The latest PHEV from the struggling Japanese company will come in under $35,000, with all-wheel drive standard.
The luxury market has come to the forefront with plug-in hybrid SUVs. The Volvo XC60 recently joined the larger XC90 as a plug-in, as well as the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE. The bummer is that you'd be spending at least $52,900 on the XC60 and as much as $82,800 for the Cayenne. Ouch.
Now there's one that the 99-percent can afford. The 2018 Outlander PHEV will start at $34,595 and is eligible for a federal tax credit of $5,836, plus whatever your state may offer.
The Outlander uses two full-time 60 kW electric motors, one each on the front and rear axles, and a 2.0-liter gasoline engine. The system stores power in a 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack stowed under the vehicle. Mitsubishi estimates the total output at 197 horsepower.
As a plug-in hybrid, regenerative braking and the car's own engine will help recharge the Outlander's battery, but you can also plug it in at home. A DC fast charger will get the battery up to 85 percent capacity in 20 minutes, while a Level 2 home charging station brings it up to full in four hours. You're standard 110 volt wall outlet can charge it up overnight.
Mitsubishi hasn't tested the electric range yet, but said it is confident it will beat the luxury automakers' average of 13 miles. While driving, I could choose the EV mode, which relies solely on the battery power if there is any range left, or choose the Battery Save mode, where the system maintains the charge level by relying on the engine.
During my short time in the Outlander PHEV on dirt roads and at speeds of 25 miles per hour and below, I found that the car switched seamlessly between its hybrid modes. It let me choose between six levels of regenerative braking with the column-mounted paddles. I found myself using maximum regen on the dirt roads, merely lifting off the throttle to slow the Outlander before turns.
Unfortunately I didn't get to experience the Outlander on the highway, so I can't speak to its handling, ride quality or driver's aids. The Outlander will be available standard with blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, but features like a multi-view camera, lane departure warning and forward collision mitigation will only be available on the GT trim, starting at $40,295. This upper trim will also come standard with adaptive cruise control, which Mitsubishi says will bring the Outlander to a full stop, but the driver will need to re-engage the system once traffic starts moving again.
A new app can control the charging schedule of the Outlander, monitor vehicle status and remotely operate the HVAC system and headlights.
The Outlander PHEV's interior is fine, if unremarkable. Materials and design are nothing special, but I didn't notice any cheap plastic components. A seven-inch touchscreen supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and there are two USB ports in the center console. There is also a standard AC outlet in the rear cargo compartment that can handle 1,500 watts of your electronic goodies, making the Outlander PHEV excellent for tailgating or glamping.
I really wish I'd had more time with the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and on more than just a graded dirt road. The company is on a rise, having sold 100,000 units last year, the first time since 2007. The introduction of an affordable plug-in SUV will be a boon to less affluent consumers. Expect to find Mitsubishi's offering in dealers in December.
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