Which Japanese soft-roader is best?
Mitsubishi may be close to fading into obscurity in America, but the brand is trying to change that while experimenting with novel ways of revealing new vehicles. The Japanese automaker's latest unveiling is the Outlander. Meanwhile, another prominent Japanese automaker, Toyota, has been quietly dominating vehicle sales for years, and the RAV4 has been an especially strong offering in this regard. So if you're looking to buy a reliable and safe SUV, which do you choose? Do you go with the tried and tested Toyota or the all-new Mitsubishi? Let's compare them side by side and see which of these crossovers makes the biggest impact.
As is generally the case these days, both cars are equipped with LED lighting. But each manufacturer goes about integrating it in different ways. For the Mitsubishi, you get narrow headlights sitting either side of a smoothed grille with plenty of chrome, while Toyota's effort sees a much sharper design employed with a sportier effect being achieved by a wide black grille. Both cars feature accents on their bumpers intended to highlight some off-road ability, but while the RAV4 gets 17-inch wheels as standard with 18s and 19s optional, the Outlander rides on 18-inch wheels with 20s on offer. In our opinion, the Outlander looks less generic but more bulbous. It's a tough choice, but we think the Outlander's ability to turn heads wins this comparison.
Straight off the bat, we'll let you in our verdict of the interior design of each vehicle: the Outlander looks spectacular and wins this bout. Why? Well, it offers a 12.3-inch digital driver display and a 10.8-inch head-up display, as well as an eight-inch infotainment screen as standard with a nine-inch unit available. In the RAV4, you won't find quilted leather and design cues from more luxurious brands. Rather, you get a simple layout. Simplicity is also seen in the tech, as the driver display is a 4.2-inch as standard with a seven-inch available. The infotainment screen is also small, with a seven-inch as standard and an eight-inch available.
Both cars are impressively equipped, but there's still a large gap between the two. Both offer Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and wireless charging. Both also have adaptive cruise control available, along with lane-keeping aids and multi-view cameras. Both can also be had with a power sunroof, but while the RAV4 only offers available dual-zone climate control, the Outlander can be had with tri-zone. The Outlander also offers trailer stability control, but both are capable off-road and feature variable drive modes to make the most of whatever terrain you're on and each comes with a FWD drivetrain configuration as standard with AWD available. We expect the RAV4 to be better off-road, but on balance, the Outlander is still the better all-rounder.
Interestingly, both vehicles come with their own versions of a 2.5-liter inline-four without turbo assistance. Here, the RAV4 has a clear advantage, developing 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque while Mitsubishi's effort produces 181 hp and the same figure in torque. The RAV4 also comes with a proper eight-speed automatic while the Outlander only comes with a CVT that can mimic an eight-speed auto. Both will tow around 3,500 pounds though, but with the Outlander offering up to 80 cubic feet of cargo volume versus the RAV4's maximum of 69.8, the Mitsubishi is arguably more practical. Still, we're inclined to go with the five-seater RAV4 over the seven-seater Outlander, as more power and a better transmission will always be welcome. If you really need the extra seating, we don't blame you for choosing the Outlander, but we still prefer the RAV4 and its impressive handling.
Each of these vehicles is available in a range of trims, but the Outlander is marginally cheaper with a base price of $25,795 while the RAV4 starts from $26,150. You also get a lot more standard equipment for your money in the Mitsubishi, indicating that the brand is taking its attempt to get back into the American market seriously. Over the long term, the Outlander offers a limited warranty for the first five years or 60,000 miles along with a Hyundai-rivaling powertrain warranty for the first decade or 100k miles. Toyota, on the other hand, only gives you limited coverage for three years/36,000 miles and powertrain coverage for five years/60,000 miles. As a result, the Outlander offers better long-term value at a cheaper price point and gets our nod here.
Buyers will need to drive each of these vehicles and see how they feel about spending hours in them on the motorway before taking the plunge, but based on our experiences, we have a preferred option. Based on the facts, in most areas it appears that the Outlander comes out on top. Sure, it may take buyers some time to warm to a brand that has almost been forgotten domestically, especially when considering it against a stalwart like Toyota. But the Outlander is doing an excellent job of showcasing what Mitsubishi can do, and we think it's worth opting for the bigger, more advanced, and better-priced variant.