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GearJunkies take 3,000-mile Test Drive (and live to tell)

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Our destination was Salt Lake City. The starting line was Minneapolis, where GearJunkie headquarters sits some 1,309 miles from the powder-coated peaks of Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range.

It was to be a grand mid-winter road trip, an excuse to drive west to the mountains and in search of adventures along the way. Our vehicle, the 2013 Outlander Sport, was on loan, a test drive arranged by Mitsubishi to put this “compact crossover” to a challenge on the open road.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport in -5 degrees weather (Moab, Utah)

We gave it some hell. Over the course of 3,000+ miles, our crew — editors Amy Oberbroeckling and Sean McCoy, GearJunkie athlete Andrei Karpov, and I — motored over mountain passes, into snow, through unexpected “Star Wars-like” subzero terrain of the Utah desert, and finally to the Wasatch and Salt Lake City for the annual Winter Outdoor Retailer trade show.

But it wasn’t until the return trip — after hours of cruise-controlled driving across the endless flats of Nebraska — that the little Outlander was tested to its full. Closing in on Des Moines, Iowa, the skies opened up with a “perfect storm” of icy precipitation that proceeded to coat everything in sight in thick, glare ice.

Driving through canyons in Colorado

I-35 transformed into a skating rink, slowing traffic to a crawl and an eventual standstill as a tipped-over semi blocked the road. Rather than playing it safe we decided in the sleep-deprived heat of the moment to see what our test vehicle was really made of.

With four-wheel drive engaged, we plowed through a snowy ditch and managed to navigate isolated, frozen dirt roads far enough north to get past the miles-long line of stalled cars.

In the worst road conditions any of us had ever seen, we lost count of cars stranded in the ditch. (More than 50!) Through it all, our little Mitsubishi was a champ.

Designed as a “compact crossover,” the five-seat Outlander Sport got us where we needed to go, but it wasn’t the ideal ride for our outdoor adventure-focused road trip. The gas mileage left something to be desired, coming in around 26 mpg over the course of our trip.

It does not come with a roof rack. Instead, you get a massive, aquarium-like sunroof to peer from as the mountains whiz by.

A surprisingly small trunk (21.7 cubic feet) forced the four of us to pack tight. We had to leave a few larger items at McCoy’s house in Denver.

Look at the size of that sunroof!

MSRP for the Outlander Sport is $19,170, but the model we had retails for $28,570. The added cost brings some nice features into the fold — an L.E.D.-lined panoramic sunroof, GPS, rear-view camera, and a 710-watt sound system.

The Outlander Sport is designed to be used as a small, urban SUV with a “sporty” aesthetic. It is not an outdoor adventure vehicle. With that being said, we took it out of its element for 3,000 miles over mountains, into the desert, and through an ice storm. All things considered: Mission accomplished.

Just wish we could have brought more gear….

—Patrick Murphy is an assistant editor.

Taking it all in

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