Mitsubishi Steps Up Its Game

January 16th, 2023 at 3:47pm

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What a pleasant surprise. For years I felt that Mitsubishi’s cars felt a bit outdated and clunky. But the new Outlander erased all those thoughts. It’s comfortable and modern, thanks to sitting on an all-new platform that came via Nissan—part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

The structure feels solid. The ride is supple. And there’s plenty of room for everyone, which are the very attributes that most owners want in a family vehicle. And this 3-row, 7-passenger SUV is very much a family vehicle.

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There’s a cool puddle light that is the first color projection that we’ve seen in any car. But it looks like a billboard for the company. We think that Mitsubishi missed an opportunity to make more of a brand statement for the Outlander PHEV.

The interior is attractive. The version I test drove came with in black with a contrasting chocolate earth tone on the console, instrument panel and arm rests. The seats were soft and comfortable and they have pronounced seams with a diamond pattern and contrast stitching that adds an air of luxury.
The gauges and controls are easy to read and just as easy to learn. The center screen is responsive and thanks to Bose audio, the sound system is quite good.

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What sets this SUV apart from most of the others is its plug-in hybrid drivetrain. On pure electric power you can drive about 38 miles in ideal conditions. After that the gasoline engine kicks in for a total driving range of 420 miles. That earns this SUV a 64 mpge rating from the EPA. If you use a DC fast charger, Mitsubishi says it will charge from to 80% in 38 minutes. That’s good compared to BEVs but to me that seems a little slow for a PHEV with a small 20 kWh battery.

On paper there is plenty of power under the hood, with a total of 248 horsepower and 332 pound feet of torque. That comes from a combination of gasoline and electric power. But in real world driving it doesn’t feel that powerful. If you drive in Eco mode, the Outlander feels painfully sluggish. In Normal mode it feels a bit slow. In Performance mode it comes alive, but I thought that the throttle control became a bit too touchy. It seems as if the engineers wanted drivers to notice big differences between the different driving modes, whereas in reality all they need is one Goldilocks setting. For my personal tastes, I’d prefer something between Normal and Performance.

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I’m not a fan of CVT transmissions and the Outlander didn’t convince me otherwise. The “shift points” didn’t feel natural to me. As time went on I got more used to it, but it never made a convert out of me.

Despite a few critiques, the new Outlander PHEV is one of the best new vehicles that Mitsubishi has come out with in years. Pricing ranges from $40,000 to $50,000, so it’s right in the middle of the market. In the US, it only arrived in dealerships in November 2022, but fourth quarter sales jumped 37%. And that bodes very well for Mitsubishi.

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–John McElroy

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