2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Review

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2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

I made a few people less than happy with my Outlander PHEV stories following the launch event earlier this year. I always say I call them like I see them, and I wasn’t mean with the PHEV, I just thought it was lacklustre in nearly every respect. It was mentioned by those upset that I’d not had enough wheel time with the vehicle and that getting better acquainted with it over time would enlighten me.

As I also write for other outlets, I was tasked with reviewing the Outlander once more. This time, I booked a PHEV for a regular one week test (which turned into 10 days) and I drove it. I made an effort to drive it as though it was mine and programmed myself to adhere to the PHEV’s needs in order to maximize its efficiency and live within its limits. I also went on a road trip to truly benefit from all the advantages that this vehicle’s technology provides. My opinion has not changed. The Outlander PHEV’s true value lies solely is driving less than 35 km at a time.

Styling inside/out

The first two generations of the Mitsubishi were in a word, handsome. Their design was subtle yet purposeful. In fact, at one point, I’d considered purchasing a 2007 Outlander. The third generation has unfortunately swapped a certain degree of elegance for a look-at-me snout and the recent facelift takes it one step further and over-compensates with chrome accents. Look, it’s not ugly but Mitsubishi’s trying too hard to attract attention to its vehicle.

The PHEV features a monochromatic paint scheme which partly attenuates the loudness of some of the Outlander’s design features.  There certainly are some unique elements to design and perhaps that’s in part what consumers want. They must, as the Outlander is quite popular.

The cabin’s is fine, to say the least. Fit and finish meet expectations while the amount of equipment is decent. The shifter is the only oddity on board as it looks like an after-thought. This takes nothing away from its functionality, but it seems out of place. The gauges are simple yet complete. Same goes for the ergonomics.

Comfort/space

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander wins many points thanks to its compact+ size. The cabin is roomy for five passengers. The rear bench is wide, and the seatback is adjustable. The amount of legroom and for all other appendages is generous. Up front, the seats are decent even for a long haul ride as I discovered with my little family. The GT benefits from a power-adjustable front passenger seat for more comfort. Here too, there’s plenty of room for legs, head and all our other parts.

The trunk is also a good size with a wide opening however it is partially plagued by a slow operating power hatch. This is only an issue because I review many new cars on a weekly basis. On its own, the Outlander’s hatch is fine. Don’t compare it to too many other midsize crossovers though.

Interior storage is somewhat limited however we managed to get by just fine for the day with cups, phones and baby necessities.

Value/equipment

The base SE S-AWC retails for $42,998. The $3,000 Touring package adds a power sunroof, leather, power front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel and more. This is as much as you should spend on your new Outlander PHEV.

At $50k, and for such a high-tech family vehicle, the lack of USB ports in the rear seems like an oversight. It does however include a Multiview camera, the power liftgate, Forward Collision Mitigation and adaptive cruise control. It does not however include navigation, but all Outlander PHEVs are equipped with a 7” display with Android Auto and Apple Carplay.

Powertrain/handling

I drive all my test cars the same. I’ll admit to being somewhat aggressive at times – that’s my driving style. Whether I’m at the helm of a Chevrolet Corvette or a VW e-Golf, I drive. It is with this in mind that I find plug-in hybrid vehicles frustrating. As I stated earlier, I compromised my normal driving habits in order to conform to the Outlander’s narrow limitations. And when I did not do so, the results were upsetting.

With a full charge, the Mitsubishi’s 12-kWh battery pack enables the Outlander to travel up to 35 km without any fuel. This electric range will vary depending on loads, and ambient temperatures. Charging the Outlander at every possible occasion allowed me to use barely a drop of fuel for nearly five days. Locked into Eco drive mode, with brake-regen at maximum in the city (adjustable through the paddle shifters) and occasionally using the EV mode, I managed to live the plug-in electric hybrid vehicle dream.

This did nothing to help my road trip to Quebec City from Montreal though. Just before I got into Quebec City, I engaged the “charge” mode in order to gain a little EV range but with little impact on the overall picture. All in all, I travelled 625 km and my two-way fuel consumption average was of 9.5L/100 km (essentially the same as the V6). This is what happens when we step out of a PHEV’s comfort zone. The reason for this poor result is two-fold. First, the Outlander PHEV weighs 285 kg (627 lbs.) more than a 3-row, V6, SE AWD. When the batteries are empty, you can’t just leave them behind, you drag them with you. Second, the 117-horsepower 2,0-litre 4-cylinder does its best to keep the momentum going. It is mated to an electric motor up front integrated into the single gear transaxle, and a second electric motor on the rear axle for a total system output of 197 horsepower. When fully charged, and at very low speeds, there’s lots of torque to play with. When on the highway, at 110 km/h, there is not.

The Outlander PHEV’s driving dynamics are marginal at best, and it would seem that Mitsubishi’s aware. While for the 2015 facelift, Mitsubishi invested in the Outlander’s refinement, they’ve gone and done it again for 2019. They’ve improved sound insulation, the suspension and threw in steering revisions. This is on top of changes made to the dampers, the addition of more sound insulation, thicker glass and weather-stripping back in 2015. I can’t tell you if the alterations have helped for 2019 but I’m going to say they have.

The question you really need to ask yourself is if you can work with and for the Outlander PHEV or would you normally have the vehicle work for you? There’s no competition to speak of today but that may change rather quickly. Do your homework before signing on the line in order to avoid any regrets in the very near future.

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