Mitsubishi is very proud to say the Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is Canada’s best-selling PHEV SUV, but there’s not much competition. Most PHEVs are expensive and sold by premium makers as luxury vehicles. There’s a lot of technology under their hoods, and that costs a lot of money.
The Outlander PHEV is a compact five-passenger SUV just like its conventionally powered sibling. It’s considerably more expensive; the most basic regular Outlander starts at $29,998 plus $2,000 in freight, PDI (pre-delivery inspection) and air-conditioning tax. This month, if you pay cash (but who does any more?), Mitsubishi is offering a $5,000 rebate that’s worth more than the HST.
The PHEV, however, starts at $43,998 plus the $2,000 charges, and then the federal rebate will knock $2,500 from the price. It begins at a nicer trim level, the SE, which costs $32,898 as a conventional SUV. So, basically, you’re paying Mitsubishi an extra $11,000 for the electric option, then knocking $2,500 off that.
This Outlander PHEV gives you the ability to drive up to 35 kilometres on electric power alone, taken from the provincial grid. When your battery power is depleted, you can continue on gas power just like the regular Outlander, using a 2.0-litre inline-four engine. You also get the right to drive without any passengers as an electric vehicle in high- occupancy vehicle lanes, which makes the PHEV considerably more attractive as a suburban commuter. Is it worth it? Only you can decide.
- Base price/as tested): $43,998/$51,998
- Engine: 2.0-litre inline-four gasoline plus two 60-kW electric motors
- Transmission/drive: CVT (continuously variable transmission)/AWD (all-wheel-drive)
- Fuel economy: Le/100 km – city 3.0, highway 4, combined 3.2; L/100 km – city 9.4, highway 9.0, combined 9.2
- Alternatives: Toyota RAV4 Prime (coming later in 2020), Subaru Crosstrek PHEV, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Any vehicle’s style is a matter of taste. Your opinion will surely vary from my own, but I consider the Outlander’s looks to be completely forgettable. It’s a slabby SUV with too much chrome around the lights and grille. Every time I parked alongside other vehicles, I had to beep the key fob to find the Outlander, which blended in as just another compact SUV.
Any colour other than Sterling Silver will cost extra as an option, but those options are all whites and greys and blacks. The only exception is Red Diamond, the most expensive, for an additional $450, but even that’s not enough to help the Outlander stand out.
Inside, the Outlander PHEV feels a little dated, but it’s very comfortable. The central display touch screen is a little larger for 2020, now at eight inches, and there’s a nicer suede fabric for the seats. My test vehicle was the top-of-the-line GT, which comes with black leather seats and all the various options thrown in as standard, for a lofty $51,998 plus charges and tax.
There’s plenty of space for all five passengers, though the legs of the person in the middle rear seat will need to straddle the centre console, as with almost every other similar vehicle’s rear seating. Those rear seats don’t slide forward or back, but they do recline. There’s only one USB port back there, though, when there should really be two. It’s the same in the front, with just the one USB port. This is definitely a First-World Problem, of course.
The Outlander PHEV is not a fast vehicle, but nor does it claim to be. The numbers sound impressive – 117 horsepower and 137 lb.-ft. of torque from the gasoline engine, and then 80 hp from each of the two 60-kilowatt electric motors, one mounted on each axle, but they don’t all add together to create a monster truck. Mitsubishi says the combined total is 190 hp.
This SUV won’t snap your neck back when it accelerates, and its soft suspension and light steering will wallow around corners if you try to drive it like a performance vehicle. But few owners will do that, and they’ll brag about fuel consumption instead. PHEVs are rated in both Le/100 km (litre equivalent), when you drive part of a set distance on electricity, and L/100 km, when you use only the gas engine. The Outlander PHEV boasts impressive figures for both.
Ah, now this is where the Outlander PHEV comes into its own. The cleverest part of the PHEV is that, same as with more expensive vehicles, you can choose from different drive modes to take advantage of the electric charge.
Buttons on the centre console offer a range of selections – EV Priority (which forces the SUV to stay in electric-only mode, provided you don’t run out of juice or mash your foot on the throttle), Battery Save (which uses more gas power to conserve the electric charge for when you really want it, such as in city driving), Eco (which just saps power and response to save more fuel) and Battery Charge (which charges up the battery while driving with the gas engine).
Normally, if you can’t be bothered with choosing any of these Drive modes, the gas engine will power the front wheels, and the electric motors are there for some extra boost or to kick into all-wheel drive. Paddles on each side of the steering wheel let you pick from five strengths of battery regeneration from braking, and it’s not obtrusive at all.
There are two different charging ports for recharging the 12-kWh lithium-ion battery. It’ll take up to 13 hours to fully recharge from a regular household plug, but that speeds up to less than four hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charge. And – unusual for a PHEV – you can also plug into a Level 3 fast charger, if you can find one, and get an 80-per-cent charge within 30 minutes.
Driver’s assistance features such as lane-departure warning (which is not the same as lane-departure assist, which helps keep the vehicle within a lane), blind-spot warning, active cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert are all available either as standard or as options, though the GT trim just includes everything.
There’s a good amount of space back there, considering the under-floor area is shared with an EV battery. When the 60/40 rear seats are up, there’s 861 litres of cargo room; when they’re down, there’s 1,778 litres. The rear seats fold completely flat because the bottom seat cushion flips out to be stored in the legroom area – a smart design touch.
The conventional Outlander is available as a three-row SUV, but this isn’t an option in the PHEV, thanks to that battery taking the space. The cupholders are still there in the cargo area, though, in case your dog fancies a coffee.
The regular Mitsubishi Outlander offers value for money as a compact SUV in a crowded market, and the PHEV offers electric versatility; both vehicles offer the best warranty in the business. The PHEV is not cheap, but it’s considerably less costly than the Mercedes, Audi and Volvo equivalents. It will probably lose its best-seller title when the Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV becomes available later this year.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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