SUVs are everywhere. And plugging in vehicles are starting to become more common. Last week, I found myself sampling a vehicle that brings the two together – the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. While the Outlander still looks dated (after all, it’s been around in this form since 2012), this version of the Outlander benefits from some of the latest in technology. Referred to as the PHEV (for Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle), this electrically powered Outlander is the only plug-in SUV from a non-luxury brand that has all-wheel drive. It also sports the longest electric range of any SUV and the only plug-in-hybrid to offer Level 3 fast charging.
The Outlander PHEV, like the regular Outlander, is a small crossover SUV built on the Mitsubishi Lancer platform. While it’s basic clothing may be dated, year after year Mitsubishi touches up areas here and there in attempts to keep it stylish.
Rather than using a gas engine to power it, the Outlander PHEV uses two 80 hp electric motors – one at the front wheels and the other at the rear to provide the groundwork for the standard all-wheel-drive system. Along with the electric motors, there is a 2.0 liter four-cylinder gas engine that makes 117 hp. The system works much like the Chevrolet Volt, where the gas engine is mainly used as a generator with the electric motors providing most of the propulsion.
To charge, buyers can simply plug the cord into a standard 120-volt outlet where it takes 8 hours to fully charge. A Level 2 charger, installed at home or can be found at some shopping centers, takes 3.5 hours to reach a full charge. If you can find a Level 3 fast-charging station, you should be able to get an 80-percent charge in less than half-an-hour.
So now we know how the Outlander PHEV works, the important question is how does it perform? In EV mode (Electric Vehicle), the Outlander can travel up to 22 miles solely on an electric charge. After that, it goes into hybrid mode, where it achieves a combined city/highway mpg of 25 mpg. So for small in-town commutes, the electric Outlander sounds great. For longer drives, it sounds like an SUV with decent fuel economy.
The Outlander PHEV arrived in this county a few years ago all-the-while being available in Europe and selling quite well. For 2019, the Outlander gets air vents and a USB port for rear passengers, newly styled wheels and another new front bumper design.
Every time I get into an Outlander, I’m reminded of how straight-forward it is. The styling of the interior is somewhat contemporary, yet overall it’s simple, with easy to use controls and very supportive front seats. The second-row seats are 60/40 split style. As the PHEV, the Outlander loses its third-row seat. Mitsubishi says the space is needed for the rear motor and charging system.
On the road, drivers can choose between one of three driving modes. EV mode is all electric, allowing you to go 22 miles without using a drop of gasoline. Switch over to Series Hybrid mode and the gas engine will power the electric motor for more power while the batteries charge. Then there is Parallel Hybrid mode which allows the gas engine to directly send power to the wheels, along with the electric motors. This mode provides the maximum performance.
The Mercury Gray Metallic Outlander PHEV that I was assigned came fitted with the GT trim level, which means it had LED headlights and foglights, a sunroof, a heated steering wheel and a multiview camera. On top of that, it’s fitted with the new GT Premium Interior package that adds in leather appointed seating surfaces with a diamond quilted pattern and black accent panels. This fully loaded Outlander PHEV carries a price tag of $43,205. The base SEL starts at $36,295.
Driving excitement has never been an Outlander quality and that continues to hold true in PHEV form. The electric Outlander is slightly quicker than four-cylinder equipped Outlanders, but about a second slower to 60 mph when compared to V6 equipped Outlanders. But the PHEV’s powertrain is silky smooth and fairly quiet. Transition from gas to electric power is seamless.
There are not a lot of electric SUVs out there, and of the ones available, the Outlander PHEV is the most affordable. For long drives and trips with the family, a common occurrence for most SUVs, the Outlander PHEV doesn’t really fit the bill. But for an in-town family mover, there is a case for the Outlander PHEV that does make sense.
Maybe that’s why Mitsubishi has sold more than 100,000 Outlander PHEVs in Europe and is the best-selling plug-in hybrid in that market.
– Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC
Base Price: $41,495.00
Price as Tested:$43,205.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC inline-4 and 2 electric motors
Transmission: 1 speed direct drive
Horsepower: 197 hp
EPA Fuel Economy: 74 mpg electricity and gas / 25 mpg gas only
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