|Positives: Dramatic styling makes it stand out from the crowd, roomy in the first two rows, upscale interior totally departs from the old Outlander.|
|Negatives: Tight third row with giant headrests, engine lacks gumption at higher speeds, weak sauce cargo space behind row three.|
|Bottom Line: The Outlander is a much better crossover than its predecessor, and it now looks the part. The difficult hurdle is its lack of power at higher speeds and its almost superfluous third row. Otherwise, it's a compelling crossover that can now compete in the segment.|
The Outlander is a bit of a contradiction when it comes to the driving experience. Around town, it feel nimble and capable, but at highway speeds, it lacks verve and confidence. Otherwise, the Outlander has easily one-upped the vehicle it replaces, and we're happy to see it move up in the world of crossovers..
Ride Quality: Ride quality is on the firm side, but it's still decently dampened.
Acceleration: The Outlander feels spritely off the line despite its 181-hp four-cylinder. Throttle response is good. The CVT hampers it, as does the dearth of power once you get above 50 mph.
Braking: The pedal feel is a little bit mushy, but we managed to bring it to a stop without any trouble.
Steering: Steering has some heft and good precision. Accuracy in turns, as well as on-centeredness at highway speeds, is good. There is, however, not much feedback coming through.
Handling: It handles way better than we thought. It manages body roll well, and it actually feels quite nimble in the turns.
The infotainment system in the Outlander comes over from the Nissan Rogue, and it's a decent one. While it's not going to beat competitors like the new system from Toyota or the simple Mazda system, it is way better than the last one. The presence of physical controls is also much appreciated.
Infotainment System: Our SEL had the slightly larger 9.0-inch screen and comes standard with Apple CarPlay (wireless in the SEL) and Android Auto. Responsiveness could be better, but the infotainment system is pretty easy to use.
Controls: From the steering wheel controls to the audio knobs and the clean row of infotainment buttons, the setup is very good and easy to operate when driving. The climate controls also mimic the setup of the infotainment controls, and they're very well done.
We wouldn't exactly call the new Outlander pretty, but it does have real street presence and looks like a slightly watered down version of the Outlander Engelberg SUV concept that bowed back in 2019. It's bold, heavily creased, and it looks like nothing else on the road. The interior, likewise, is totally different and all the better for it. The Outlander can finally hold its head high in the styling department.
Front: The massive grille, huge headlights, thin driving lights, and big chrome strips give the Outlander a strong look, albeit polarizing. While it's not what we would call handsome, it does put the Outlander on the style map.
Rear: The thin taillights look great, but it's far less dramatic than the front end. It would've been nice to see something a bit more noticeable from the back view.
Profile: This is the Outlander's best view with the strong creases, dramatic glass, and big wheel arches.
Cabin: Our SEL looked downright opulent with a handsome linear dash, diamond-quilted seats, and plenty of metallic appointments. It's one of the fanciest cabins in the segment. Only the use of shiny black plastic cheapens things.
The first two rows of the Outlander are very good for occupants. Materials quality is good, and the space is more than adequate. It's the third row that seem almost pointless for anyone but small kids.
Front Seats: The leather seats look and feel great, a huge departure from its predecessor. Bolstering and cushioning are nicely balanced.
Rear Seats: The second row has an ample 39.9 inches of legroom, but row three gets an embarrassing 18.7 inches. No adult can sit back there, and that's pretty poor.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): At highway speeds, there's a fair amount of road noise that enters the cabin. Squeaks and rattles, however, are absent.
Visibility: Visibility out the front and sides are good, but side rear visibility past the thick vertical D-pillars is troublesome.
Climate: The climate system works well, and we had no issues cooling the cabin. We also tested the heated seats, which work well.
The Outlander nails the safety category, and it should provide plenty of peace of mind for families who want great crash test scores and a solid level of accident avoidance technology.
IIHS Rating: The Outlander attained the Top Safety Pick+ award with only a "poor" in headlights depending on trim level.
NHTSA Rating: Not tested.
Standard Tech: The Outlander SEL comes standard with Forward Collision Mitigation with pedestrian detection, Driver Attention Alert, MI-PILOT Assist w/ Navi-link, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, and Lane Keep Assist.
Optional Tech: None.
The Outlander does pretty well in this area, despite the fact that there's not much usable space behind row three. Otherwise, there should be enough room for a family of 4 to 5 if they're kept in the first two rows only. The load floor is flat, and it's not set too high up.
Storage Space: Decent sized cubbies in the center console are easy to reach and big enough for daily gear use. The armrest is also decently sized, as are the door pockets.
Cargo Room: The Outlander has 11.7 cubes behind row three, which is barely enough for a couple of grocery bags. Fold rows two and three, and you get 79.7 cubic feet, which is very good.
We had trouble meeting the EPA numbers of 24 mpg city and 30 highway. Our combined numbers were much less, even though we weren't driving it particularly hard.
Observed: 25.4 mpg.
Distance Driven: 83 miles.
We thought the SEL would come with an upgraded sounds system, but it only came with a 6-speaker system that lacks fullness and bass. It's clear enough without distortion, but at this price, there should be a better system. You have to upgrade to the Touring package to get the 10-speaker Bose system.