First Drive: 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

It’s only been a year since the all-new – and very Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance borne – Mitsubishi Outlander appeared on the scene and promptly shocked it with some very avant garde styling. Not one to rest on its laurels, Mitsu is back at the plate with the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version for 2023. It has more EV range than previous, more power and more space inside plus some bits that addressed some of the biggest bugaboos of the last model. Yet, with a base price of $46,538 (the PHEV is spread across five trims and tops out at $57,948) before rebates, remains an affordable way to enter the world of the partially-electrified SUV.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Exterior: I wasn’t the only one with raised eyebrows when the new Outlander debuted last year. The grille seemed overlarge at the time and the dual-tier headlights seemed like a push to the point of being a bit to “try hard”.

Fast forward to today, though, and I can’t remember the last time a vehicle’s styling has grown on me this much. Turns out the front-end is very much in-keeping with what we’re seeing in the biz today and the proportions are right on. From the side, the Outlander looks like something from a luxury badge thanks to the high beltline, upright edge to the rear side window and new contrast-colour roof, although that is an option only on the top GT and GT-P specs. It’s a vehicle with great presence and after a generation of stylistic blah-ness, the Outlander’s styling is meaningful once again. The main difference between this and a standard Outlander? Some badging, and the charge port on the right rear fender which houses a level III fast charge port, capable of charging the battery from 10 per cent to 80% in just under 40 minutes.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Interior: It also remains the only way to get into the world of a three-row PHEV SUV, which is a definite feather in its cap. Mitsubishi has engineered the rear 100 kW rear EV motor to be more powerful than previous, yet compact enough to sit snugly beneath the third row. Folding said row, however, is tough to get the hang of thanks to the multitude of lever and strap pulls required to do the job. Further, because of the way the seatbacks sit against the bottom cushion when folded, an unsightly indent is left behind thanks to the seatbelt buckles. A power-folding third row is not available.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

In order to make the third row more livable, the second-row bench slides fore and aft, but adults will have to be creative with how they position themselves in the third row. I found it easiest to ensure my head rested firmly on the oddly-shaped headrest because that was the only way I could clear the headliner. Seats like these, of course, aren’t made for six-plus footers like myself so the kids – less so the teens, mind — should be OK. They’ve somehow managed to carve out a nice, deep storage bin in the floor behind the third row so you still have access to a generous 362 L of cargo space when those seats are up.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The three-row feature is one thing, but the real take home for me is just how well put-together the interior is. We tested the top-spec GT-P model, meaning the presence of semi-aniline two-tone leather interior (including diamond-print seats, which are lovely), massaging front seats (a PHEV exclusive), 10.8-inch HUD, 9-speaker Bose audio, and a host of driver aids. All Outlander PHEVs, meanwhile, come standard with a digital gauge display as that’s what’s required for the various EV and charge meters provided within the gauge cluster.

It’s a very low-clutter place, too; the electronic gear select lever sits nice and tight against the console just low enough not to catch but high enough to grip and it’s one of just six controls there, the others being for your drive mode select and electronic handbrake. Even the climate controls which do provide traditional hard buttons – very good — are nice and low-profile. This is a comfortable, serene place in which to sit.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Powertrain: This, of course, is where it all comes to roost. Total system output is up from the old PHEV, for a total system output of 248 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, enough for some confident acceleration and the ability to tow up to 1,500 lbs. I wouldn’t call it fast, necessarily – the Toyota RAV4 Prime is much faster, though smaller — but the acceleration is smooth and present enough for the stuff the average driver needs it for such as freeway passing. It does get a little gravely when you really get on it, but with over 2,000 kilos to haul around, that’s bound to happen.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The big story, though, is that claimed 61 km of EV range thanks to a 20 kWh li-ion battery, up from 39 km the last time ‘round. There are a number of ways the Outlander helps you achieve that, including six – six! – levels of regen power, including a “Innovative Pedal” feature that ups regen further still. While most Outlander drivers are probably going to settle on one or two regen levels and hardly ever touch the regen paddles again – as I did — some will appreciate the flexibility there, according to Mitsubishi.

Most of the time, the 2.4L gas engine isn’t driving the wheels, but rather a generator that then sends power to the dual EV motors. Only on the highway does the gas engine actually drive the wheels through a single-speed transaxle.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Another aid Mitsu has provided to get the most out of the EV powertrain is the ability to tell the system to preserve charge, to work harder to charge while driving (using more gas, of course) or to override the computers and have it stay in EV mode longer.

Through fairly judicious use of all this, we saw 6.2L/100 km on a cold winter’s drive through the city of Vancouver and the surrounding mountains, which is actually better than the manufacturer’s claims.

Drive: While electrification has become a big part of the Outlander PHEV story, we must not forget about that Mitsu staple: Super All-Wheel Control, or “S-AWC”. This has been a huge part of the company’s brand since the ‘80s, though the World Rally Championship years of the ‘90s and on to the present day.

Electrification plays a big part here as well because driving the wheels isn’t done via a driveshaft or propshafts, but by EV motors which are way quicker to respond.

As a result, the Outlander now moves through corners more confidently and quickly and through minute adjustments in the power delivery and brakes, has less body movement and more passenger comfort. Couple with the airy interior digs and space, the Outlander PHEV has become a vehicle providing comfort beyond its price tag.

Conclusion: Which, of course, is likely going to be a huge boon for Mitsu. These days, more and more people are flocking to electrification (according to Mitsu, 26% of Canadians are considering the move) so the Outlander PHEV’s timing is good. Add the fact that the company is confident that it will be able to get vehicles to customers in a better timeframe than the two years Toyota is predicting for the RAV4 Prime, and could be the Outlander PHEV’s time in the sun is just beginning.

Price as tested: $57,948.00
Configuration: Front gas engine, front EV motor, rear EV motor, AWD
Engine: 2.4L four-cylinder
Transmission: 1-speed automatic
Total System Power: 248 horsepower/332 lb-ft of torque
Fuel: Regular
Combined fuel economy ratings: 9.0 L/100 km
Warranty: 10 years/160,000 km (powertrain and battery)

Link: Mitsubishi Canada

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