Our Rides: Our Favorite Plug-In Hybrid Is Back!

Photos by Randy Stern
Photos by Randy Stern

To plug in or not to plug in…

That’s the question that a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV owner might have asked themselves over the past few years. After all, the last-generation Outlander PHEV probably have introduced you to the world of plug-in hybrids.

In 2017, Lavender Magazine was among the first publications in the U.S.A. to review the Outlander PHEV. After its arrival into dealerships, it became the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the Upper Midwest – and the world.

With the new generation Outlander helping Mitsubishi gain sales momentum over the past year, it was time to add the plug-in hybrid version to the lineup.

This time, Mitsubishi did it right.

The company addressed some of the issues they had with the previous generation model. They went back and addressed electric-only range, gasoline engine and overall performance concerns. However, they retained some of the good features the outgoing model offered, such as the choice of Level 2 and DC Fast Charging, while retaining onboard power to run small electric items.

For this new Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi did not do anything else different to distinguish the plug-in version as they did with the last generation model. In fact, you cannot tell the PHEV from the regular Outlander apart. The exterior and interior is the exact same. Only the PHEV badges differentiate one from another.

You will not find any of those badges inside the Outlander PHEV’s cabin. Instead, you will find an award-winning interior with elevated surfaces, good ergonomics, and comfort. In fact, this is the same interior as the non-hybrid Outlander models – almost.

The only difference is in the readouts on the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. There is a range monitor, specific PHEV pages in the information screen, and a battery meter. Other than that, it feels and operates exactly like an Outlander with high quality and is quite simply ergonomically superb.

The biggest addition to the new Outlander PHEV is the third row. In the previous model, the extra set of seats were omitted due to battery placement. Mitsubishi has changed the battery position to retain the third row from the non-hybrid model. However, the third row is tucked away underneath the cargo floor to be deployed.

Otherwise, our “light gray” (ahem…white…maybe “oyster”) leather upholstery offered solid comfort in the front and second-row seats. Comfortable and supportive are the key words I used. In all, the continuity between the regular and PHEV Outlanders are absolutely superb.

The Outlander PHEV operates differently than any other plug-in hybrid in the market. The electric motors are constantly in play here, regardless of drive mode you select. You do have a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine up front, while you have two electric motors on each axle. The rear motor is always on, as it helps drive the electronic all-wheel drive system.

The result is a total combined power rating of 248 horsepower, along with an estimated electric only range of 38 miles. In total, the Outlander PHEV can reach a 420-mile range. Both electric motors draw from a 20-kilowatt-hour battery that is rechargeable through either a Level 2 or CHAdeMO 50-kilowatt DC Fast Charge port.

Mitsubishi states that it can charge somewhere between 25 and 38 minutes to 80% state of charge using the latter port. We actually saw that timing to be correct when we charged it up at a DC Fast Charging station. You can find the latter at select charging stations across our region – namely at Electrify America, EVGo, select ChargePoint locations, and a few others off the beaten path.

With both the battery and the fuel tank are full, you can now settle into Outlander PHEV and enjoy the ride. And, enjoy you will. It rides very nicely with an absorbent suspension system managing rougher spots on the road. The driver is also relaxed, as well. Just set up the Adaptive Cruise Control and take a long journey with nominal road and wind noise ruining your driving experience. This is exactly what you should expect in an Outlander PHEV.

The steering system offers a tight turning radius. It also has a great on-center feel keeping within the lane. The Lane Keep Assist system helps to stick within the lane with brake-based intervention if you end up drifting towards the next lane over. This feature is part of the MI-PILOT Assist suite designed to keep you, your Outlander PHEV, and everyone else safe.

In terms of braking, the Outlander PHEV’s stopping power is very good – especially on winter surfaces. Pedal feel and response are solid overall.

The best safety feature of them all are the bright LED headlamp units. One thing that frustrates new vehicle consumers is how they can see at night. Some headlights just don’t do the job. The Outlander PHEV’s headlamps emit a brighter light for a longer distance – better than its direct competitors.

The 2023 Outlander PHEV is available in three trim levels, three upgrade packages, and a 40th Anniversary special edition model. Pricing starts from $39,845 for the ES model. Our SEL Touring tester came with a sticker price of $51,525.

While Mitsubishi was the first mainstream SUV to offer a plug-in hybrid model, they have since been joined by plenty of competition. Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Toyota also offer plug-in versions of their similarly sized models. Mitsubishi is the only one among these rivals that offer a third row of seats.

While we think that plug-in hybrids are unnecessary evils in our ever-growing electrified vehicle landscape, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is here to prove us all wrong again. Even more so with an improved driveline, a commitment to DC Fast Charging as an option to replenish the drive battery, and a driving experience that will satisfy everyone’s soul. In all, you get the best of both worlds with a hybrid drive system that returns what it promises.

To answer the original question at the top of this article, “yes for both.”

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