Where the Outlander PHEV really does start to impress is with its hybrid driveline.
Mitsubishi has been working hard to really break into the crossover, with four of their offerings falling somewhere into this realm. The largest of the bunch is the Outlander, a vehicle that Mitsubishi has been continually improving since the launch of the current model in 2014, which admittedly did need work. Last year, Mitsubishi launched a PHEV (plug-in-hybrid) version of the Outlander, which due to its unique position in the market has really helped the model gain some notoriety in recent months.
As Mitsubishi does, they’ve been continuing to improve on the original, and for 2019 the Outlander PHEV gets a healthy list of improvements over last year, which should help the fuel sipping SUV defend its position as Canada’s best selling plug-in-hybrid SUV. To see what all the fuss is about, we spent a week with a 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT.
The Outlander PHEV has received a fresh facelift with new front and rear fasciae, rear spoiler and fog lamps. The LED headlights have been redesigned and a new set of 18-inch alloy wheels is available. The changes are subtle, but it’s enough to give the Outlander a fresh look and differentiate the 2019 model from previous years.
Our tester came finished in Quartz Brown, which probably wouldn’t have been my initial color choice. After spending some time with it the color adds some character to the vehicle and seems to pop well against the good-looking multi-spoke silver alloys and chrome accents all around. The tester also came with a sturdy Thule roof rack installed which gives the Outlander a bit more of a utilitarian look.
Inside, the Outlander PHEV looks very much like the regular Outlander (reviewed here), though the seats have been improved for 2019 and are quite comfortable now, even if the quality of the leather leaves a lot to be desired. Materials throughout the rest of the interior are similar, with lots of black hard plastics. The PHEV does get faux carbon fiber accents used quite liberally throughout the interior. It’s not exactly luxurious material, but the silver color and visually interesting texture brighten up the space and make it more appealing.
There is a nice large touchscreen supporting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, however if you’re like me and prefer to run the car’s own interface it is rather clunky and overly complicated, which makes it frustrating to use. The dual climate controls however are clean and clear, and for 2019 additional air vents have been added so passengers in the rear can be just as comfortable as those riding in the front. For what it’s worth, rear vents should be a must-have in any family SUV.
The front door panels are designed to offer lots of storage, but the centre console and glove compartment are both relatively small, as are the two cupholders at the front of the console. The gear selector in the regular Outlander has been swapped for an electronic joystick shifter in the PHEV. It’s modern looking and has a bit of a Prius (reviewed here) vibe to it. My one gripe with it though is that the little button for “Park” is directly in front of the joystick, making it awkward to reach.
Where the Outlander’s interior does earn back some credit is in the rear. The second row offers loads of head and legroom, and a comfortable split bench that can be reclined to some extent for passenger comfort on longer road trips. The third row present in the non-PHEV has been replaced by the hybrid components, so the PHEV is restricted to seating five.
Everything we’ve talked about so far is just standard family SUV stuff, but where the Outlander PHEV really does start to impress is with its hybrid driveline. The Outlander PHEV is actually the first plug-in-hybrid to offer electric all-wheel-drive, which is something that has certainly helped its popularity in Canada. It’s also the only PHEV with DC quick charging capabilities, which allows you to charge up to 80% in roughly half an hour.
There’s some real SUV capability here due in part to the Outlander’s Super All-Wheel-Control system helping ensure safe and confident handling in adverse Canadian conditions. Additionally, the Outlander PHEV boasts a 1500-pound tow rating and a 1500W on-board power inverter, both of which would be great features for the next family camping trip. This new technology is great, and to ensure that it stays that way Mitsubishi backs both the powertrain and the lithium-ion hybrid battery for 10-years or 160,000km – a warranty that really helps remove the fear of buying into new tech.
The Outlander PHEV is actually powered by three motors; a 2.0L four-cylinder gasoline engine putting out 117 horsepower and 137 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500RPM, and then two 80-horsepower electric motors, one in the front and one in the rear. Power flows through a CVT style transmission, and thanks to the extra torque from the electric motors the Outlander PHEV is fairly peppy in the city. Brisk acceleration or highway passing is not a strong point and the drivetrain does strain when pushed, though it has adequate power to keep up with traffic.
For the 2019 model year Mitsubishi has made some improvements to the sound insulation, suspension and steering for quieter and more comfortable yet responsive ride quality. It’s a noticeable improvement over the previous model year and makes the Outlander quite pleasant to live with as a basic commuter. The added weight of the hybrid drive system, plus the low-rolling resistance tires on the PHEV does make the handling suffer. Entering a corner even a little hot will be met with body roll and screaming tires. This is unlikely to matter to most buyers, who will appreciate the Outlander’s space and comfort.
Of course, efficiency is what driving a PHEV is all about and the Outlander makes a great effort to deliver here. Charging at home overnight with the supplied Level 1 charger on a 120V plug meant I was able to average 2.5L/100km on my 55km rush hour trip into work. Unfortunately, I am not able to charge at work, so my trip home was done without a charge, and resulted in a less impressive 8.5L/100km result. Averaging that out, plus one longer trip where I did not have the benefit of a full charge, my average for the week was 7.5L/100km.
This is not great for a hybrid, especially a plug-in, but to get the most out of these vehicles you really need to be dedicated to charging them as frequently as possible, and I just don’t have many opportunities in my routine to do that. If you do, I am sure your results can be much greater as the official combined economy rating for the Outlander PHEV is 3.2L/100km.
Mitsubishi boasts that the Outlander PHEV is the most affordable plug-in-hybrid electric SUV in Canada, and that’s true with a starting price of $43,498. The base SE comes fairly well equipped with AWD, 18” wheels and a blind spot warning system. If it’s leather, a sunroof and LED lighting you’re after, the SE Touring is available at $46,998. Our tester is a top-of-the-line GT and gets a Rockford Fosgate 710-watt sound system, multi-view camera system, and the full suite of electronic driver aids such as forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams. The MSRP came to $51,498 before taxes and fees.
While the Outlander PHEV might not be for every lifestyle, I have to give Mitsubishi credit for bringing something truly new to the SUV segment. There is a massive amount of drivetrain technology underneath, and the Outlander’s utilitarian platform is a great way to bring this environmentally friendly tech to the masses. All of this is in a package that delivers everything the average Canadian family wants. If you’re in the market for an efficient SUV that can tackle both the daily commute and family duties, the Outlander PHEV is worth checking out.