HARTEBEESPOORT, Pretoria – They say life can take many roads so it make’ sense to own a vehicle that can easily take you on them. Combine features such as rally-tuned suspension, enormous interior space that seats seven.Tag on safety rarely experienced in a 4x4 and you’d be hard-pushed to do better than the latest version of the Mitsubishi Outlander as the ideal all-rounder.Quietly going about its business, Mitsubishi certainly knows how to produce excellent vehicles – the Outlander one such. All right, I’ll come clean: I have a lot of time for Mitsubishi products – as do many of my motoring colleagues, if the truth be known).TURNING TO JAPANFor me that Mitsubishi friendship goes back to the 1980’s when my elderly Rover 2000 was giving me just a little too much grief. Still, she had managed to cover 250 000 reasonably trouble-free kilometres, but spares were getting scarcer by the month with the mighty British Leyland concern getting weaker by the day.GALLERY: 2014 Mitsubishi OutlanderThe Mitsubishi family car with which replaced her was a Tredia four-door sedan and was my first foray into the world of Japanese automobiles, having stupidly kept firmly away from cars not produced in dear old Blighty.Oh boy, what had I been missing down the years.The Tredia came full-house: air-con, power steering and a factory-fitted sunroof. It was to prove ultra-economical (what with having two sets of gear ratios, 10 forward gears instead of five), all this in a family car that emanated from the Land of the Rising Sun.Apart from the usual change of tyres and disc pads there were never any “surprise” bills to be settled. If I had needed anything urgently it was available from my hometown of Pietermaritzburg from Mitsubishi, the proud logo of which was, and remains to this day, three bold red diamonds.As most motoring enthusiasts will know, Mitsubishi is the king of cross-country races such as the Dakar series – about a dozen times at last count – whether run on the African continent or now in South America. Bigger car companies have tried to wrest the laurels away but most have come up short against this particular Japanese giant-killer.SUBTLE DESIGN TWEAKSIt must be an amazing company, I reckon. They build family cars, sports cars, commercial vehicles and trucks in all shapes and sizes; aeroplane manufacture has also figured in their inventory but to all intents and purposes automobiles are their bread-and-butter.Back to the future and the launch of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander, a brand that’s been around in name for more than a dozen years: there are subtle design tweaks in terms of styling and aerodynamics, as well as a reduced drag co-efficient that further increases all-important fuel efficiency.It’s good that, at a glance, there’s very little outward difference to the latest Outlander – but why change something if it’s working well?Generation six is still arguably the ‘real-deal’ SUV in the South African market, one that now sports seven seats over three rows, has Bluetooth phone connection, a rearview camera, power tail hatch and more comfort features than you can shake a stick at.Perhaps the real attraction for buying the latest Outlander over its competitors, however, is the excellent level of standard equipment offered. This includes leather throughout, classy wood-capping detail throughout the cabin, the dual-zone auto aircon, keyless operation, a high-quality touchscreen-controlled audio system, cruise control, multi-function steering-wheel, paddle gear-shifters and an information system.ACADEMIC - BUT 195km/h POSSIBLEWait, there’s more… parking radar, a USB port and a retractable cover over the spacious luggage compartment plus a Rockford Fosgate audio system, complete with nine speakers. There’s even a rear entertainment system for the kids that connects via wireless headphones.At launch, even though the test route was extremely short (35km!), it was enough to discover just how good the Outlander is. Under the bonnet is a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine developing 123kW 6000rpm and 222Nm of torque at 4100rpm. Mitsubishi claims fuel consumption in the combined test mode of 8.2 litres/100km (emissions on this cycle 192g/km).Claimed maximum speed, although largely academic in a vehicle of this type, is 195km/h. Of interest to caravaners, though, as well as those with a trailer or a boat, is the towing capacity of 750kg.The Outlander has a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to transfer the power from engine to wheels. The power extends to multi-select all-wheel drive which is electronically controlled.Driving only on tarmac – and over such a short distance – it must be said that CVT gearboxes do take a bit of getting used to because of their unnerving seamless habit that’s akin to driving a vehicle with a slipping clutch – but once mastered I began to actually enjoy this type of advanced transmission technology.INTUITIVELY SELECTABLEStaying with the transmission theme and having to get just a little technical due to the nature of the vehicle, selecting one of the three drive modes: in ECO runs in rear-wheel drive during normal driving conditions but automatically engages 4x4 when it senses one of the wheels spinning on a loose or slippery surface.The system permits an alphabet soup of abbreviations ( 4WD ECO, 4WD AUTO and 4WD LOCK-UP) to keep you moving but don’t be overly alarmed! The lock-up mode simply increases traction. Each of the above modes proved intuitively selectable through the simple push of a button. The 4WD system remains flexible, driver-friendly and provides great capability off-road.Wynand Pretorius, general manager of Mitsubishi Motors in South Africa, told Wheels24: “More derivatives, which include diesel models and the world’s first production plug-in-hybrid which won the Car of the Year Japan Innovation Award, will be introduced as soon as these models become available to our region.”• The Mitsubishi Outlander GLS Exceed sells for R429 900 and is covered by a three-year or 100 000km warranty with a five-year or 90 000km service plan. Service intervals 15 000km.