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Mitsubishi earns a berth in the SUV big leagues

It’s not every day that Mitsubishi introduces new models to North America, but it had to happen sooner or later.

It’s not every day that Mitsubishi introduces new models to North America, but it had to happen sooner or later.

Technically, though, the 2011 RVR (called the Outlander Sport in the U.S.) is a spin-off of the current Outlander wagon. In fact, both models use the same platform as the compact Lancer sedan. But with a 37-centimetre reduction in overall length over the Outlander, the RVR actually appears radically different. It’s also geared to a different audience and seems destined to fulfill a different mission in life.

Without doubt, the RVR’s attractively proportioned shape appears, well, sporty, as opposed to the sheetmetal on the family-values-looking Outlander. In fact, only the senior Outlander’s outside mirrors are shared with the upstart. From stem to stern, the design is more cohesive and works well with the Lancer Evolution-style open-mouth nosepiece that Mitsubishi claims was inspired by jet-fighter air intakes.

Naturally, a price must be paid for pruning more than a foot from the RVR’s length. The bigger Outlander is available with a third row and the RVR is not. Simple.

Although the cargo hold has been similarly shortened, it remains more than adequate. If need be, the storage space can be maxed out by folding forward the split 60:40 rear seat.

The five-passenger seating arrangement will suit most needs, although we wonder about the polka-dot-like base seat coverings. For drivers, a display screen indicating fuel, outside temperature, odometer reading and other vitals separates the dashboard’s large twin gauge pods.

The RVR’s thrust is provided by the Lancer-based 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. That’s not exactly earth-shattering compared to the Hyundai Tucson’s 175-horsepower engine or the Volkswagen Tiguan’s 200 turbocharged horses, but it should be enough to make the 1,410-kilogram RVR (about 180 kilograms lighter than the original Outlander) perform in a lively manner.

The RVR’s performance might not entirely live up to its sporty intentions (Mitsubishi has more potent four-cylinder engines that it could easily draw upon), but for style and content, this shrink-wrapped wagon should earn a spot in the big leagues.

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