2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, All you want to know & watch about a Great Car
2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV First Test: How To Do a Plug-In Hybrid the Right Way
Mitsubishi’s all-wheel-drive compact SUV leads with its electric motors for a better plug-in hybrid experience.
- Behaves like an EV when the battery is charged
- 38 miles of electric range
- Comfortable front seats
- Thirsty gas engine
- Who’s supposed to fit in this third row?
- One-pedal mode won’t bring it to a stop
A plug-in hybrid like the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV promises the best of both worlds: an electric powertrain for smooth, energy-efficient driving in daily use, and a gas engine for quick refueling stops and range extension on longer trips. Or that’s the sales pitch, at least. Drive a plug-in hybrid, though, and you’ll soon discover reality is more complicated. Many PHEVs claim an electric driving range of 30 to 40 miles, but the gas engine often kicks on long before the battery pack is depleted.
The difference between how a particular plug-in hybrid works on paper and how it works in the real world largely comes down to power. Some PHEVs make only a whisper of horsepower with their electric motors. The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrids, for example, weigh about 4,500 pounds and make just 90 horsepower when the gas engine is sleeping. Want to keep up with traffic while pulling away from a stop light? Want to merge onto the highway without becoming the hood ornament on a Freightliner? You’re going to need to wake that fossil-fuel-burning dinosaur in the Hyundai or the Kia.
You Can’t Spell PHEV Without EV
Mitsubishi understands that nothing kills the vibe of owning and driving a PHEV like a buzzy four-cylinder engine booting up and revving to 5,000 rpm just two miles away from your driveway. Its $41,190 Outlander PHEV leans heavily on the electric side of the powertrain, and the badges on the front doors fittingly read “EV” from 50 feet away. (There’s a smaller superscript “PLUG-IN HYBRID” that’s only obvious on closer inspection.)
Fortunately, there’s some truth in advertising here. The Outlander is the only PHEV on sale today with fast-charging capability, and its 20.0-kWh battery pack is the largest in a plug-in hybrid.
More critically, the two-motor, all-wheel-drive electric powertrain can pull enough juice from the batteries—between 174 and 201 horsepower, depending on conditions—to comfortably keep pace with traffic without firing the engine. The Outlander PHEV easily merges onto highways, pulls away from stoplights, and passes dawdling drivers without resorting to using its gas engine. If your commute is short enough, you can realistically drive the Outlander as an electric car day-to-day.
How short? Officially, the Outlander PHEV can cover 38 miles on a full charge, although, as with any EPA electric range, the distance you can cover in the real world could be significantly less based on elevation, driving style, and weather. Curiously, the Mitsubishi’s big battery pack doesn’t translate to the best electric range among its competitors. Because the Toyota RAV4 Prime is significantly more efficient, its 18.1-kWh battery is rated for 42 miles of range.
Cooking With Gas
To make its full 249 horsepower, the Outlander’s motors need to draw electricity from both the battery and the generator that’s coupled to the 2.4-liter inline-four engine. Mat the accelerator and the engine blares as the Outlander PHEV runs to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, lopping more than two seconds off the effort of the 181-hp gas-powered Outlander. The revs surge and fall in direct relation to the position of the accelerator when the engine is running, so pedaling this SUV hard is often a noisy and disconnected experience.
The gas engine can also directly drive the front wheels at highway speeds through a single-speed transmission once the battery is depleted, as this is more efficient than converting gas into electricity before sending the energy to the wheels. More efficient, however, is not the same as efficient.
The Outlander is rated for a combined city/highway rating of 26 mpg after the battery has discharged, which pales even when compared with nonhybrid compact SUVs. An all-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue gets 31 mpg, and plug-in-hybrid competitors absolutely clobber the Mitsubishi in engine-on fuel economy. The Toyota RAV4 Prime is rated at 38 mpg and the front-wheel-drive Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid earns 40 mpg, and PHEV models from Subaru, Kia, and Hyundai all land in the mid-30s.
An Experience To Not Remember
The Outlander rolls down the road with many of the same attributes that have helped Toyota sell millions of cars. The ride is generally comfortable, the cabin is quiet, and the outward visibility is good.
In the way that it tracks through a corner or humps over a pothole, the Outlander is almost entirely forgettable, which many buyers might even see as a benefit. When pushed, the hefty 4,747-pound Outlander PHEV rocks and see-saws on its soft suspension, and sharp impacts occasionally sneak past the springs and dampers to shake the structure, but its dynamic qualities can largely be summarized with one word: inoffensive.
Ordinary drivers still may, however, notice the long, soft brake pedal that feels unresponsive at the top of its travel. The driver can choose from six different levels of regenerative braking (at least three too many), and yet even the most aggressive feels like coasting in a gas vehicle.
For something closer to one-pedal driving, you’ll have to activate a seventh setting, which Mitsubishi calls the Innovative Pedal. This will cause the Outlander to decelerate at the same 0.3 g as a Tesla when you lift off the right pedal, but the dirty secret is that Mitsubishi blends friction and regenerative braking to pull this off. It also won’t slow the vehicle all the way to a stop, counting on the driver to hit the brake to handle the final few miles per hour. That’s outdated, not innovative.
What’s On The Inside Matters
The Outlander’s cabin will surprise anyone holding onto old ideas of the vehicles that Mitsubishi makes. With modern styling and materials, the Outlander’s interior recasts Mitsubishi as a bona fide competitor in the crowded small crossover field. The standard digital instrument cluster, optional 9.0-inch infotainment screen, and climate controls are borrowed from the Nissan Rogue, which can only be interpreted as a good thing if you’ve seen what Mitsubishi comes up with when left to its own devices.
This parts-sharing program also gifts the Outlander PHEV with supremely comfortable front seats that combine the seat frames used in the Rogue with unique padding for the Mitsubishi. Starting at about $500 less than the RAV4 Prime, the Outlander PHEV is missing adaptive cruise control and a lane-keeping assistance system on its list of standard equipment. In the roughly $50,000 top model, though, Mitsubishi does offer a few uncommon features to upgrade the second-row experience, such as three-zone climate control and rear-window sunshades.
The Outlander PHEV’s standard third row is rare in the compact SUV segment. Try to clamber back there and you’ll understand why. There’s only enough room in the third row for running the elementary-school soccer carpool. With a longer trip or larger kids, there are going to be complaints. Anyone who regularly needs seating for seven would be better served by a Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sorento, or Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid. Fortunately, the third row has minimal impact on utility, as it packs down into a flat and low cargo floor.
A Preview Of Things To Come
Mitsubishi hasn’t mastered all the details with the Outlander PHEV, but it gets the fundamental concept right. Expect to see more plug-in hybrids shift the balance of power from their combustion engines to their electric motors as automakers increasingly focus on EVs. For now, the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is in rare company with the Toyota RAV4 Prime. It’s one of the more effective ways to eliminate fossil-fuel use from your daily driving without giving up the convenience and familiarity of gas stations for longer trips.
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|2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Specifications|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$50,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.4L direct-injected Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4, plus front/rear electric motors|
|POWER (SAE NET)||132 hp @ 5,000 rpm (gas), 114 hp (fr elec), 134 hp (rr elec); 248 hp (comb)|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||144 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm (gas), 188 lb-ft (fr elec), 144 lb-ft (rr elec); 332 lb-ft (comb)|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,747 lb (53/47%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||185.4 x 73.2 x 68.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.6 sec @ 84.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||131 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.4 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||25/27/26 mpg (gas), 64 mpg-e* comb (elec + gas)|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||38 miles (elec), 420 miles (elec + gas)|
|ON SALE||November 2022|
|*EPA blended-PHEV (charge-depleting) mode testing, with vehicles set to their default drive and brake-regeneration modes.|