Days go by and still I think of you.

It’s been a month since Mitsubishi let me borrow a 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC for a week.

I literally wouldn’t change a single thing on it (until it needed tires). I would care for it in the way that only a true gearhead can care for a machine. It is everything I need in a vehicle right now. Here’s why I think you might like it, too.

IT’S NOT AN EVO. IT’S NOT A MONTERO.

The Evo was an edgy, turbocharged 4-door making about 300HP. The Montero was two-and-a-half tons of body-on-frame, brick shithouse with a little over 200HP. Both had Mitsubishi’s most refined All- or 4-Wheel Drive systems available for superior driving dynamics—Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) and Super Select 4WD. Neither system likely shared mechanical parts of any significance, but both were significant parts of Mitsubishi’s motorsport success in the 90s.

The Evo’s electronic, Super All Wheel Control system has settings for tarmac, gravel, and snow. It’s full-time AWD system works by modulating hydraulic pressure to clutch packs which, in turn, routes as much power as possible to the wheels with grip. The lessons learned from thousands of stage rally miles distilled into a plastic dial that makes it easier for you to go stupid fast on tarmac, gravel, and snow.

When the roads get dicey, Montero owners simply shift into 4WD at speeds up to 60MPH and go about their days. The Super Select 4WD system uses a two-speed transfer case with selectable, locking, viscous center and mechanical rear differentials to deliver the best possible traction. More than a decade of rally raid dominance, surprising Jeep and Toyota owners on the trail, so you can just shift into 4LLc and go about your day.

LEGENDARY MACHINES. YOU SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT ONE.

I can’t say the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander is legendary. But I can absolutely say you should consider buying one if you’re in the market for a new, $40k daily driver. Especially if you want something that feels sharp, grown-up, and fun to drive.

The 2022 Outlander SEL S-AWC has about 200HP and the latest S-AWC system for the same reason as every one of its predecessors—high performance driving dynamics. Without it, you just had a Lancer or a, well, nothing, I guess, since the Montero was only available with Super Select. 

We love the Evo’s ability to peel back the Earth’s crust as it hooks up and blurs every line but the one you’re on. And we love the Montero’s ability to blur the lines between here and literally any place on Earth you want to drive. The Outlander continues these traditions in the modern world, where conditions aren’t so extreme. 

Enjoying adaptive cruise control and lane departure assistance and the head’s up display (HUD) on the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC.

CARS THESE DAYS. AM I RIGHT?

We could talk about cars these days and how they’re turning into glorified smartphones (with similar payment structures). That’s a very real issue and we could spend hours talking about it—but this is not that article.

At this point, I’ve already deleted well over 10,000 words about the Outlander and, well, I don’t even think Mitsubishi cares that much about this thing. What can I say? In 1996—at 19 years old—I walked into a Jeep-Eagle dealership to order a Wrangler TJ. I left in a 97 Eagle Talon. Mitsubishi has been a significant part of my life ever since.

After almost a year of infrequent check-ins, Mitsubishi finally let me borrow a 2022 Outlander SEL S-AWC for a week. They dropped it off in front of my house with just over 5,000 miles on it. I knew I would like it and was worried about coming across as a sellout, but it surprised me at just how good it is. I put over 600 miles on it in less than a week. It’s that good.

REALITY CHECK. DAILY DRIVER.

Reality check. You gotta think of it like a compromise. (Everything is.) 

It’s not an Evo—but it brings a lot of the Evo’s tarmac prowess to the transits between stages where our daily drivers spend most of their time. It’s not a Montero—but it’s got enough Montero in it to simply shift into gravel-snow-mud-downhill and get on with your day, as opposed to simply spinning wheels at opposite corners.

Let me put it another way. A lot of Evo and Montero owners immediately dismiss the pleasantries, personalizing their machines for ultimate performance. The Evo may cut a sub-2-second 60-foot time and make 600whp. The Montero may be triple-locked on 35-inch M/Ts. [ Andy, we may never know what size tires fit. ] But as awesome as both of those sound, they both leave much to be desired for daily driving, whether it’s fuel economy, noise, comfort, or even simple convenience.

YOU’VE GROWN UP. SO HAS MITSUBISHI.

Where the Evo and Montero—and maybe every other legacy Mitsubishi we all love—speak to us in the language of performance driving dynamics. Let’s remember their driving dynamics and style are significant elements of their tone of voice. And their often jaw-dropping performance at the limit—at the hands of legacy owners like us—comes at the cost of a quiet, comfortable, relatively maintenance-free daily driver lifestyle. That’s where the 2022 Outlander S-AWC shines. 

Think of it like a more luxurious, non-turbocharged, 8-speed automatic Evo with special Montero 4WD programming and luxury car creature comforts. Or maybe a lowered, full-time AWD Montero optimized for exploring more civilized areas. (If you’re as die hard a Mitsubishi owner as I am, I know you’ve thought about one day building both of those machines.)

Look. Ain’t nothing wrong with sinking all your money into your project vehicle and daily driving a beater to make it happen. But if you like the idea of a quiet, reliable, fuel efficient daily driver that feels more like a Range Rover than any Mitsubishi you’ve ever driven—but you still want the amazing, Mitsubishi S-AWC driving experience made famous by the Evo and Montero—I am telling you the 2022 Outlander is worth your time. 

GOING ROGUE: MISSED OPPORTUNITY

The elephant in the room. Yes. The 2022 Outlander is mechanically identical to the 2022 Rogue. The differences are entirely digital and cosmetic. They’re no doubt made side-by-side on the same assembly lines and differences are installed in little black boxes. Fine.

But if you think Mitsubishi’s version of a modern, global, modular platform underpinning a dozen different models, to the tune of 1.6 million vehicles around the world is a cop-out in 2022, I think you’re missing a bit of perspective on the state of the 21st century automotive industry.

I see a lot of people in the audience with the kind of theoretical and practical knowledge that only comes from direct, hands-on, blood-sweat-and-tears experience who sing that built-not-bought song all day long—and yet immediately write anything that isn’t a 10-, 20-, or 30-year old platform off—because they can’t just throw a bunch of cheap, shelf parts at it and make stupid horsepower. Funny, that.

IT’S NOT YOU. IT’S ME.

I get it, though. It’s not for you. Gearhead-to-gearhead, I’ll tell you there were several times during the week I had the 2022 Outlander where I found myself wondering how much of my frustration with cars these days stems from the cars not being as good as they say they are—versus knowing they’ve evolved beyond what I know about cars and want to do with them.

What bothers me most? Is it the state of the automotive industry? People in general? This is just what happens when too much of your identity and sense of self-worth comes from a specific car or brand? I’m thinking it’s mostly that last one. We can’t control anything else, after all.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with this vehicle that another 20HP wouldn’t solve, in my opinion. I literally wouldn’t change a single thing on it (until it needed tires). I would care for it in the way that only a true gearhead can care for a machine. It is everything I need in a vehicle right now.

Sadly, I’ve got to wait. Because we want the 2023 Outlander PHEV. It’s expected to have at least another 20HP and 40+ miles of pure EV range—and it’s not scheduled to land in the US until later this summer. So we’re waiting to do our new car shopping until then.

REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD. First drive in Fezzik, my 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, after a week with the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander was all Peaches & Herb.

Our 2022 new car shopping list, in order, is as follows:

  1. 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Ralliart Edition, pls.)
  2. 2017 Porsche Macan GTS
  3. Volvo XC40 Recharge 

After that, I’ll have an even harder decision to make: Z3/Z4, NC Miata, Series 2-3 Spider, or SAILBOAT. 

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