While I spend a lot of time in small, compact vehicles, there’s still something nice about driving a behemoth now and then. They offer lots of space and a sense of safety that little cars just don’t have, with the usual cost that of poor fuel efficiency. Plug-in hybrid technology – plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) – serves as a great solution, offering all of the range and engineering benefit of an internal combustion engine, coupled with an EV engine. Plug it in overnight and your batteries are fully charged, ready for the first ~30 miles each day to be electric only. Since most people drive about 25 miles daily, that means they’d never need to utilize the gas engine.
Mitsubishi offered me a week in their entry in this class, the big, brawny 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWC, and it was a great experience. There’s certainly a lot less environmental guilt when you’re averaging 45mpg. The Outlander has been a good seller for Mitsubishi, which is no surprise when SUVs are one of the most popular vehicle categories in the industry. It has a curb weight of over 4,600 pounds too, so it’s also not about to be blown off-road in an unexpected gust of wind.
The Outlander I received was White Diamond with a Black Roof and Black interior:
What you can’t tell from the exterior is that the interior has some very nice color trim, which turns out to be a $2700 option called “SEL Premium Package” that includes a synthetic leather door insert with quilting. That’ll show up in subsequent photos. While the vehicle overall is quite comfortable, I was surprised that the driver’s seat was rather not comfortable without substantial adjustments. At one point it decided to switch into massage mode, with the lumbar support alternating between firm and soft. Yes, that was a bit disconcerting.
In fact, here’s that SEL Premium Package finish as applied to the front dashboard:
As with all modern vehicles, it has a big infotainment system – a 10.8-inch (SEL) display that seemed bigger in action – featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The real win of the dashboard design is that the tan addition breaks up all of the controls, making it seem quite sleek rather than overloaded with features and controls. There’s a lot of thought that’s gone into the overall design here, actually, with few redundancies and a sensible layout of features. All cruise control features (it has adaptive cruise control) are controlled by the right steering bar, with the left controlling the main gauge display and music/audio source.
The center console features a straightforward gear shift, along with an EV button to switch between four EV modes for when your battery hasn’t been depleted, along with a drive mode control so jammed with options that I want to show it up close:
Lots of options and while I generally tried to stay in ECO mode, I did try the snow setting. Each changes the feel of the vehicle, and because it’s a hybrid engine, it has a continuously variable transmission (amusing, listed as “1 speed transmission”), so there’s no real performance penalty to sticking in ECO mode.
If only you could.
One feature I found frustrating was that every time I got into the Outlander, I had to remember to switch both EV and drive modes to my preferred settings. By default, it’s in Normal, Hybrid Engine, which was surprising given how many PHEV vehicles are designed to automatically be in EV mode (in other words, not utilizing the gas engine at all) until the batteries give their last gasp and the car has no choice but to switch to the ICE engine. It’s possible this is a setting or preference, but I did not investigate further.
Overall I found the Outlander a peppy drive at lower speeds with good acceleration and a comfortable, quiet ride at highway speeds.
The main gauge display is a big, bright display screen with a fairly typical layout:
This is the most information-dense display option and there’s a lot of information shown here, so much that it’s likely few owners ever decode everything. You can see that when I’m in gas/hybrid mode I was averaging a very nice 48.4mpg, though my EV efficiency wasn’t particularly good at 2.5 miles/kWh. EV owners aim for around 4 miles/kWh, for comparison, but perhaps since it’s a PHEV it is unlikely to attain that level of power efficiency. Finally, along the bottom, you can see that I have 39 miles remaining in EV mode and then 311 miles on the gas engine. This is never exactly accurate, particularly since the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV features regenerative braking, so it could theoretically gain additional battery power en route.
Stepping outside, the vehicle has good rear legroom and is generally spacious and a good option for up to 7 passengers with its fold-up third row. It measures a substantial 185.4 inches in length (by comparison, a Toyota Tacoma measures only a few inches longer at 212.3 inches. Here’s the second-row legroom:
Notice here that the SEL Premium Package produces a pretty bright armrest for rear passengers. Black and orange. Kind of a Halloween theme, really, but don’t worry, it’s more attractive in person!
Swinging around to the rear of the vehicle, you can see that there’s decent cargo and storage room in the rear:
What’s surprising is that there isn’t a panel covering up all of this to create an even and consistent rear cargo area, nor is it designed for one, based on the lack of shelves or tabs on the sides. It does have a tonneau cover, which will run you an additional $200. Why companies don’t just include those with SUV designs is something I’ve discussed in other reviews too, but it’s still inexplicable.
Where things get interesting is when we swing around to the EV charging area:
This is the very first EV or PHEV I’ve evaluated that has both of these charging ports. The left 5-plug port is a standard, known as the J1772, but it’s that right port that surprised me. It’s a CHAdeMo port and is designed for fast charging, allowing you to pour up to 400kW of power into the vehicle. Between the two plugs, this gives you compatibility with Level 1, 2, and DC Quick Chargers, the latter allowing you to pull in up to 80% in under 40 minutes. Not too bad at all, and since it’s a PHEV, of course, you can also just ignore the battery and drive it as a gas engine.
Utilizing this energy, the Outlander has a feature I’ve seen in more and more cars and don’t really understand. When you open the driver’s door, it projects the company logo on the ground:
Why do people like these? It’s not an add-on, so at least you don’t have to pay more money for this, but if you’re a fan, please do leave a comment and let me know what you like about this design trend.
Finally, another exterior photo:
There really is a lot to like about the Mitsubishi Outlander. From its solid drive experience to its delightfully roomy interior and great PHEV fuel efficiency, lots of pros. On the cons side, I found the driver’s seat to be less comfortable than I would have liked, and having to constantly switch EV and drive modes to be in the configuration I preferred was at best tedious. Still, there’s a lot to like with this big SUV that’s just full of interesting technology and lower priced than most of its PHEV peers in the industry. It’s worth a test drive.
2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWC SUV in White Diamond / Black Roof and Black & Tan SEL interior. Powered by a 2.4L MiVEC DOHC 4-cylinder engine + PHEV system with a continuously variable transmission. BASE PRICE: $45,445.00. OPTIONS INCLUDED: White Diamond/Black Roof, SEL Premium Package, Tonneau Cover, Welcome Kit. AS DRIVEN: $50,880.00
Disclosure: Mitsubishi loaned me the Outlander for a week for the purposes of this writeup. Thanks, Mitsubishi!