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car review

The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.Xia Yang/Handout

We own a Toyota RAV4 hybrid, which is my wife’s car, and a Toyota 4Runner.

I love my 4Runner in every way except for the fuel consumption. From the age of 23, this was my dream vehicle (I’m now 52), and it still meets a lot of my needs. Or rather the needs of my Labrador. I can’t, though, get less than 12 litres per 100 kilometres, and it’s starting to hurt.

I need to tow a trailer and two ATVs maybe four or five times a year (approximately 1,500 pounds), and a lighter boat and trailer more often. I’ve never needed the current 4,700-pound capacity. I need enough cargo space for a lot of dog training equipment – I use all the space in the 4Runner. Ideally, I want an average of 30-50 kilometres in electric range, which is the shortest distance I regularly drive without hitting a highway. I also need all-wheel or four-wheel drive for cottage access in the winter (and pretty good road clearance), and enough room for two adults and a very cute dog. Dave

Petrina Gentile: Dave knows what he wants. He didn’t mention a price range, but based on the vehicles he owns, let’s stick with mainstream models and skip the luxury options.

Mark Richardson: Dave wants everything: something big, but also something that doesn’t use much gas, if any. His best bet is probably a plug-in hybrid. What about the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV? Think it’s large enough?

Gentile: Yup – it would definitely do the trick. The all-new 2023 Outlander PHEV, which is expected to arrive in dealerships soon, has seating for up to seven passengers in three rows.

Richardson: It only has 2,255 litres of cargo space with the seats folded down, compared to 2,540 litres in the 4Runner. But have you driven it? I’ve only driven last year’s model, which I thought was impressive, but it was smaller, with just 1,886 litres back there.

Gentile: Nope. But I’ve driven the 2022 model, too, and I agree it’s an impressive package with all-wheel drive, lots of safety features and about 40 kilometres of electric range.

Richardson: You probably can’t buy that vehicle anymore. They don’t sit on dealer lots these days unless they’re already sold. The new model has a new platform and apparently more power, with an electric range of up to 87 kilometres. We can’t recommend something we’ve not driven, but based on the success of the previous model, we can recommend considering it.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander hybrid.Handout

Gentile: For sure. What about a Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid? That might do the trick for Dave.

Richardson: It doesn’t have the luggage capacity he needs, with just 1,908 litres of cargo space. It’s too tall at the back, so it’s fairly limited. I think he wants the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It’s similar to the 4Runner in size, with 2,387 litres for cargo, but with a more forgiving unibody ride and a less greedy engine.

Gentile: I love the Highlander hybrid. It’s fuel efficient for a three-row SUV, spacious, can tow what he needs – it fits all Dave’s requirements. But maybe he doesn’t want to go with another Toyota. How about something else?

Richardson: Don’t dismiss the Toyota so quickly. Toyota’s retention rate is extremely high because the vehicles are reliable and their dealers do a good job of keeping customers happy. If Dave’s wife is content with her RAV4 Hybrid, it’s often easiest to stay in the maker’s family.

Gentile: But what if Dave wants a change for some reason? Or maybe he really wants a plug-in hybrid?

Richardson: Then for the size he needs, he’s looking at either a Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV or the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV. The Pacifica minivan doesn’t offer all-wheel drive with the plug-in, though. Dave probably doesn’t really need all-wheel drive – most people don’t – but it’s his choice.

Gentile: Come on, Dave doesn’t want a minivan. He’s not lugging around a bunch of kids. But the Jeep Grand Cherokee PHEV is worth considering.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe.The Globe and Mail

Richardson: His Labrador will like it, but if the dog can jump high enough – or if he buys a ramp – then the Grand Cherokee will almost fit the bill. It’s not quite so large, with 2,005 litres of cargo space, and it’s not cheap. The PHEV starts at around $75,000, which is about $10,000 more than the equivalent gasoline-only Grand Cherokee. The Highlander Hybrid starts around $50,000.

Gentile: Yes, it is expensive and that’s a major drawback for the Grand Cherokee PHEV. Not to mention, the electric range isn’t that high – it’s only about 40 kilometres. It’ll take him years to recoup the fuel savings with that premium price tag. Dave is definitely better off with a cheaper hybrid like the Highlander.

Richardson: Agreed. If Dave wants a plug-in, he should look at the new Mitsubishi Outlander, and if he’s happy with a hybrid, I’m sure the Highlander will be an ideal replacement for his 4Runner.

What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at globedrive@globeandmail.com and use ‘What car’ as part of your subject line. Emails with different subject lines may not be answered.

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