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Old 01-03-2007, 09:59 AM   #1
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Default 2007 Toyota RAV4 vs 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander (Comparison by Paul & Anita Lienert)

2007 Toyota RAV4 vs 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander (Comparison by Paul & Anita Lienert)


Toyota RAV4 is still on top

Powertrain is only superior element of revamped Mitsubishi Outlander

ANN ARBOR -- The redesigned 2007 Outlander is a make-or-break product for troubled Japanese automaker Mitsubishi. The midsize crossover vehicle is intended to breathe some life into the moribund brand -- but it hits the U.S. market just as the segment is being flooded with terrific new competitors, from the Mazda CX-7 to the Ford Edge.

One of the most potent rivals in the segment is another Japanese model, the Toyota RAV4, which was redesigned just a year ago. We decided to pit the two imports against one another, in part because they feature similar dimensions, equipment and prices. Both are car-based, both offer optional third-row seating, both can be ordered in either front- or four-wheel drive, and both are priced from under $22,000.

We tested a well-equipped '07 Outlander XLS 4WD priced at $28,815 and a modestly equipped '07 RAV4 4x4 priced at $23,574.


The Outlander has a distinctive new look to go along with its larger size. At first glance, the exterior shape looks fresh and modern -- a plus for Mitsubishi owners who tend to be a bit more style-conscious than owners of competitors' brands.

The look starts to fall apart, however, as your eye progresses toward the tail. The rear three-quarter view is generic and clunky, with massive rear pillars and a narrow rear window that tends to restrict vision.

Toyota offers a much more appealing and contemporary shape in the RAV4, which comes across as far more stylish than the Outlander. This is quite an accomplishment for Toyota, considering the previous RAV was one of the original "cute utes," while the latest iteration is considerably larger and more grown up..

From virtually every angle, the RAV4 is attractive and unique.

Winner: RAV4


We're not particularly fond of the cabin in either of these vehicles, although the Outlander, with its $1,600 luxury package, gets leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power driver's seat, while the RAV4 makes do with manual, cloth-covered chairs.

Both cars have an overabundance of fake-metal, gray plastic. But Mitsubishi commits an additional sin: Its instrument panel is a mishmash of mismatched parts and materials, a virtual jigsaw puzzle that cheapens the overall ambience of the cabin.

The basic RAV4 has two rows of seats; the second row reclines and can be adjusted for additional leg room, and the split folding seatbacks flip down at the pull of a lever on either side of the cargo bay. There is an ample underfloor storage bin in the rear, and our test vehicle came with a clever and very simple mesh cargo net that's part of a $140 option package.

The RAV4's controls and displays are clean, simple and easy to comprehend. Materials are high quality, although some pieces didn't fit as snugly as we've come to expect from Toyota.

The Outlander's front seats are comfy and supportive. There is less room in the second row, and there aren't many amenities for occupants back there. The rear center armrest lacks a pull strap, and while the tiny third-row folds neatly into the floor, it looks cheap and flimsy and is a chore to use.

The Outlander has some nice touches, including steering-wheel controls and simple rotary dials for the HVAC controls. But there are some questionable design and engineering choices, too -- for instance, the switches for the heated seats are stuffed between the inner seat edges and the center console. Winner: RAV4


Both vehicles come fully configured in terms of occupant safety systems, with standard antilock brakes, traction and stability control, side air bags for front-seat occupants and side curtains for the first and second rows.

Winner: Tie


Mitsubishi is the hands-down winner in this department, with one caveat. Even the base Outlander comes with a standard overhead-cam 3.0-liter V-6; there is no four-cylinder version. The RAV4, in comparison, is equipped with a standard twin-cam 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, with a DOHC 3.5-liter V-6 available as an option.

Our test Outlander had the V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission, while our four-cylinder RAV4 came with a four-speed automatic. The Mitsubishi V-6 is rated at 220 horsepower, and the EPA fuel-economy numbers are not too shabby, at 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 on the highway; however, we averaged just over 20 mpg. during a 200-mile loop that was mostly freeway driving.

The RAV4's base configuration is rated by the EPA at 23 in the city and 27 on the highway. The optional V-6 is considerably more potent than the one in the Outlander, delivering a whopping 269 horsepower; it comes with a five-speed automatic.

Winner: Outlander

Ride and handling

Both cars display the supple car-like ride that's typical of crossovers in the segment. Our test Outlander rode on 18-inch wheels and tires, while our test RAV4 came with optional 17-inch wheels and tires.

Both cars are relatively easy to maneuver and park, and while they don't exactly feel like sports cars, they are fairly nimble and responsive.

Winner: Tie


Despite the fact that our RAV4 test vehicle was priced $5,000 less than the Outlander, there weren't many features it lacked. Add the more powerful V-6, and the Toyota still looks like a bargain alongside the Mitsubishi. We prefer the RAV4's styling inside and out, not to mention Toyota's sterling reputation for quality, reliability and durability.

Winner: RAV4

Overall Winner: 2007 Toyota RAV4
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