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Mitsubishi Outlander vs Toyota Highlander: A Comparison

1. Introduction

The line of an elephant is an inescapable fact of life in the Westminster area. Bringing the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander, one of the three Japanese cars competing in the midsize crossover segment. The Outlander is the bedrock with Mitsubishi's overhaul of its vehicle line set to begin in 2012. Boasting a brand new front grille, wheels, a redesigned interior, and a larger fuel tank, the Outlander is hoping to regain traction in a drowned segment. Perhaps the most notable difference between the 10-11 Outlander is the discontinuation of the XLS trim. High demand for the premium package in the 10' XLS has sparked the permanent transition of features such as push button start and the FAST key to the top of the line GT model. As has been the unfortunate stigma with Mitsubishi, one must look at the Outlander's price tag as its saving grace. As manufacturer's suggested retail price for the base ES 2WD model is just over $22,000, it offers competitive value in both two and four wheel drive configurations. The V-6 engine model boasting 230HP has ample power to haul its 3000lb curb weight with respectable fuel economy. Unfortunately with an economic downturn still lingering, the Outlander will still be facing an uphill battle in a segment crowded with more than 30 different models to choose from.

1.1. Overview of Mitsubishi Outlander

The Japan version of Mitsubishi Outlander has also been introduced in Japan, in which there are 4 variations that are G, M, M Premium, and M Navi. Each version has a different price and specification. The highest version (M Navi) owned by Mitsubishi Outlander Japan has a very good adaptation in terms of driving, safety, and convenience. The name Mitsubishi Outlander itself has become one of the best imported cars with the best system ever, offering elegance and toughness and has become one of Mitsubishi's preferred cars up to now. This is proven by many consumers who are loyal to this Outlander from previous versions come to replace it with new ones.

The Outlander is expected to be released in June 2017 based on the prototypes which were released at the Geneva Motor Show. This prototype is said to have the best Outlander features compared to the previous version. The new Outlander promises to unequivocally give an overall impression due to the many modifications of the previous version owned by Outlander.

The Mitsubishi Outlander was introduced to the market in 2001. There are two versions: a compact crossover and a modified version located in Japan based on the Mitsubishi ASX closely. The first generation was followed by a well-designed shape change in 2006, in which the second generation was announced.

1.2. Overview of Toyota Highlander

Toyota keeps it simple with the Highlander, offering just two powertrains and front or all-wheel drive. The base V-6 is a smooth operator, but the more highly evolved and efficient hybrid setup has our vote. Handling is composed and ride quality is silky—nearly luxury car good. The hybrid is a bit slower and steers a bit more heavily, but its fuel efficiency is astounding. The interior is a high-quality place with seating for seven in three rows; front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional, with system-dependent captain's chairs in the second row that reduce capacity to six. Entune infotainment with a 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard but can be upgraded to a larger unit. Advanced safety features are available, as is a bird's-eye view camera that makes parking less stressful. Expect the Highlander to do what Toyota generally does—sell in huge numbers and hold its value well.

2. Performance

Overall, the Mitsubishi Outlander outperforms the Toyota Highlander in engine power and towing capabilities on all accounts.

The second option for the Highlander is a 3.5L V6 with 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, with an estimated fuel rating of 19/25/21 on FWD models and 18/24/20 on AWD models. This option has a towing rating of 5000 lbs. when equipped with the towing package, a significant power upgrade compared to the 4-cylinder 1500 lb. tow rating. The V6 engine with the added towing package comes equipped with a heavy-duty radiator with an engine oil cooler and a 200-watt fan coupling power in order to optimize the cooling system while towing. This will make the V6 option the best choice for those looking to get a powerful midsize SUV for towing a camper, boat, trailer, or other recreational vehicles.

As for the Toyota Highlander, the RAV4's big brother has 2 choices in powertrains. The first option is a 2.7L 4-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This is matched with an estimated fuel rating of 20/24/22 mpg. This engine model only comes in a front-wheel drive (FWD) version of the vehicle and has a tow rating of 1500 lbs. This model is ideal for those who need a mid to full-size family vehicle but do not necessarily need the extra power and capabilities of the 6-cylinder. The 4-cylinder model also includes a ULEV II emissions rating, making it a greener option than some other 4-cylinder SUVs in its class.

The Mitsubishi Outlander 2017 has a 3.0L V6 engine with 224 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque. It makes for impressive acceleration and is significantly better compared to the 2.4L 4-cylinder base engine. You can also choose the Outlander with the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and still have the benefit of the performance features found in the V6. The engine includes a refined version of the sophisticated MIVEC technology for increased fuel efficiency without the performance drawbacks found in many other continuously-variable transmissions (CVTs). It does this by utilizing an intelligent form of the CVT that behaves similarly to a 6-speed automatic transmission due to a pre-selected ratio step that is equivalent to a specific gear. This pairing of additional engine power, MIVEC technology, and the CVT results in a powerful yet efficient package in the 4-cylinder engine.

2.1. Engine Power and Efficiency

The powertrain is one of the differences between the Mitsubishi and the Toyota, which have an engine that delivers more power than the other. The Outlander comes with a 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 160 hp, while the Highlander comes with a 2.7 liter, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 187 hp. If someone is demanding more power, both cars offer a V6. The Outlander's V6 is a 3.0 liter that delivers 224 hp, while the Highlander offers more variety with two different V6 engines. In the 2WD model, the Highlander comes with a 3.3 liter that has 215 hp, and for 4WD it comes with a 3.5 liter that delivers 270 hp. As for efficiency, both companies have acknowledged that the rise in gasoline prices has increased the demand for fuel efficient cars. This was proven when Mitsubishi released the Outlander in an ES model that has a more fuel efficient version of the 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine with a 2WD drivetrain. This engine is rated as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV) and delivers 168 hp with 21 mpg for city and 27 mpg for highway. Also, for those who still want a V6 with 4WD, the 3.0 liter MIVEC engine has been praised for delivering good fuel efficiency with 19 mpg for the city and 26 mpg for the highway. With the Highlander, Toyota has been known for making fuel efficient cars and also provided an alternative to a V6 with a 4-cylinder engine. This was reflected when they decided to remove the 2WD version of the 4-cylinder engine with the release of the 2008 model. This engine is now an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) with 20 mpg for city and 25 mpg for highway. This decision was attributed to the rise in demand for 4WD and the lack of interest in a 4-cylinder 2WD car. (Kundrotas & Kundrotas, 2020)

2.2. Handling and Suspension

The sources from the articles were found from ConsumerReports.com and Car and Driver magazine. The article from Consumer Reports was written in May 2016, and the Car and Driver article was reviewing the 2016 Outlander. The Consumer Reports article had a reliability rating on the Outlander at average and the Highlander at very good. The Outlander was rated at 20 mpg overall and 27 mpg on highways with the conventional V6. This led to Mitsubishi being one of the most inefficient non-luxury brands. The Car and Driver article on the Outlander described it to be a cheap 7-seat crossover. They praised the Outlander for having low costs of connectivity and 7-passenger seating. This article gave me insight that the Outlander doesn't have the best reviews on its performance and fuel economy."

"This comparison is designed to compare the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Toyota Highlander. This comparison was first created to contrast the differences between the two in terms of reliability, fuel economy, comfort, and performance. This comparison will provide clear facts on each vehicle based on sources from articles, forums, and blogs.

2.3. Towing Capacity

So if the ability to tow fairly heavy loads is of utmost importance to you, the Outlander has the greater variety in models set up for heavier towing. With its optional trailer hitch, the V-6 LS model will competently tow a typical car trailer and a small car to most destinations only using an extra 5-10% of fuel. So basically, using a typical 70L fuel tank, the Outlander should still go at least 600 km, and its powertrain is well up to the job of what it is asked to do, without over-revving or straining. With a heavier load, the V-6 engine models are advised, as they are required for a 2000-3500 lbs tow job. A heavier V-6 powertrain and 6-speed automatic transaxle with a low gear range suitable for towing are greatly beneficial to towing performance, which is why larger SUVs and trucks always have larger engines for their towing capabilities and never small 4-cylinder engines.

Something to consider when comparing one sport-utility vehicle to another is the ability to tow extra items. Whether towing a trailer or helping someone move, having the option to tow is important to many people looking to buy a new SUV. The 2007 Outlander comes with 1500 lbs of standard towing capability with the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and optional towing package. The standard capacity raises to 2000 lbs for the XLS and LS AWC with the 3.0L V-6 engine and 2200 lbs for a FWD V-6 LS. If a heavier capacity is needed, the Outlander can tow a maximum of 3500 lbs. The tow rating of the 4-cylinder Outlander is slightly low compared to others in its class. The 4WD XLS V-6 will generally tow 2000 lbs and the tongue weight is also 200 lbs. With the FWD LS model, the maximum tow rating is 2200 lbs, with a 200 lb tongue weight. The Toyota, however, can tow a 1500 lbs or a 1500 kg un-braked trailer. And a 2000 lb/907.2 kg with 2WD, or 1. (Richardson, 2023)

3. Interior Features

The Highlander's seventh seating option is essentially a seating cushion which can be accessed by moving the second row seat up and backward on its sled and leaving the limited room left with insufficient space for general cargo use. With all seven seats set up, there is only 14 cubic feet of cargo space in the Highlander. This is most likely not even enough to do general weekly grocery shopping for a family with kids, and therefore, the third row seating can easily be taken out, clearing the way for an extensive cargo space using an underfloor cargo well. When the second and third row seating is removed, the Outlander has 73 cubic feet of cargo space and a huge 34 cubic feet with only the removable third row seating. For families or anyone who anticipates using the vehicle for its intended purpose in terms of hauling duties or simply wanting a large cargo area, the Outlander is clearly the better choice in terms of cargo space.

Relatively few SUVs this size have a third row that is suitable for adult use, so the ability to seat 7 adults is a plus for the Outlander. Interestingly enough, the Outlander's third row actually has more headroom and legroom than the Highlander's, even though the Highlander still feels spacious due to higher seating height. The Outlander has usable seating room for adults and children, as the seats depend on the second row sliding and reclining features, allowing the size of the third row seating area to be maximized if needed. The second row seating of both the Highlander and the Outlander has a noticeable flexibility in terms of legroom, seat comfort, and spacing. It is the cargo area where the difference between the two models' boot spaces is really apparent.

Seating and Cargo Space: The Toyota Highlander is a 7-seater SUV. There is plenty of room in the first and second columns, however, space in the third column is a bit confined. Five adults can travel comfortably, but a few may feel cramped when packed for long trips with six or seven adults in the Highlander. LATCH child seat ties are provided in the second column of the Highlander, while the third column has a much easier access system for child seat installation provided by top tether only. Fortunately, adults will find that the third row in the Outlander is actually spacious and comfortable.

3.1. Seating and Cargo Space

The seats configuration of the Outlander is 7 vs the Highlander's 5. Both SUVs have 2nd and 3rd row seats that can be easily folded completely flat and Mitsubishi boasts that the Outlander's tailgate has a low cut for easy loading. Unfortunately, it seems that with all rows in place there is not much to work with. According to Mitsubishi Canada, the cargo space in the Outlander is 10.3 cu.ft. Although the 2017 Highlander has approximately 14.0 cu.ft of trunk space, the 2nd row splits 60/40 and can be pushed forward or the seat back flipped forward to allow access to the 3rd row and increase cargo space beyond that of the Outlander. This results in a space advantage with the Outlander having about 63.3 cu.ft. but with less seating. The 2017 Highlander will have approximately 83.7 cu.ft cargo space available. When strictly comparing 5 seats to 5 seats, the Outlander does have slightly more space with 34.2 cu.ft to the Highlander's 2WD 13.8 cu.ft, but the option to use all 7 seats and still have ample cargo space does give the 2017 Highlander an edge. As mentioned earlier, the 2nd row of the Outlander is a sliding bench style that can be adjusted to create more space in the back for the available 3rd row, but that convenience factor will cost you. The 2017 Outlander's 3rd row seat measurements do fall short of the Highlander. The seat cushion and back heights will be less and legroom will be somewhat cramped, so this will not be the most comfortable seating for adults or larger children. The Highlander's 3rd row offers a seat with longer cushion and back heights and better legroom for a more ideal seating configuration for 7-8 passengers.

3.2. Infotainment System and Connectivity

Where the Highlander does come into its own is the Driver Easy Speak feature on the entertainment system. This option allows conversation from the front seats to be amplified through the rear speakers so anyone sitting in the third row can still hear clearly. This function is great for parents telling off naughty children without physically having to climb into the rear seats. (Johnson & Misiaszek, 2022)

The base 6.1-inch touchscreen on the Highlander LE might look a bit dated now, but moving up to the SE means you get a much larger 8.0-inch touchscreen. Sadly, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available on any trim level. If these connectivity apps are a huge concern, then you might want to stop reading here and just go straight for the Outlander.

Mitsubishi Outlander's seven-inch touchscreen comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While not the largest of displays, it does work well with the infotainment system for those two connected apps and is still enough to display the rear camera view. The placement of the USB ports makes all devices much easier to connect than in the Highlander.

3.3. Comfort and Convenience

Covers a wide range of features that contribute to interior comfort and convenience, especially when driving. Rolling off the lot with steering-wheel audio controls and dual-zone climate control, the Outlander keeps it basic, but functional for even the base ES model. SE models step up into the realm of the premium with a power driver's seat and the addition of voice command for the FUSE hands-free link system. The top-tier XLS models and GT trim come with standard features that should be part of any modern day family-hauler, including a power tailgate and FAST-Key passive entry system. The Toyota Highlander is certainly competitive with the Outlander in this category. All base model Highlanders come with air conditioning and the expected power windows and locks. The standard audio system has been described as "sparse" by some, but the addition of a multi-function display and back-up camera on the dash makes the base package pretty compelling. The Sport and Limited models get a significant upgrade from the base model with a 3-zone automatic climate control system and a back-seat control panel which puts the climate and audio controls within easier reach for the little ones in back. This is certainly a useful feature for parents who have graduated from one-zone control and climate control cables stuffed into the rear ducts.

4. Safety and Technology

While the Outlander and Highlander share similar safety features such as airbag systems for the driver and passenger, as well as side airbags, the Outlander also has airbags for the passenger's knees, which the Highlander does not have. Higher-end models of the Outlander also come with adaptive cruise control, an advanced safety feature that is not equipped on the Highlander. The Highlander does not have any add-on packages for advanced safety features. Both vehicles received Top Safety Pick awards, but the 2014 Outlander obtained a higher safety score from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. The Outlander also boasts a 7 airbag safety system compared to the Highlander's 3 airbags, giving it a higher level of car safety. Both vehicles have active driver assistance systems with audible navigation and visual information. They also both feature lane departure warnings to help you stay focused on the road. These features are relatively new for both vehicle models. The Outlander has an available add-on package for forward collision mitigation, which the Highlander does not have. This feature helps to prevent accidents by warning the driver and automatically adjusting the vehicle's speed to avoid collisions. With add-ons such as adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation, the Outlander has a slightly more advanced system. Finally, both the Outlander and the Highlander have 6.1" touch panel display audio systems. While these seemingly identical systems provide basic technological integration, the Outlander's system also comes with a rearview camera that is designed to make reversing and parking a lot easier to deal with. The Highlander also has an option to add a rearview camera. However, it is not available for lower-end models and must be purchased as an add-on.

4.1. Advanced Safety Features

Meanwhile, the Mitsubishi Outlander has its own rounded safety system. Available features include Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, and Lane Departure Warning. The Mitsubishi system also has a feature called the Warnings and Lights Package, which includes features such as a rear cross-traffic alert and a lane change assist. A helpful aid for new drivers or those with short passengers is the rear seat reminder, which alerts the driver if a rear door is opened before a trip and then not reopened once the vehicle has been turned off. This is to help prevent one from inadvertently leaving something or someone in the rear, which could be a serious safety hazard for small children or pets.

Both vehicles offer some of the most innovative advanced safety features in the industry. Right off the bat, the Highlander comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, an advanced safety package which includes features like a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. All four of these features are designed to help prevent collisions from happening in the first place, mitigating damage that might occur during an accident, and to keep drivers from unintentionally going off the road. If equipped with front-wheel drive, the LE model also comes equipped with an Automatic Limited Slip Differential which can distribute power to the left or right wheel depending on which has better grip to help the vehicle make a tough maneuver. If you opt for all-wheel drive, it will come with its own standard safety feature regardless of trim in the form of Hill Start and Downhill Assist Control. This is a system which holds the vehicle in place temporarily when parked on an incline to prevent rollback and minimizes brake pressure to help the vehicle maintain a constant speed on a steep descent. Rounding things out, all Highlanders come with an advanced airbag system and front and rear crumple zones designed to absorb impact and keep it away from the passenger cabin.

4.2. Driver Assistance Systems

Lane departure warning is the key driver assistance system you'll want to know about. It is designed to alert drivers when it senses that they are unintentionally beginning to depart from their lane. However, this system does not take corrective action to prevent the lane departure. The system is so sensitive that it issued multiple alerts while driving through construction zones where lane departure was unavoidable. Not sure if that is an accurate representation or false sense of security. If it resulted in doing a better job of staying in the lane, then that's a good thing, but this system is a bit too sensitive. LKAS or Lane-keeping assist is a more advanced version of this. When traveling on the highway, it will alert the driver when it detects you moving out of your lane without a turn signal. If no action is taken, then it will assist by using the electric power steering to guide you back to the center of the lane. If you were to leave the lane on the right side without the right turn signal, it would overcompensate and take you to the left. This is a pretty reliable system, but to depend on it too much might result in potential danger. Both of these systems are designed to work at speeds of 72 km/h or higher. The Outlander's lane departure warning and GT models LKAS are superior to those found in many vehicles, including the Highlander. High-end vehicles such as Acura and Infiniti have well-designed systems similar to LKAS, while the Highlander does not have a system with steering assistance, so the Mitsubishi Outlander wins in this category.

4.3. Technology Integration

The Highlander does it; the 2.1 version of Toyota Safety Sense (standard on all models) for the 2017 model year becomes integrated with the rest of the vehicle. This is an improvement after the suites tacked on to some 2016 models where some safety systems were found via small buttons in various locations around the interior. An example would be the 2016 Toyota RAV4, where one of the few substantial differences between the XLE and the XLE hybrid was the placement of the button to disable pre-collision braking! However, the systems themselves are not directly changed via the interface on most 2017 models. Instead, an array of two buttons situated to the right of the steering wheel are used to operate the systems. The right button cycles through settings, and the left button confirms changes. With two buttons that are used for something else on different models and a plan to continue unifying its platforms, the method of changing system settings will be inconsistent as time goes on. This change from a wide range of methods and locations of turning safety systems on and off to a standard method is a wise choice for Toyota as it will allow for newer models to have simpler interfaces and more consistent methods of system operation.

Outlander models with driver assistance (optional on the SE, standard on SEL and GT) integrate their tech into their 7-inch touchscreen interface in the form of an on/off switch. Though the button's location, either on the screen or within the submenu, can be counterintuitive at times, the process of switching the systems on or off is quick and easy. The switch itself is tied to the lane departure and forward collision warning; if either system is disabled, the other is also turned off. Mitsubishi has made a notable effort to integrate their tech into the Outlander, and it shows as the company continues to improve its lineup for the future.

Driver assistance is nothing without proper integration into the rest of a vehicle's systems. Both the Outlander and Highlander facilitate deployment of their driver assistance systems by integrating them into existing systems, such as the entertainment interface, and by providing easy ways for drivers to enable or disable the systems.


Kundrotas, B. & Kundrotas, J., 2020. Modern car handbook. mab.lt

Richardson, M., 2023. With new PHEV option, Mazda's flagship SUV finally catches up to rivals.. The Globe and Mail web edition. [HTML]

Johnson, M. & Misiaszek, T., 2022. Branding that Means Business: Economist Edge: books that give you the edge. [HTML]