Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) have been a force to help bridge a gap as we approach a future full of full-on electric vehicles (EVs). Such vehicles have proven to be quite efficient and the perfect commuter vehicle for those who take full advantage of its plug-in charging capabilities. In the scheme of having an affordable PHEV SUV, Mitsubishi has stepped into the game to bring us an all-new Outlander PHEV. After spending a week with the Outlander PHEV, I was enamored to welcome such a vehicle into my lifestyle with wide open arms from a brand that hasn’t been on my radar screen in a long time.
For my generation, born in the late 70s, Mitsubishi was a fun brand in the 90s and even in the early 2000s. I can remember good friends of mine having some of the wildest sport compact vehicles around that touted the Mitsubishi 3 diamond badge and even ones that made the big screen to help usher in the Fast and Furious movie franchise surrounding car culture. Today, while a far cry from the look 25 years ago, Mitsubishi has a different face but a newfound force and somewhat of an underdog that’s raised many eyebrows with the all-new Outlander PHEV SUV perfectly positioned to target my generation, who are now heads of households with growing families.
The new 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV brings us an attractive package that’s technically classified as a compact crossover but plays on its expansive proportions to hardly ever feel “compact” except for its third row of seats. Fundamentally, the Outlander PHEV fits the modern mold of what’s expected in a crossover, regardless of being a plug-in hybrid. With that, the Outlander embodies good looks with a sporty edge in styling that’s easy on the eyes. From its two-tone 20-inch wheels and wide stance to its techy-styled LED headlights and unique daytime running lights, the Outlander looks dynamic and somewhat stands out in the crowded suburbs of vanilla crossovers. There’s a welcoming presence of the Outlander to respect, even if it does somewhat resemble other notable crossovers from a reasonable distance, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Performance and Driving Character
The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is powered by a 2.4-liter direct-injection Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine that works with two electric motors and a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). The two electric motors, one at the rear axle (134-horsepower) and one at the front (114-horsepower), are powered together by a 20-kWh, 350-volt battery pack that’s mounted low in the floor so as to not affect seating and cargo area. Working in harmony, the PHEV powertrain produces a total of 248 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Having a front-wheel-drive bias with its transverse-mounted engine, the Outlander PHEV dices up power among all wheels through an advanced Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system that basically uses the rear electric motor to power the rear wheels while the front benefits from both the gas engine and its front electric motor’s power. Zero to 60 mph takes place in 6.5 seconds, which is quite a bit faster than the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) version of the Outlander, taking around 8.6 seconds.
During my drive of the Outlander PHEV, I found that the hybrid system works mostly seamlessly without any noticeable transitions from the electric motors powering the drivetrain or when the gas engine steps in for additional power when needed. The plug-in hybrid system is rather advanced in it delivering the initial EV (Electric Vehicle) power only upon acceleration and then bringing in the aid of the gas engine while in the default Normal drive mode for the hybrid system. Those modes include Normal (hybrid mode), Charge, Save, and EV. Apart from the EV/Hybrid modes, there are seven “drive” modes that include Normal, Eco, Gravel, Power, Snow, Tarmac, and Mud, which customize the drivetrain, stability control, and traction control to adapt to certain road or off-road conditions.
The clever one-pedal driving feature was excellent with aggressive deceleration where you hardly ever have to use the braking if you time it just right until you need to come to a complete stop – the one-pedal driving doesn’t completely stop the vehicle.
The PHEV system is smart in giving you the ability to either automatically sort out any initial charge in the battery pack in the regular Normal hybrid mode, save the charge for later use in the Save mode, use only the electric motors in the EV mode until hard acceleration is needed or battery is depleted, or use the Charge mode to charge up the battery at the expense of using additional fuel with the gas engine running harder to generate the extra energy.
Charging up the battery using a Level 2 (240-volt) charger, you’ll expect to get a full charge in just over 6 hours, or just 38 minutes using a Level 3 DC fast charger for an 80% charge (using an older CHAdeMO receptacle). With a full charge, the EV range is around 38 miles, up about 14 miles from last year’s model, which is a legitimate figure that I tested in the real world, coming up with a total of 39 miles without using the gas engine mostly on back roads keeping slightly below highway speeds. Using the Normal hybrid mode without a charge, the Outlander PHEV remained rather efficient, matching the EPA estimate of about 26 mpg with mixed city and highway driving. On the highway with the same condition, I saw as high as 27.5 mpg. The MPGe estimate comes in at 64 MPGe when you factor in using up a full charge and then nearly depleting the 14.8-gallon fuel tank with a combined range of up to 420 miles.
The driving nature of the Outlander PHEV was mostly compliant and somewhat sporty, with the exception of a few standout characteristics, such as the steering effort being rather light and numb but with an exceptionally quick ratio. Additionally, the braking feel was quite artificial with a very light effort required. While the transition from the regenerative braking to the use of the friction brakes wasn’t much of an issue, the light feel made it somewhat cumbersome, as does low speed driving where the power seems to lurch more than I would like under light throttle applications. The last issue was a rather wheezy-sounding powertrain that emitted an annoying high-pitch sound during acceleration. Otherwise, the Outlander PHEV had excellent power and felt well-planted on the road with a decent ride quality even with the larger 20-inch wheels.
Interior and Technology
Among the many aspects of the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV that have impressed me, the 7-passenger interior remains to be at the top of the list. Overall, the interior is an inviting space where there’s a near-luxury theme exuded from most aspects of its fit, finish, and amenities. Not only is the interior a premium space, but it has several luxury-like features to boot, such as the back-area-only massaging front heated seats, quilted accent stitching, several soft-touch surfaces, attractive accented color trim surfaces, and real aluminum trim. There are also double-pane front windows for noise reduction, a wireless smartphone charger, manual second-row window sunshades, and a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
Mitsubishi pulled out all the stops in bringing notable equipment and interior accommodations to the new Outlander PHEV in the top-level SEL Premium S-AWC trim.
The only fault I find for the interior is the third row being more of an afterthought in my view, where the seats are clearly for those times you must squeeze two children or very small adults in the back in an emergency. Basically, the standard third row folds out from the cargo floor, offering a rather cramped seating area that’s more reserved for small children. When folded down, the cargo area accessed by the hands-free power liftgate is reasonable but not necessarily large at 23 cubic feet.
While there’s an obvious use of some Nissan aspects taken from the latest Nissan Rogue, as the Outlander shares some platform traits, the Outlander PHEV has its own unique character inside and out.
There’s the expected long list of active safety features blanketing the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Forward Collision Warning and Mitigation (emergency braking), Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Attention Alert, Automatic High Beam, and Blind Spot monitors, and Trailer Sway Control. The 360-degree camera system also comes in handy for parking in tight areas.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV costs just over $8,000 more than its ICE counterpart, bringing the starting price to $41,190. Opting for the higher SEL trim with a few option packages, such as the SEL premium package (10.8-inch color heads-up display, heated steering wheel, Semi-Aniline Leather appointed seats, power panoramic sunroof, 9-speaker Bose premium audio system, front seat massaging function, retractable tonneau cover, and black roof), the as-tested price comes to $50,880 including a $1,345 destination/handling charge.