2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT Review: Plug It In, Plug It In

JAN 27 2019 BY GREG FINK 27

The Outlander PHEV’s technological achievements can’t overcome its general mediocrity.

VERDICT5.0 / 10

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV marks the future of the three-diamond brand. No longer defined by performance vehicles such as the Lancer Evolution or Eclipse sports coupe and convertible, the Japanese automaker is seeking to carve out a niche for itself as a leader in next-generation powertrain technologies, and the Outlander PHEV leads this charge.

Not quite as cutting edge as the electric Chevrolet Bolt EV or the hydrogen-powered Hyundai Nexo, the Outlander PHEV earns its keep as the sole plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle available in the compact crossover segment. While competitors such as Nissan and Toyota offer CUVs with gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains, only Mitsubishi sells a model capable of traveling any appreciable distance on electricity alone.

Although the Outlander PHEV’s trick powertrain certainly helps it stand out from the crowd, its middling interior, ergonomic challenges, and lackluster dynamics ultimately overshadow the crossover’s technological achievements.

Pricing         6/10

As the sole plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle in its class, the $34,595 Outlander PHEV’s inherent value primarily comes down to individual consumer needs. For instance, those willing to sacrifice the Mitsubishi’s EPA-rated 22 miles of electric-only driving range will want to consider the $27,385 Toyota RAV4 hybrid.

Still, buyers lured to the powertrain tech of the Outlander PHEV will surely appreciate the model’s long list of standard features, which includes items such as a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, leather seating surfaces, heated and power-operated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tailgate, a proximity key with push-button start, and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert.

Opting for the high-end $40,295 GT trim – the entry-level Outlander PHEV wears the SEL moniker – nets niceties such as LED headlights and foglights, a sunroof, a premium audio system, a 360-degree camera system, a heated steering wheel, two interior-mounted AC outlets, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, a lane-departure warning system, and an automatic front-braking system.

Thanks to a total of $695 in accessory equipment and a $1,045 destination charge, this Outlander PHEV GT rang in at $42,035.

Design         3/10

Mitsubishi clearly drew inspiration from a shipping container when designing the Outlander PHEV, because the brand’s compact crossover is one of the boxiest vehicles in its segment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the Outlander’s square exterior affords reasonable interior accommodations.

Still, the look certainly fails to imbue the crossover with any pizzaz. While the Outlander PHEV is a generally inoffensive looking thing, this tester’s seemingly Range Rover-inspired hood emblem and gaudy side graphics do the plug-in Mitsubishi’s styling no favors. Even worse, Mitsubishi has the gall to charge for these items! The hood emblem runs $85, while the kitsch graphics cost $285. I can’t help but feel Mitsubishi ought to credit consumers $285 for driving what amounts to a rolling billboard for the brand’s plug-in technology.

Stepping inside the Outlander PHEV is no more exciting, and the cabin’s odd mix of piano-black trim, silver plastic, and faux wood make for an interior that looks tacky and designed by committee. Although a handful of interior items are PHEV-specific (including the leather-covered steering wheel, strange drive-by-wire gearshift lever, and gauge cluster), most of the cabin carries over the low-quality and hollow feel of the standard Outlander’s.

Comfort         5/10

At least the Outlander PHEV offers a reasonably spacious interior. Unlike the seven-passenger Outlander, the PHEV ditches the third-row seats to make room for various EV components. With 30.8 cubic feet of space with all seats in place, the cargo hold of the gasoline-electric Outlander is down 3.8 cubes to its seven-passenger counterpart (with its third-row stowed).

Still, the PHEV’s square cargo bay makes the most of the available room, and it easily swallows bulky items without protest. GT models also include AC outlets in the cargo area and back seat, which allows buyers to plug-in household items such as a television or coffee maker (or whatever it is your heart desires).

Passenger space is reasonably accommodating and the leather-lined power and heated front seats provide adequate comfort and support, while the 60/40-split three-across rear bench-seat offers plenty of stretch-out space, although its low-mounted seat-bottom impedes long-haul comfort.

Technology & Connectivity         4/10

Despite a long list of standard feature content, the Outlander PHEV’s middling ergonomics ultimately fail to make the most of the model’s range of comfort and convenience items. The most egregious ergonomic offender is the standard 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that features low-quality graphics, slow response times to touch inputs, confusing menu structures, and crowded on-screen buttons. Thankfully, the setup is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto friendly, which allows for some reprieve from the horrid Mitsubishi interface.

Equally irksome is the gauge cluster-mounted display screen that toggles through menus by way of a button located to beneath the leftmost air vent – a place you wouldn’t expect such a function to reside. Similarly, the button for the GT’s steering wheel heater lives in a low-mounted panel below the center stack and ahead of the center console, rather than on the steering-wheel spoke or thereabouts.

Additionally, illogically arranged steering-wheel controls make it difficult to quickly adjust the gap of the GT’s adaptive cruise control system or switch between the audio sources, channels, or tracks. Surely owners will adjust to the order of the steering wheel’s buttons, but it’s amazing Mitsubishi manages to make a mess of something as simple as this.

Performance & Handling         3/10

On paper, the Outlander PHEV’s powertrain is a mighty impressive thing. With an 80-hp electric motor at each axle and a front-mounted 117-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that can also power the front wheels, the PHEV’s powertrain is able to perform in one of three different drive modes: EV Drive mode, which offers an EPA-rated 22 miles of all-electric driving; Series Hybrid mode, which uses the gasoline engine to supply power to the electric motors; and Parallel Hybrid mode, which relies on the two electric motors and the gasoline engine to motivate the crossover. In both EV Drive and Series Hybrid mode, the gas engine comes into play and powers the front wheels to provide additional accelerative assistance if needed.

In practice, however, the Outlander PHEV’s powertrain is a less-than eloquent thing. Although the electric motors’ plentiful torque allows the Mitsubishi to move off the line with authority, any serious acceleration, such as merging or passing at speed, is a slower affair that requires the four-cylinder fire up and assist in pulling the PHEV forward. Coarse and loud, the 2.0-liter engine is an irksome thing that drowns the cabin in noise and ruins an otherwise pleasant powertrain. Hopefully the 2019 Outlander PHEV’s updated powertrain will be better behaved.

Lateral dynamics are no more exciting, and the crossover’s softly sprung suspension results in a comfortable ride and copious amounts of body roll through turns. Push the PHEV a little harder, and its 18-inch Toyo A24 all-season tires will squeal like pigs on their way to slaughter.

Kudos to Mitsubishi for equipping its gasoline-electric crossover with a solid feeling brake pedal that transitions nicely between regenerative and friction brake applications. Chunky steering-column-mounted paddle shifters allow the driver to alter the strength of the PHEV’s regenerative braking. (Tapping the gear shift lever can also alter the amount of regen.) Six different settings are available, and the highest setting affords near-one-pedal driving, while the lowest setting all-but eliminates the accelerator pedal’s regen capabilities and instead requires the driver use the brake pedal to slow the crossover down.

Safety         7/10

All Outlander PHEV models come standard with a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert. The top-of-the-line GT trim, however, replaces the standard halogen headlights with a set of LED units with automatic high beams and also adds active safety kit such as adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, and an automatic front-braking system. A lane-keeping assist system is unavailable.

The Outlander PHEV GT’s active safety equipment, however, comes standard on every RAV4 Hybrid trim. While the Toyota lacks a standard blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert (it’s available on higher trims), the crossover makes up for this by way of its standard lane-keeping assist function.

Fuel Economy         7/10

Thanks to its ability to drive an EPA-estimated 22 miles on electricity alone, the Outlander PHEV is a mighty efficient thing when its 12.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack is full of charge. With its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the mix, though, the Mitsubishi’s efficiency is nothing to write home about, as the EPA rates the crossover at 25 miles per gallon combined. The RAV4 Hybrid, meanwhile, manages 32 mpg combined. That said, the Toyota lacks the Mitsubishi’s ability to travel long distances on electricity alone and the 74 MPGe rating that comes with it.

A handful of powertrain settings allow the driver to make the most of the Outlander PHEV’s reasonable electric driving range. Eco mode aims to reduce fuel and electricity consumption by the crossover, while Battery Save and Battery Charge modes aim to keep the battery pack at a reasonable charge state.

Battery Save mode is only available when the battery pack’s charge drops below 90 percent. Mitsubishi sees this mode as a tool that a driver can use to ensure they have plenty of EV range for a forthcoming drive through an area where the sound of a gas engine may be disruptive or through a city or town that (in the future) bans gasoline-burning vehicles.

Battery Charge mode uses the gasoline engine to bring the battery to an 80 percent charge in approximately 40 minutes, per Mitsubishi. As with Battery Save mode, the Japanese automaker views Battery Charge mode as a tool a PHEV driver can use to ensure there’s adequate charge in the battery pack for an upcoming drive through an area where the sound of a gas engine may be disruptive or through a city or town that bans gasoline-burning vehicles.

Categories: Mitsubishi, Test Drives

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27 Comments on "2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT Review: Plug It In, Plug It In"

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People wonder why GM doesn’t make a Volt based CUV/SUV. This is a good example of – ‘Jack of All Trades, Master of None’. Granted an Equinox starts out as a better CUV than an Outlander. But to do these types of vehicles there has to be compromises given you have to drivetrains. GM is making the right decision to go all EV or hybrid. PHEV are just transitional vehicles.

The Volt is capable as a commuter EV – this thing is not. The EV mode on the Outlander is sufficient only in city and only with warmer temperatures.

Must be the reason why it is just the most sold PHEV in Europe and probably in the world!
A PHEV, if well made, is still realistically the best option where charging infrastructures are not good. That is, most of the world and rural areas.
Certainly, if the outlander would have a EV range of 50-70 miles and a total power of 200+Kw, it would be a much better proposition. It wouldn’t even weight more, they would need just to use a bit less cheap technology.
And Fink’s review looks overly harsh

No kidding. Sales seem to imply the Outlander is not nearly as bad as this review would indicate.

7/10 for double the fuel efficiency of any other SUV? Please

Due to tax benefits it is quite a cheap car, especially for business use but its mpg is actually lower than the diesel version for for longer highway trips.

In CA, after credits, the car has the same price…not cheaper…as the gas version. Always wondered why people go for the gas.

50-70 miles would cover the daily commute of 90% of owners, and that really has to be the baseline.

While I agree that PHEVs are a transitional technology, the fact that Mitsubishi did poor on this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible to do better.

I think the series (or mostly series) hybrid setup might have it’s place — in aerodynamic sedans or maybe aerodynamic station wagons (CUVs).

Besides the worse aero, towing is kind of a requirement once you get into the SUV category. I’d be interested in seeing what happens to the Mitsubishis while highway towing (i.e. 65+ mph) — I’ll bet the engine spins way up.. and the mpg nosedives way down.

I tow a trailer with one or two motorcycles on with my Outlander. The mpg is not that bad.
There is no direct BEV replacement for the Outlander.
The 2018 models here in the UK got a different engine. The new one is a 2.4ltr Atkinson cycle engine.
For what it does, it is perfect. The sales figures here and in parts of Europe seem to back that up.
All my local driving is done on battery so for me the size of the battery is not that a disadvantage. In the 3.5 years I’ve had mine I’ve had zero issues with it. I will be sad to see it go in March when my EV arrives.

It is a shame that Mitsubishi won’t make a full EV version of it. There is a big hole in the market that is just waiting to be filled.

If you’re towing in the UK, you are limited to 50 or 60 mph. Correct?

As I understand, speed limits while towing are less in Europe. This is one of the reasons that a similar vehicle is rated lower in the States.

It seems a rather odd thing at this point to review a 2018 model.

The US is the last fiddle to get electric vehicles from Japan and Korea, the Outlander being the poster child of not arriving fo years.

I was thinking they were reviewing the new version until half way through just because I didn’t think anyone would wait until now to review the old one. Sort of caught me off guard because I wanted to hear about the new one

Looks like the reviewer was rather disappointed , either had high expectations or an axe to grind.
Thanks anyway!

We have owned an Outlander PHEV for almost 5 months. While primarily my wife’s main ride, we took it on a nearly 1,000 mile round trip from Central FL to Atlanta. We didn’t have access to chargers on the trip so we relied on the charge mode. Using that for most of the Interstate miles and EV when getting off the highway, we averaged about 33 mpg for the trip.
We like the vehicle much better than the reviewer here, but there are two things I wish they would fix: 1. You can’t use the cruise control in EV mode. I understand why but I would still like to have the option. 2. It is very slow to charge. Not sure what the rate is, but it takes almost 4 hours to charge at level 2.
I also see PHEVs as “transitional” and would like to be able to replace this in a few years with a long range BEV SUV (Model Y?).

Really?? No cruise control in EV mode??!
That’s tough.

What do you mean you understand why you can’t use in ev mode? I have 2 cars that do that…what am I missing here?

Right – both my Pacifica and C-Max PHEVs allow this, if I interpret it at face value. Perhaps, though, if a “do everything not to use gas” mode is selected – which my Pacifica doesn’t have – it locks out cruise control. I still don’t understand why the Outlander would do that, though.

I’m assuming they expect cruise only to be used on the highway under ICE power.

I wonder if Fink is one of those people out of touch, that can’t understand why everybody don’t drive a model X!

I’m not sure I understand the usage case. If you want “bigger than a sedan” with EV capability, why not spend (~10%) more and get a better featured, longer ranged, more roomy Pacifica Hybrid? You can even use adaptive cruise control while in EV mode.

Full disclosure: I have never really understood the SUV usage case. They are not the “jack of all trades, master of none”. They are “kinda sorta useless at most trades, and mediocre in the others”. A compromised design compromise, if you will.

We had that discussion in our house, and the Outlander beat the Pacifica because the Outlander has all wheel drive. When a Nor’Easter blows through Boston we want that peace of mind. Our 2018 Outlander PHEV replaced the Honda CR-V, which was also AWD, also our longer (> 50 mile) trip car, and also our hauling car. My husband’s round-trip commute is 10 miles, 20 on errand running days, and he has a charger at the office so it’s a great fit for his use case. Electric for his daily drives; roomier and longer range than our Leaf for family weekend trips.

So we’re not the only ones who have a Leaf and an Outlander PHEV! I drive the Leaf because it has just enough range for my commute and I can charge at work (110V), with a Level 2 at the bank across the street if needed.

I’ve been driving an Outlander PHEV for the past 4 months and could not really relate to this review. I’m not bothered by the majority of the complaints Greg had but I am bothered by other things he didn’t mention.

What I like:
– Driving on all-electric power 5 days a week. I have a short commute and can recharge in the parking garage.
– On longer weekend drives, I’ve been getting ~30 mpg, far better than the minivan it replaced.
– AWD, handy in the Northeast
– Decent cargo space

What I don’t like:
– This thing emits more beeps than R2-D2.
– In cold weather it’s too eager to shift out of EV mode and the battery life is significantly shorter.
– Getting my phone to connect via Android Auto sometimes takes 2 or 3 attempts (maybe it’s my phone).
– Occasionally I miss having a 3rd-row seat

What I’m indifferent about:
– Exterior and interior styling. I’m not picky, it’s neither particularly stylish nor ugly to me.

I have owned a gasoline powered Outlander for 2 years and finally replaced it a year ago with PHEV. I love it and find the review subjective, although better than the one from CR who did not even bother buying it, and lumped it together with the gasoline powered one in their review of the no.1 selling PHEV SUV in the world… I agree with the post wondering – why anybody would buy a gas powered Outlander – the cost for PHEV after the federal rebate and savings on gas is actually lower… I did not understand the comment about not being able to use cruise control in EV mode on the highway. I use it all the time. PHEV drives in EV mode at the speed of up to 75 mph – so, as long as you don’t exceed the speed limit, gas engine does not start. Also, in cold weather, I switch to EV mode (blue EV button) before starting the car (press start button twice without pressing on the brake pedal, then EV button, then start button again while pressing on the brake pedal) and drive in EV mode if commute is short enough. I appreciate the… Read more »