylinder. The internals of the CVT were reworked, so the oil-to-water cooler was relocated to the exterior.

The CVT's belt and pulleys were redesigned with a primary objective to increase the ratio spread. A good ratio spread is around 6.0, and many CVTs are under that number, but the 2016 Mitsubishi CVT is at almost 7.0. The greater the spread, the more flexibility in calibrations for acceleration and fuel economy. The new spread is from 2.631: to 0.378:1, with a final drive ratio of 6.026:1. This compares with 2015 numbers of 2.349: to 0.394:1 and a final drive ratio of 6.466:1. With these new ratios, the launch ratio can be numerically higher for better acceleration and the cruise/low-load ratio can be numerically lower for better fuel economy.

The four-cylinder engine produces 162 lb·ft (220 N·m), which the CVT can handle. The newest design belt-drive CVT for a performance V6 of a competitive Japanese make has a ratio spread of 6.3, and that represented an increase from 5.4. However, Mitsubishi's 3.0-L V6 for the Outlander, which is combined with all-wheel drive uses a conventional six-speed automatic.

CVT friction reduction

Another engineering objective was to reduce CVT friction, also for better fuel economy, so one aspect of the steel link belt redesign was for reduced friction. Furthermore, the oil pump was downsized, line pressure was reduced, and the internal baffle was redesigned to minimize oil churning, additional steps that improve CVT efficiency. The overall result was a 26% drop in transmission torque loss with the new design.

The new CVT weighs just 91.8 lb (41.6 kg) wet, compared with 92.1 lb (41.8 kg) wet for the previous generation, an insignificant difference actually based on the reduced amount of oil used. At 359.2 mm (14.1 in) long, it is 5.8 mm (0.2 in) shorter than the 2015 CVT.

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