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First road test 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The small and midsize AWD crossover segments are completely on fire. The trend towards right-sizing and fuel economy are big driving factors as are versatility, room, and that all-important commanding driving position.

What if I told you that Mitsubishi is, on paper, the greatest of them all? The 2018 Outlander PHEV is all of the above on top of being reasonably affordable and covered by an excellent warranty. What more is there to say? Everyone should then head to their local Mitsubishi dealership and by one, no? Well, perhaps yes, and possibly no.

The Outlander PHEV is in fact a roomy vehicle, perfect for five occupants and its trunk will hold nearly 900 litres of cargo. The seats are comfortable, and the level of equipment is decent. Some of the controls remind me of those I spotted in GAC cars at the 2018 NAIAS, which is not good. Design-wise, the Mitsubishi looks little different from the regular V6 version save for a monochromatic paint scheme.

AWD plug-in hybrid!

What sets this Mitsubishi apart is its hybrid plug-in powertrain. It combines a 117-horsepower 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine with an electric motor up front integrated into the single gear transaxle, a second electric motor on the rear axle and a 12-kWh battery pack. All said, on a full charge, the Outlander PHEV will provide up to 35 km of pure electric driving. What’s more, this is the only vehicle other than the Tesla Model X that will allow AWD in 100% EV mode. There’s even a lock mode should you need to get out of a sticky situation.

On top of all this, the PHEV can automatically, or manually, toggle from a series Hybrid, using the gasoline engine as a generator, or into a typical parallel Hybrid vehicle, relying on the internal combustion engine with assistance from the electric motors to get around.

Truly, the 2018 Outlander PHEV is a marvel of modern-day mobility. That is, as long as you keep your commutes within the EV range and plug it in at every opportunity. If your driving habits take you beyond the range on a regular basis, the Mitsubishi may no longer be for you.

Heavy B

Every plug-in’s Achilles heel is its battery pack. The Outlander’s kerb weight tips the scale at a surprising 1,895 kg (4,178 lbs.), or an incredible 285 kg (627 lbs.) over the 3-row, V6, SE AWD petrol powered version. Think about it. The Mitsubishi weighs in at only 70 kg (154 lbs.) less than a much larger 3-row FWD Toyota Highlander V6…

When the battery pack has nothing left to give, you’ll be hauling the extra weight around. Throw in two adults, a pair of kids and some gear and I’m convinced that the rated and combined 9.2L/100km will be the best-case scenario… And then there’s the performance. In the city, the electrified torque is addictive from a dead-stop. When passing at speeds over 80km/h, the lack of oomph from the powertrain’s total system output of 197 horsepower is disappointing. The drive is uninspired as well, but this is not important in an urban setting.

Think about your real needs

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is an impressive offering purely for short commutes. At $42,998 for the base version, and with incentives ranging from $2,500 to $9,555, it works. For all other applications, I would consider the Toyota RAV4 hybrid. It retails for less, is better on fuel overall and has a larger trunk.

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