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The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was one of the first plug-in mainstream SUVs to hit the road. But just because you arrived early doesn’t mean you’ll be the life of the party.
Not only is the Mitsubishi outdated in a number of ways, it doesn’t post huge gains in efficiency over its gasoline-only competitors. Sure, it’s comfortable and nicely equipped, but with its higher cost of entry, is the Outlander PHEV just a tough sell?
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is innovative, but average
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The Outlander PHEV is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that works in conjunction with a 12-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and two electric motors — one at the front axle and one at the rear. For the most part, the battery and electric motors are what actually drive the SUV’s wheels, while the engine itself charges the battery. At freeway speeds, however, the engine can directly power the wheels to help with high-speed efficiency. Total system output is 190 horsepower, the delivery of which is really smooth. No, the 4,200-pound Outlander isn’t going to win many drag races, but it’s not noticeably slow off the line, either. With the electric motors providing a silky supply of instant torque from a stop, there’s just enough grunt to leap ahead of traffic when the light flashes green.
That isn’t to say the Outlander likes to be driven quickly. On the contrary, it doesn’t handle particularly well if you try to hustle it though turns. Instead, this Mitsubishi is much happier when simply straight-line cruising, like on the highway. That’s where it comes into its own and begins to show off its best attribute: its comfortable ride. The Outlander’s steering contributes to that relaxed feeling from behind the wheel. An abundance of power assistance makes maneuvering a breeze through the tight confines of downtown LA. However, if you’re searching for steering feel, you’ll have to look elsewhere, because feedback is pretty much nonexistent.
Once you need to bring the Outlander down from speed, it’s a rather seamless affair. The regenerative braking plays nice with the crossover’s conventional stoppers, helping the Outlander PHEV slow down smoothly no matter how much pressure is fed to the brake pedal.
According to EPA estimates, the Outlander PHEV will get 25 miles per gallon combined. That’s 3 mpg more than the non-hybrid, V6, all-wheel drive Outlander, but 2 mpg less than the gas-only, four-cylinder, front-wheel drive Outlander. Despite that deficit, the EPA still says the PHEV’s annual fuel cost is $200 cheaper than the non-hybrid four-cylinder model. That’s because when the Outlander PHEV is in all-electric mode — where it can travel up to 22 miles on a full charge — it’s getting up to 74. Unfortunately, without the ability to frequently charge, I spent most of my test time with the Outlander operating as a conventional hybrid, leaving me with 27.2 observed mpg after a week of testing.
Level 1 charging from a standard household power outlet can take as little as 8 hours to replenish a depleted battery. Dispensing the same amount of juice with Level 2 charging reduces the wait time to 3.5 hours. The Outlander PHEV is also compatible with DC fast charging, which allows you to refresh up to 80 percent in 25 minutes.
All done up
For 2019, the Outlander’s grille and headlamps receive subtle tweaks, which make the SUV more fetching than ever. Inside, the dash design is dated, though the updated front seats and center console slow the ageing process a little. The quality of cabin materials isn’t as nice as other SUVs in this price range, but the interior isn’t objectionable for a crossover starting at $37,175, including $1,095 for destination.
Dated or not, it’s easy to get comfortable in the cabin thanks to its excellent driving position. Mitsubishi worked on lessening noise, vibration and harshness for 2019, and the result is an interior that’s definitely quieter than before. It’s somewhat spacious inside, too — not only for passengers, but also for cargo. There’s 30.4 cubic feet behind the back seats, and up to 66.6 cubic feet with the second row folded. Models equipped with a sunroof see a slight reduction in maximum cargo capacity to 62.8 cubic feet. Similarly-sized vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue, though, offer up to 75.8 and 70 cubic feet of cargo space, respectively. And for what it’s worth, the Outlander PHEV can tow up to 1,500 pounds.
The plug-in hybrid is only available in the Outlander’s highest SEL and GT trims, so the SUV comes pretty well-equipped. In addition to leather upholstery and heated front seats, the PHEV features a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The smartphone mirroring is especially good, seeing as Mitsubishi’s built-in infotainment interface is more complicated than it needs to be. The SEL also features a six-speaker stereo with HD and satellite radio. Standard safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rain-sensing wipers.
How I’d spec it
While the base Outlander offers plenty of must-have features, I’d get one specced just like my GT-trim example. Coming in at $42,875, my tester adds full-LED headlights, keyless access with push-button start, a power liftgate, sunroof, a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera and a 1,500-watt, AC power supply with two outlets.
The GT also adds a bangin’ 710-watt, nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate, plus safety features like collision-mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic high-beams.
Efficient-ish, and with too many tradeoffs
The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is roughly $7,000 more expensive than its comparably equipped, V6, all-wheel drive stablemate, but factor in federal, state and local incentives, and that price premium could be reduced closer to just $1,000.
Still, at about $43,000 all loaded up, the Outlander PHEV is expensive for something that isn’t really that efficient. For about $8,000 less (before incentives), you could have a decked-out Honda CR-V that’s estimated to post better efficiency than what I saw in my week with the Mitsubishi. If you can plug in your Outlander every day, then yes, it might make some sense. Otherwise, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
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