2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
By Jakob Hansen, 1/7/2020
When looking for an SUV, what’s important to you? Mitsubishi bets they have the formula to fill all your needs.
SUVs are an interesting segment. There is a massively wide range of customers that are all looking for something different. Some people want an off-road-ready, tough and rugged machine, others want a luxury cruiser that wafts them off in comfort. Still, others are simply looking for the best possible way of getting themselves and their family from A to B. What makes you tick when looking for an SUV?
Regardless of the category, you may fall into when searching for an SUV, Mitsubishi has you covered. They have big SUVs, small SUVs, and rock-crawl SUVs, mall-crawl SUVs. What you may not know is, they also have efficient SUVs.
The 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV fills all the roles. It's Mitsubishi's mix of efficiency, on-road handling, off-road abilities, luxurious interior, and practicality.
What Is It?
The 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a “compact SUV”, though it hardly feels compact, with a PHEV drivetrain. PHEV, or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, is a vehicle that has both fully rechargeable batteries, as well as a gasoline-powered engine. PHEVs can operate in several different modes, including full electric, hybrid, or fully gasoline powered.
A plug-in hybrid is able to be plugged into a normal 120-volt wall socket, which can fully charge the batteries and the vehicle can be operated solely on electric power, without intervention from the gasoline engine. When the batteries have been depleted, the engine kicks in to provide power to the wheels and operates like a traditional hybrid vehicle.
Essentially the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has the ability to operate as a full EV when charged, and a hybrid vehicle when not. Giving you the best of both worlds.
Other than the unique powertrain, the Outlander PHEV is a mid-size SUV in the “compact” class. Competing against big names such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano, and Ford Edge, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has ample space and an upscale interior that competes with other top trimmed SUVs in its class and even ones above its class.
So let’s break down the numbers. The boring, quantifiable data that ultimately needs to be discussed. First and foremost, the price. Our tester was a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC listed at a cool $43,600, which may sound like a lot, but once you start breaking down what you get for that price, it starts to make more sense.
Electric range is fairly weak though, the 22 estimated miles on battery alone is equivalent to that of other PHEV in the range. Fuel economy is another weak point. When combined with the battery power, the fuel economy looks excellent, especially if you drive less than 22 miles between charges. But once the battery power is lost, and the gasoline engine engages, and the numbers are abysmal at best. The EPA estimated 25 MPG combined is a rough, and inaccurate estimate. Our tester averaged 20 MPG city and 24 highway. Nowhere near what we would like to see from a 2.0 four-cylinder. The engine is clearly underpowered for the vehicle and needs to work far too hard to keep up with traffic.
Interior space is good, however. Front passengers are greeted with a roomy 40.9 inches of legroom, 40.6 inches headroom, and 56.4 inches shoulder room. Rear seat passengers are equally comfortable with 37.9, 38.3, 56 inches of legroom, headroom and shoulder room respectively.
There is no third-row option for the Outlander PHEV.
Cargo space is also excellent. 30.4 cu.ft. with the rear seats up and 66.6 cu. ft. with them folded provides ample room for my standard “hockey bag test”. I was easily able to fit three fully packed hockey bags, with extra room for the locker room “refreshments”.
So what has Mitsubishi done right with the Outlander PHEV? In truth, many things. The interior is well equipped, and at first glance is one of the more attractive cabins in the class. The quilted leather is attractive and upscales the entire cabin.
The shifter is awkward at first but you quickly get used to it and grow to actually enjoy the quick and efficient motion. Kudos to Mitsubishi for actually including a different style of shifter into the car at all. In today’s modern era the traditional shifter is no longer relevant, and can quickly date a vehicle.
The drivetrain is compliant and tight, though is clearly no sports car. The Outlander PHEV also has the finest integration of a CVT transmission of any vehicle I have driven, ever. The CVT is smooth, quick to react and efficient. It is always in the perfect ratio and when asked to provide a closer gearing for more acceleration, it quickly obliges with efficiency and none of the normal “rubber band” feeling of most CVTs.
The ride quality is also worth noting. The soft and comfortable suspension is happy to comply with road imperfections and the long travel suspension easily absorbs any large potholes or washboard dirt roads that litter the outskirts of metro Detroit.
Lastly, we also loved the looks of the Outlander. The massive polished chrome wheels, and sleek design may be polarizing, but stand out in a relatively class full of mommy-SUVs and boring box-mobiles. The exterior, and interior for that matter, are classy and well-designed. If only the build quality was as well-done as the looks, we would have a stellar vehicle.
While there is much to be said about what’s good about the Outlander PHEV, there is the same amount that is left to be covered on what’s bad.
There is also no wireless charger, nowhere to put a phone at all, in fact. The entire center council is a piano gloss with two small cup holders in an inconvenient location, so there is nowhere to put the small “extra” stuff we all travel with, especially those of us with kids.
The infotainment system is simply a nightmare. There is no volume knob, only capacitive touch buttons inconveniently placed along the bottom of the infotainment system and really do not work all that well. The system is difficult to navigate, and is slow to the touch. Combine this with the completely illogical user pathways and you have one of the most inefficient and ill-conceived infotainment systems on the market. Sorry, Mitsubishi.
Other than those glaring issues, there aren’t many more to contend with. The seats could be more comfortable but aren’t terrible, and the interior is strangely laid out. Buttons are in illogical locations and sometimes difficult to find. The adaptive cruise control is also not capable of bringing the car to a reasonable stop, leaving me as the tester in some pretty scary braking situations when testing the system. The adaptive cruise also does not work below 5 mph, a massive downfall.
The fit and finish of the Outlander PHEV are also not the greatest. The cheap plastics are glaringly obvious and stand out when placed directly next to the upscale quilted leather. What at first looks like a quality interior quickly shows its price when you start fiddling with the buttons and switches.
Lastly, the engine is loud, unfittingly loud. When in EV mode, the Outlander PHEV rides quiet and smooth, minus the high pitched tones emitted from the rear under acceleration. However, when the engine kicks on it is abrupt, intrusive, and loud. The transitions from electric to gas power are abrasive and are much more detectable than in other PHEVs or hybrids.
Suppressing your xenophobia, and taking a step into the unknown doesn’t have to be as difficult as you thought it might be. The Outlander PHEV makes it easy to adopt the new drivetrain technology, and offers zero downfalls to hold you back. The ability to drive to work every day on electric power only is a simple way to ease your fuel bill and help the environment and without any drawbacks. In all honesty, it creates a nice quiet ride to enjoy in the morning, there aren’t many things more serene than the silence an EV offers you, especially after a long night of your 6 month old deciding that 3:00 AM is now their new wake up time.