Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV charging image by John Goreham
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2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle - So Close To Great

The 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV could be so much better with a few tweaks. Here is what we like about the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid EV and what can be improved.
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Mitsubishi Has been selling an Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) crossover in the U.S. for a while now. Either due to a lack of available inventory, customer disinterest, or a combination of the two, the Outlander PHEV has barely been selling. Inside EVs says that in 2019, Mitsubishi sold 2,810 of the crossovers in the U.S. As low as that number may seem, those sales actually made the Outlander PHEV the 16th-best selling EV in America for the year. A lot of brands didn’t sell that many EVs in the U.S. last year. Including Mazda, Subaru, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Hyundai and many others.

Here’s a fun comparison; Mitsubishi outsold Bollinger, Rivian, Canoo, Apple, Sony, and Google combined in EV sales in 2019. And you likely read or heard more about those companies’ plans for EVs than you did Mitsubishi’s.

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV charging at home John Goreham image

We have tested the Outlander PHEV twice before. And twice we found a LOT to like about this unique crossover. However, during both of those tests, Ford and Toyota were not about to launch competitive models. Knowing that both are about to begin sales of their own crossover PHEVs about this size, we had a different mindset when we tested the Outlander. Here is what we like about it, and what we think Mitsubishi could change to make the vehicle better and more competitive.

Related Story: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - America’s Best All-Weather, Affordable Electric Vehicle Hides In Plain Sight

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – What We like
Our tester this time was a GT S-AWC with the GT premium package which fancied up the leather seats with diamond-quilted stitching.

The total price of the 2020 Outlander PHEV was $43,205 including destination charges. In my state of Massachusetts, that means that without any dealer discount at all the Outlander would likely cost a buyer $35,869 after the $1,500 state EV rebate and $5,836 federal tax credit are factored in. For a vehicle with the features the Outlander has that seems like a fair price. However, dealers are discounting and the final cost to consumers in my state is between $27,766 and $34,219 for the Outlander after dealer discounts and incentives are considered. That makes this electric vehicle a very good deal. Particularly given Mitsubishi’s 10-year drivetrain warranty and 5-year comprehensive warranty. So we like the price.

Mitsubishi Outlander pHEV interior John Goreham Image

We also like the size. The Outlander feels a bit longer and a bit narrower than many crossovers in its class. The Outlander compares well to vehicles like the RAV4 Prime and Escape. With 102.1 cubic feet of passenger volume, the Outlander PHEV has a bit more space inside than the RAV4, but a bit less cargo space behind the third row of seats.

The looks are fine by us. We like the style Mitsubishi has and the Outlander is its best model by a country mile. Inside, it is a bit older in its look and feel than some new crossovers, but the infotainment worked great. It’s hard to call the Outlander unattractive. Particularly since some premium crossovers we tested recently had an infotainment system that was worse.

2020 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV MPG data and range

What Mitsubishi Can Improve On The 2020 Outlander PHEV
Before we go too far, the approximately 20 miles of real-world range of the battery can increase. Why not make it larger and get the bigger federal tax credit available? A 30-mile range in the real world would work better and 40 would be great. Also, the Outlander PHEV gets about 25 MPG when using just gasoline. That is lousy. We own both a Forester and a CX-5 that both get 29 MPG in every season. And they are not even hybrids. Mitsubishi needs to find 5 more MPG minimum to make this vehicle really make any sense at all.

The Outlander also handles a little differently than most crossovers. It feels more tippy, more jouncy and a bit goofier than any other crossover we have driven the past five years. It feels like if you have to do an emergency lane change you are going to end up in a bad situation. That would be the easiest thing for Mitsubishi to address.

Finally, any AWD crossover should have a compact temporary spare tire. A repair kit is ridiculous. Find a way to package a spare in the Outlander. Every top-selling vehicle in America has a spare tire. Automakers need to stop pretending it affects MPG because that is simply ridiculous. The audio system in a vehicle weighs more than a compact spare.

The 2020 Outlander PHEV is a satisfying vehicle to drive. It is comfortable on the highway and if you drive sedately it is a great cruiser on suburban roadways. If Mitsubishi wants to make it competitive with what Toyota and Ford are about to drop, the formula is not very complicated.

Source Notes: Top of page image shows a different vehicle than the one we tested. MPG data chart courtesy of FuelEconomy.gov.

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For 20 years he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. In 2008 he retired from that career and dedicated himself to chasing his dream of being an auto writer. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.


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Comments

The current generation Outlander came out in 2012, but it didn't make it to the U.S. until late 2017 amid the fuel mileage scandal that plagued the company the previous year. What I like about the Outlander PHEV is that it has AWD and also CHAdeMO fast charging, which all PHEVs should have. But it does a middling job with efficiency considering that it has about the same usable battery size as my ELR and a bigger generator engine, but it gets almost half the EV range, has less power, and gets about half the gas mileage when running solely on the generator. Some of that can be attributed to being a big crossover/SUV, but in the face of the upcoming RAV4 Prime, it falls short in range, efficiency, and especially acceleration. So Mitsubishi definitely has some catching up to do to stay competitive. Honda offers a Hybrid CRV, but no PHEV model, and Nissan offered a Rogue hybrid (no PHEV) up until last year, but dropped it for 2020. Still they are promising their Ariya BEV CUV in early 2021 but that will be well behind the Tesla Model Y and the Ford Mach-E. Ford's Escape plug-in hybrid (which is due out about now) will be a little cheaper than the Outlander, get 30+ miles of EV range, but won't have fast DC charging, or AWD.
The 2021 RAV4 Prime is the PHEV for me. I'm glad it's coming to the U.S. and that it qualifies for the full $7500 federal tax credit.
Me too, I like it better but as for the size of the credit I believe that $7500 will be much lower as 2020 advances.
The full credit will apply to perhaps 50,000 RAV4 Primes because of Prius Prime sales and then the phaseout begins. It will take a whole year to reach zero. It doesn't matter how many PHEV's are sold during that time. Only date of purchase will matter. I'll take what I can get.