2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has a name that makes this affordable compact SUV sound like it’s one of the most powerful SUVs in the class, but it’s not. While the Outlander Sport isn’t aggressive behind the wheel, it’s not incompetent, and its optional paddle shifters made a four-hour drive on Interstate 81 through Virginia somewhat entertaining.

I’d never driven I-81, and while the Shenandoah Valley is beautiful, I got bored driving the long stretch. For fun, I perfected my paddle shifting skills, and sped past sluggish tractor trailers and drivers who were out for a leisurely weekend drive.

I’d tap the left shifter, floor the accelerator and the Outlander Sport growled. I chuckled manically as I zoomed by trucks and a Ford Excursion driver who couldn’t decide whether to go 65 or 80 mph. I noticed that when I pushed the Outlander to 80 and 85 mph it struggled. Its 2.0-liter, 148 horsepower engine buzzed louder and wind and road noise were obvious, but that’s not surprising for a four-cylinder engine. Those cues were actually a good way for me to gauge my speed without looking at the speedometer, and truthfully, I preferred to stick with the 70 mph speed limit. At that rate, the Outlander Sport’s smooth ride helped me settle into the long drive.

If you’re shopping for a compact SUV that will spice up daily commutes, don’t let the Outlander Sport’s name and optional paddle shifters mislead you. I was grateful to have the shifters, but in this class, I’d pick something with more oomph like the 200-horsepower Volkswagen Tiguan if my priority was performance.