2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT First Test: It’s Alright


Mitsubishi Outlander Full Overview

It happened. We finally tested a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, a model that entered the U.S. market in late 2017 and which has become the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV thanks to a strong European following. While we missed out on putting the pre-refresh version through its paces, the 2021 model-year Mitsubishi Outlander brings several updates and a new trim, and we recently saddled up for a weeklong stint in a GT model.

It’s worth mentioning the plug-in Outlander is the only one you can buy right now; the gasoline-only model is on a one-year hiatus for 2021—a version based on the Nissan Rogue arrives for 2022—leaving the PHEV to hold the line. The base Outlander PHEV starts at $37,490 and the newly added mid-grade LE at $39,190, while range-topping GTs like the one we tested command $43,805. All models include standard all-wheel drive, and they’re potentially eligible for federal, state, and local tax incentives.

Some Updates Welcome, Some Still Needed

The 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV’s most notable upgrades are a slightly increased electric-only range number, which now sits at 24 miles (up from 22), and an additional 31 horsepower. The latter comes courtesy of a four-cylinder engine swap from the old 2.0-liter to a more efficient 2.4-liter unit, which is capable of making 126 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque. Being a series hybrid, the Outlander PHEV’s two electric motors power the wheels most of the time, with the engine typically only powering a generator. The front motor makes 80 hp and 101 lb-ft, while the rear motor chips in 94 horses and 144 lb-ft. Under certain circumstances at moderate to higher speeds, the engine will directly power the front wheels, which allows Mitsubishi to state a total system output of a respectable 221 hp. In most driving conditions, though, you’re limited to the electric motors’ 174 combined horses. In addition, the Outlander PHEV features a larger battery pack than before: 13.8 kWh versus 12.0, hence the extended electric range. The larger pack also has the benefit of increasing the available federal tax credit by $751 to $6,587.

The Outlander offers Eco, Save, Charge, Normal, and Sport drive modes. When Charge mode is engaged, the engine generates more power than needed to drive the vehicle, replenishing the battery at the expense of fuel consumption. Save preserves the battery level for when you might need to enter electric-only zones, which are increasingly common globally. In the other modes, the battery depletes at varying rates. You can view the power flow in real time on the touchscreen within the Energy Flow information display, which also shows the charge level.

Fast Charging Is Its Secret Weapon

One advantage this plug-in hybrid has against competitors is its fast-charging capability. It’s one of few PHEVs capable of utilizing quick chargers, and the only one in its segment. The Outlander PHEV can charge from empty to 80 percent via a Level 3 CHAdeMO fast charger in as little as 25 minutes. A 240-volt Level 2 charger will take four hours to fully replenish the battery pack; use a standard 120-volt household plug and a full charge will take nine or 14.5 hours (depending on if you have a 12- or 8-amp circuit).

During our test, we charged the Mitsubishi plug-in at a grocery store while we shopped; an 80 percent charge on a CHAdeMO outlet took 27 minutes and cost $3.01. Depending on your weekly routine or daily errands, such CHAdeMO stations are the most convenient way to charge—provided they’re as readily available near you as they are here in the Los Angeles area. (CHAdeMO is quickly losing the global format war in favor of the faster Level 3 CCS charger, however.)

Ye Olde Interior

Although its powertrain is modern, much of the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV‘s interior remains dated: There’s cheap plastic everywhere, chunky buttons that fell out of automotive fashion years ago, an old-school-looking (though Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-capable) 8.0-inch touchscreen, and a center console with a tiny storage compartment. On the bright side, the diamond-quilted pattern on the black leather upholstery looks gorgeous, while the contrast stitching, gloss black trim on the dashboard and door panels, and black headliner are nice touches.  The seats are on the firm side, but not so much that long stints become intolerable.

Standard equipment on the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GT includes heated front seats, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, and two AC power outlets. A 360-degree camera, forward collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, an electronic parking brake with auto hold, and automatic high beams are on the safety roster. The Mitsubishi also offers excellent visibility all around, and sensibly sized rear side windows and C-pillars don’t obstruct your view much during lane changes, or while backing out of a parking space or simply scanning your surroundings.

Plug Out, We Hit the Road

At cruising speeds, the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is as quiet as a full EV, but dipping into the accelerator pedal in search of maximum power summons the engine to life, and its rowdiness quickly dispenses with the full-EV vibe. But the driver has plenty of control when it comes to available electric range, as we found on a run through Decker Canyon in Malibu. After filling up the 11.3-gallon fuel tank and plugging in for a 22-mile battery charge, we mapped out a driving route from Rolling Hills to Malibu to Westlake Village and back to Long Beach. Taking off from our starting point at the aforementioned grocery store, we were able to drive purely on electricity (with the Eco mode selected) into the vicinity of Hermosa Beach before running out of juice. The entire trip was 74.7 miles. Helping the EV cause are five selectable levels of regenerative braking.

On the ride and handling side, the Outlander PHEV can feel clumsy on irregular road surfaces, which send shudders through the structure. It also rolls quite a bit through turns, but the steering is accurate; while any number of other small SUVs drive better, the plug-in Outlander’s handling is inoffensive enough overall. Inoffensive also describes acceleration: we measured the Mitsubishi’s 0-60 sprint at 8.5 seconds. The car’s throttle calibration and electric-motor torque help it feel punchier in real-world driving than the time we recorded suggests.

Parting Thoughts

For anyone considering an electric vehicle or hybrid, the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT is a nice gateway into that world, and its pricing is competitive with the few other entries in its segment. But the Toyota RAV4 Prime can go farther on electrons alone, at 42 miles, and is better looking, quicker, and packed with many more modern safety and convenience features. While the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is decent enough, we recommend checking out the Toyota, or perhaps waiting to see what Mitsubishi has in store for its popular plug-in when the next-generation Outlander arrives.

Looks good! More details?

2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GT PHEV S-AWC
BASE PRICE $43,190
PRICE AS TESTED $43,805
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, front-/rear-motor, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.4L/126-hp/148-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 (gas), plus 80-hp/148-lb-ft (front)/94-hp/144-lb-ft (rear) elec motors; 221 hp (comb)
TRANSMISSIONS 1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,306 lb (53/47%)
WHEELBASE 105.1 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 184.8 x 70.9 x 67.3 in
0-60 MPH 8.5 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.7 sec @ 83.9 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 125 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.76 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.0 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 26/26/26 mpg (gas), 77/71/74 mpg-e* (gas+elec)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 130/130 (gas), 44/47 (gas+elec)* kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.75 (gas), 0.26 (gas+elec)* lb/mile
*EPA blended-PHEV (charge-depleting) mode testing, with vehicles set to their default drive and brake-regeneration modes.

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