Plugged-In Ahead of The Curve
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
It begins with a compromise.
I am not entirely sold on electric vehicles. In fact, I have plenty of opinions about pure battery-charged EVs, some of which cater to upper-income homeowners that can afford to (a) buy one and (b) fit their garage with at least a 240-volt charger. We shall not name certain brands that have a greater recognition in this field.
Maybe because of my age and experience, I would prefer a gasoline (or diesel fueled) vehicle. The infallibility of them lends to more flexibility on longer drives and the old school feel of the internal combustion engine. Then again, I am told that they will become simply scrap by the middle of this century.
Perhaps combining the two elements of automotive power is indeed a compromise. If well executed, it would be a good compromise in the end.
This is not a new topic for me. I talked about how electric cars have been around at the dawn of automobile and how other manufacturers are executing this new round of electrified vehicles for the masses. Now comes another compromise to consider – choosing the right one for one's budget.
The answer comes from our insatiable appetite for SUVs and crossovers. While most affordable plug-in hybrids are cars and hatchbacks, getting a plug-in SUV means looking into one sold by a luxury brand. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo offer their own plug-in hybrid SUVs. While the idea of going upmarket may be tempting, one look at their respective sticker prices will send you to bankruptcy court before you know it.
However, there is a more affordable choice. This one offers a lot of what these more expensive and luxurious have, but it is a price point that does not require taking out an additional mortgage. It is an SUV that is fed with gasoline and electricity that seats five, has a lot of storage space, and has all-wheel drive standard.
That vehicle is the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Before you start saying anything negative about the three-diamond brand, understand this backstory. In recent months, the Renault Nissan Alliance has taken the Japanese automaker under its wins. The now expanded Renault Mitsubishi Nissan Alliance was formed because they saw equity in the technology Mitsubishi crafted for this PHEV – a desirable solution for its larger vehicles in its global portfolio. This plug-in hybrid infrastructure is set to be implemented across the Alliance for its mid-sized and larger cars and SUVs – including Renaults, Dacias, Samsungs, and Nissans.
What is so special about the Outlander PHEV's system that would get the attention of Renault and Nissan executives?
The system itself starts with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that has just 117 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque to start with. However, Mitsubishi adds two more electric motors to the mix – one up front and one in the rear for each axle. Each motor puts out 60 kilowatts or power, along with 137 Newton Meters of torque for the front, 195 Newton Meters of torque for the rear. All told, these two electric motors offset the gasoline engine's low numbers to feel like a competent machine on the road. A single-speed fixed reduction gear transmission sends power throughout the system through its Super All-Wheel Control all-wheel driveline.
A Lithium-Ion battery feeds the two electric motor system. Most of its competitors only have one electric motor – including cars. This is something to note when looking at the Outlander PHEV against its competition.
Come to think of it, the dual motor S-AWC system sounds like a Tesla, doesn't it? While Tesla's "D" system dual electric motors improve traction and increase performance on the road, the Outlander PHEV's system enables its system for traction away from the tarmac or in conditions that are less than ideal – such as rain, snow, and ice. See if your Tesla Model X can follow an Outlander PHEV to the cabin in muddy conditions.
The Mitsubishi's two electric motor S-AWC works extremely well. In snow, the rear motor kicks in for additional traction to ensure stability and grip. The same on icy and caked surfaces. For more traction, the S-AWC button allows you to lock in both electric motors for optimal traction on these same surfaces. If one feature stands out in the Outlander PHEV is this S-AWC system – it does the job without hesitation and absolute confidence.
As far as efficiency goes, though getting all 22 miles as promised from the electric motor, I wished I had more range from the gasoline engine for longer journeys. But, around town, the Outlander PHEV does the job well, and you can do things without using the gasoline engine. All told, I did get a high average of 44.3 MPG combined with electric and gasoline use. Keep in mind one thing: 98% of Victory & Reseda's reviews (i.e. ones written by your's truly) are done here in Minnesota. In this case, we had our typical winter conditions ranging from just above freezing to single digits. These conditions will affect fuel economy and battery use. Plus, for the record, Mitsubishi states that the PHEV would average 74.0 MPGe.
In terms of driving dynamics, the Outlander PHEV is a nice riding vehicle. The ride quality is superb and it can absorb road imperfections quite nicely. Handling is also fantastic, but do not expect it to be as sporty as, say, a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT. It does a superb job dealing with the turns. Brakes are also great, as it also works to regenerate the battery with a flick of the left paddle shifter. You can also put it in Charge mode as you go along to recapture lost energy to the battery. Otherwise, the brakes provided good stops in normal, panic, and winter situations.
Steering control is good, but do not expect a very tight turning radius. It does the job in tight situations, nonetheless, with superb feedback from the wheel. On-center feel is good with nominal play at the wheel.
When you select the PHEV over the regular Outlander, you get what is absolutely the best interior Mitsubishi offers on any vehicle – period. I have not felt and seen a higher quality cabin in a three-diamond model since…maybe, the Diamante. Remember the Diamante? What you get inside the Outlander PHEV is a unique four-spoke steering wheel with sweet leather, satin chrome finishes, and wood-finished accents. The short gear selector works perfectly, especially combined with the paddle shifters for the assist on re-generating the battery.
Space-wise, you do not get the third row from non-PHEV Outlanders, due to the fact that rear electric motor unit lives there. But, you do get the GT's soft and comfortable leather seating for five adults. The front seats are large – and better constructed than the regular Outlanders. They are also bolstered just right. The brown leather color, with contrasting stitching, is extremely premium for the price point – and that's a good thing! Rear cargo space starts with a huge 30.4 cubic foot space behind the second row of seats, expandable to 78.0 cubic feet through to the first row.
Rockford Fosgate supplied the sound through its 710-watt, nine-speaker system. The 7.0-inch infotainment touch screen has changed for Mitsubishi, with a new interface and the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
All models get Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Change Assist. An upgrade to the GT model adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, and Automatic High Beams. The Outlander has a reputation for being extremely safe, so expect the same out of the PHEV model.
Also, expect a lot of design continuity on the outside. Save for a different set of wheels and PHEV badges, there is really no difference between any Outlander model regardless whether it has a battery underneath it or not. In that respect, the Outlander PHEV is pretty handsome and looks the part for its intended use, as well as making passengers feel welcome.
The 2018 Outlander PHEV starts with a well-equipped SEL model at a base price of $34.595 – which is the lowest priced plug-in hybrid SUV sold in the USA. Our GT tester came with a sticker price of $42,070. Keep in mind these sticker prices are before you claim any Federal and state tax credits where applicable.
Let's break this down for a moment. The world wants SUVs. They are the preffered family choice of vehicle. However, we have to face the future as governments start mandating sales of electrified vehicles within the next several years or so. If there is an opportunity to get ahead of the electrified vehicle curve at a more affordable cost – the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is your choice among SUVs. Until another one comes along that is equally affordable, offers more range and higher efficiency on average – this is indeed your best bet by getting into this Mitsubishi.
There is another conclusion to make. This driveline is the basis of an electrified strategy for Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Renault. It was one the reasons for saving this 100-year-old automotive manufacturer. Yet the big winner for the consumer is the Outlander PHEV's sensational terrain management through its two-electric motor S-AWC system. Perhaps it is time to get ahead of the curve with this high-value SUV. Better start plugging in, then!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle supplied by White Bear Mitsubishi, White Bear Lake, MN
All photos by Randy Stern