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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL vs. Toyota Highlander LE Plus - 3 Rows For Under $35K

We compare the Mitsubishi Outlander SEL and Toyota Highlander LE Plus, 3-row crossovers for those on a budget.

We had intended to make this a comparison of the $ 33,095 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL S-AWC to the base, 2.7-liter Highlander LE, and thus make it a 4-cylinder matchup. However, in my area of the country (Northeast) Toyota will not supply the 2.7-lier four-cylinder engine. In any case, Toyota does not offer that vehicle with AWD anywhere in the US as far as we can tell. Thus, the least expensive Toyota Highlander we could configure was a 2016 Highlander LE with the V6 engine and AWD at $34,375.

We will match that low-priced Highlander LE Plus against the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC to see which is a better value and what a buyer gets at that price range.

Mitsubishi Outlander SEL S-AWC vs. Toyota Highlander – Drivetrain
The Highlander LE offers Toyota’s now legendary 3.5-liter V6 engine. With smooth power in all gears and in all situations, the 270 hp Highlander comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The Mitsubishi brings a knife to a gunfight, with its 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine. With only 166 hp this Mitsubishi will not be the most adept towing vehicle and will not win many drag races, but do families care? The Outlander is capable of accelerating in a way that is safe and also has AWD.
One are the Outlander beats the Highlander handily is fuel economy. With a Combined EPA rating of 26 MPG, the Outlander is 30% more efficient than the Highlander, which earns a 20 MPG combined score.

Highlander LE vs. Outlander SEL - Infotainment
At the sub-$35K price point the Highlander des not offer navigation – even as a package. What one does get is the basic Entune package from Toyota that is basically an AM/FM radio and inputs for your smartphone via BlueTooth. If you use your phone to navigate and connect it to the vehicle, wirelessly you will be able to hear tur-by turn directions.
The Outlander simply blows the Highlander away with regard to infotainment. It comes with navigation, and a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system.

Outlander vs. Highlander – Interior
The 2016 Outlander SEL is a smaller vehicle than the Highlander. However, its third row is legitimate and will easily accommodate two children. The Outlander has leather seats with heat up front, and the driver's seat is power-adjustable.
The HighlanderLE Plus is configured to have a third row that can seat three. Thus it can hold one additional passenger (a child realistically). The highlander’s driver seat is also power-adjustable and trimmed in cloth and SofTex.
The Outlander also has a power moonroof, not available on Highlander LE Plus.

Outlander SEL vs. Highlander LE Plus – Safety
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus. With advanced forward collision protection and adaptive cruise control, it is as advanced as the top-spec Highlander. The Highlander LE Plus does not have forward collision prevention available. Thus, it is a Top Safety Pick (without the ”Plus” designation).

The 2016 Toyota Highlander easily takes the win for drivetrain with its more powerful V6, but drivers who value fuel economy over power would possibly prefer the Outlander. While both have good cargo space and seating for seven, the Highlander can add one more child on the way to soccer. Inside the Outlander is the winner. With leather, navigation, premium audio, and a Moonroof it has the goodies many buyers want. The Highlander does come with two years of included maintenance, which we value at about $ 250. Still, the Outlander has the edge on up-front cost. While we will call these two three-row crossovers equivalent, this one is a win for either depending upon what a buyer values most.