Mitsubishi has the best-kept secret in the automotive business. It is actually an open secret, but we Americans have been waiting for this to be revealed.
What’s the secret? A plug-in hybrid system that actually works in the real world!
This is not just in any old Mitsubishi. It is in the Outlander SUV.
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV arrived just when we thought it would never show up. The wait may have been long—since the 2016 New York International Auto Show. In our case, the wait was well worth it.
Without diving into some of the reasons for the wait, the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV actually serves as an incentive. Late last year, Nissan and its Alliance partner Renault purchased 33% of Mitsubishi’s stock. That made Alliance Chairman Carlos Ghosn the man in charge at the three-diamond brand. The incentive for Renault and Nissan was a piece of technology Mitsubishi developed that would be a great fit for the rest of the Alliance’s portfolio: the aforementioned plug-in hybrid driveline.
The arrival of the vehicle carrying this technology is cause for celebration. We had a chance to drive the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and came away with a lot of good tidings to share.
First off, we need to discuss how the plug-in hybrid works. There are three modes available: EV, Series Hybrid, and Parallel Hybrid. Though a driver can select between EV and Hybrid, the system itself will select the mode for you automatically depending on driving conditions and velocity. The usage of any of the motors—there are two electric motors on board, front and rear—is fluid between the three modes. Unlike most gas-electric hybrids, you can run on EV mode at highway speeds. Mitsubishi states you can drive it up to 70 MPH.
One note about the Super All-Wheel Control system: instead of a driveshaft connecting the two axles, each electric motor represents a drive unit at each axle. When needed, both motors will operate to provide traction to all four wheels.
In practice, the Outlander PHEV is quiet. Even when the gasoline engine is on, the only noise you would hear is from the tires below. Ride quality is superb, as are handling and cornering. Brakes are good, even with the feel of the regeneration system. In fact, you can adjust the kind of regenerative power to recapture kinetic energy into the batteries by flipping the paddle shifters through six levels of energy recapture. Overall, stopping power is solid from the pedal and response is good in normal situations. Steering is good with solid on-center feel with a decent turning radius.
If you’re looking for distinctions beyond how it drives, step into the PHEV’s interior. The quality is a major leap from the current Outlander. There is a four-spoke steering wheel with satin chrome trim and improved buttons all around, the shifter is similar to one from the Toyota Prius, but a nicely finished short throw toggle connected to the console. It all goes back to the controls—higher quality ones that will make you change your mind about the brand once you touch them.
Another huge step in quality are the seats. Unlike the seats in the Outlander, the PHEV benefits from some nice comfy leather-wrapped chairs. They are comfortable and supportive. They could be the best in class, not just in hybrids and plug-in models. Room and space are similar to other Outlanders.
Mitsubishi’s infotainment system has been working through some upgrades, which include connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Rockford Fosgate provided an available premium nine-speaker audio experience on top of these new infotainment capabilities. The same screen is also home to all of the monitoring for the PHEV system. It provides information on energy cycling, a history of energy use, and a monitor for fuel efficiency combined with electric motor use and battery capacity.
From what we understand, there are only a few differences between the PHEV and the remainder of the Outlander line. There are distinctive wheels, badges, and a few trim pieces here and there. But, it absolutely looks like any Outlander GT that has become of our community’s most popular vehicles.
Because it looks like a highline Outlander, the PHEV offers something special inside of the passenger side “gas door.” That is where you can plug in a standard EV plug receptor. Actually, there are two. The smaller one is used for Level 1 and Level 2 plugs. The most common plug-in in our area is the Level 2 found at most stations across the Upper Midwest. The larger plug is for the Quick Charger system. For those lucky enough to install one at their home or to find one to use, you can benefit from a 80% recharge in just 20 minutes. A full recharge at a public Level 2 charging station is approximately four hours.
Just like the Outlander GT, the PHEV gets a full suite of active safety features. These features include Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Traffic alert, Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, Automatic High Beams, and Multi-view Camera System.
As for the price, are you sitting down? The base price of the PHEV is $34,595 for the SEL with S-AWC. You can upgrade to the GT S-AWC model at a starting price of $40,295. These are base prices before any government incentives. Also, these prices reflect the fact that this is the lowest-priced SUV with a plug-in hybrid system. Period. And, it is the lowest-priced plug-in hybrid vehicle with all-wheel drive.
Let us cut to the chase: The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is worth the wait.