Electrified future

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

June 18, 2018
by David Miller

From the June 2018 print edition

It’s a new day for Mitsubishi in North America. They have two new utility products to promote with the compact Eclipse Cross and the slightly larger and electrified Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). The Eclipse Cross will do better in sales, but there’s no vehicle that represents Mitsubishi’s future more than the Outlander PHEV. The Outlander PHEV represents a new direction.

Under the Outlander’s hood is its first big change from its gas version, as the PHEV uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 117hp and 137lbs-ft of torque instead of the 2.4-litre. Assisting in the engine start-up and follow-through are twin electric motors in the front and rear, along with a 12kWh battery pack centrally placed under the seats for optimal driving balance. The electric motors add a combined 160hp and 245lbs-ft of torque to the mix, but Mitsubishi doesn’t list a total output number. The gas engine powers its front wheels, while a single gear transmission works its rears.

One of the key aspects of this PHEV SUV is its 35km of pure electric range. It doesn’t sound like much, but when compared to its competition, the Outlander has the longest range (not including the Pacifica) and its the only one with Level 3 fast charging capabilities that can be charged up to 80 percent in under 30 minutes or for three-and-a-half hours with a Level 2 charger. The Outlander PHEV also has a total combined range of 499km, eliminating range anxiety.

The Outlander PHEV comes in three trims, all coming standard with Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC): SE, SE Touring and GT. We weren’t able to test the S-AWC in snowy conditions; instead we got lots of rain, a suitable alternative for the top-tier GT I was placed in. The GT shows off a better interior than past Mitsubishi products featuring leather seats, faux wood accents, power liftgate and a host of safety technology.

Off-the-line, there was no EV shriek and no weird buzzing. The Outlander displayed its low-range torque that quickly brought me up to speed in a smooth and seamless fashion. Given the amount of driver-selectable modes and buttons throughout the cockpit, the quiet ride surprised me the most, creating a relaxing ride environment. It takes a while to gain an understanding of the surroundings, but once the system is understood the Outlander drives similar to its gas counterpart.

There are three driving modes that automatically adjust based on the slope of the road. The default setting is EV Mode that emits zero tailpipe emissions. This only lasts for short stretches that include coasting or braking, but as you push on the throttle, Series Hybrid Mode engages. It’s not exactly as it reads, as the gas engine is only used as a generator to produce electricity for the battery, while the Outlander is still propelled by the two electric motors. Parallel Hybrid Mode is the final setting that’s actually driven by the engine with assistance from those electric motors. This is engaged only when pushed hard or driven beyond 120km/h.

When the Outlander PHEV is in motion, there’s a lot going on. All of the vehicle’s actions depend on the driver’s throttle input—not a distraction at all. However, there are three more modes for charging purposes that can be manually adjusted by the driver: EV Priority Mode, Battery Charge Mode and Battery Save Mode.

The EV Mode places the vehicle in 100-percent electric propulsion under speeds of 120km/h. This can be used until there’s one EV bar left in the battery tank. Once depleted, the driver can adjust to Battery Charge Mode that uses the 2.0-litre gas engine to recharge the battery while in motion, up to an 80-percent charge within 40 minutes. Battery Save Mode conserves the current charge of the crossover by operating in hybrid mode.

When not thinking about charging or driving in EV mode, the Outlander PHEV can be a decent ride. It’s not going to win any speed contest, nor does its handling compare to some of its gas rivals, but it will perform admirably on the city and highway while saving money to the tune of 3.2Le/100 km in EV mode or 9.2L/100 km with pure gas. The best way to describe it is a routine city crossover with four-wheel drive capability always on display.

As Tested:
2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Starting price: $42,998 (Incentives: Ontario $7,000; Quebec $4,000; British Columbia $2,500)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder & 2 electric motors
Power: 117 hp, 137 lb.-ft. of torque (gas engine); 160 hp, 245 lb.-ft. of torque (combined electric motors)
Transmission: single gear transaxle
Drivetrain: four-wheel-drive
Rated Fuel Economy: (Le/100 km; L/100 km): City 3.0/ Hwy 3.4 (EV); City 9.4/ Hwy 9.0 (gas)