Even though North American Mitsubishi sales have ticked upward in recent years, the current decade has not been kind to the brand. Volume is roughly a quarter of what it was just 15 years ago and the bulk of those deliveries come from the Outlander and Outlander Sport.
When your entire existence hinges on a couple of models, you do what you can to keep them relevant. While plug-in hybrids aren’t exactly a massive sales draw, they’re gaining ground and Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV bests most of its EV competition in Europe. Naturally, the automaker deemed it worthy of coming to America (on the slowest boat imaginable).
We know this exciting news probably has you squirming in your chair, covering your mouth as you utter uncontrollable squeaks of joy. But hold on, we haven’t even told you about the price.
The 2018 Outlander PHEV will plant its flag in the United States before the end of the year, starting at $35,535. You may resume convulsing from the overload of ecstasy Mitsubishi has placed within your soul.
Alright, we’ll postpone the sarcasm from here on because there are a few things to get excited about. First, the Outlander is largely unchanged from its European counterpart. It maintains the same 2.0-liter gasoline engine, supplemented by a pair of electric motors married to both axles.
Under the floor, a 12-kWh lithium-ion battery pack supports DC fast-charging and uses regenerative braking to get the most return juice from every mile. The Outlander PHEV also comes standard with Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control system. Mitsubishi is unwilling to give specifics, but we know it delivers an electric-only range of 32 miles in Europe, with the practical reality being a few miles shy of that goal.
After the battery cells are depleted, the SUV switches into hybrid mode and fires up the 2.0-liter. Alone, it makes roughly 119 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque. However, the electric motors make 80 hp apiece and more torque than the gas-burning engine can manage at 4,500 rpm.
It sounds impressive when you add everything up, but remind yourself that this an economy-minded model. The battery should make it feel sprightly from a stop but the dated 2.0-liter won’t win any awards. It should take around 11 seconds to reach 60 miles an hour, which is about as fast as the Toyota Prius.
Energy is managed via three driver-selected driving modes and three that the car picks on its own. However, they’re all kind of pointless since you’ll likely want to run the vehicle as an electric whenever possible. There is no “sport mode” and the SUV will automatically optimize the powertrain to recharge the battery pack when it runs low. Again, the Outlander PHEV is about economy above everything else. It should manage 40 mpg, all motors whirring, without too much trouble.
The interior comes standard with “premium soft leather” and an EV monitoring display unique to the Outlander. Mitsubishi also says it will provide an impressive list of driving aides, although we’d expect most to be optional extras. They include blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alerts, forward collision detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, and multi-view cameras.
There will also be smartphone connectivity if you want to manage the Outlander’s charging schedule, change the climate settings, or flick the lights on and off because you’re bored. AC power outlets will also be available, located in the rear seat and cargo area, if you want to take your hybrid camping and need to charge your laptop.
While we cannot say with any certainty that the Mitsubishi’s plug-in midsize SUV will be a game changer, there aren’t many vehicles like it in this price range. Though many families might be happier with a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, it’s not a sport utility vehicle and it is more expensive.
The Outlander PHEV arrives in U.S. dealerships this December and will have with a 5 year/60,000-mile transferable limited warranty. The powertrain comes with a transferable 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.
[Images: Mitsubishi Motors]