As its name suggests, the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a hybrid variant of the regular Outlander compact crossover — and a plug-in version, at that. Those initials mean "plug-in hybrid electric vehicle." The thing to remember is that the "plug-in" part means usable range from the battery, but the vehicle isn’t suddenly going to leave you stranded if battery energy dips below a certain level. There’s still a combustion engine on board to get you home. What a PHEV does is employ electric power to improve overall fuel economy.
A PHEV model makes the aging Outlander a little more relevant in these times, bringing a new set of potential buyers to a crossover that usually makes value for money one of its most attractive attributes, since it cannot really compete on a quality level.
Apart from the powertrain, this plug-in hybrid differs from its regular sibling in that it’s a 5-seater only, as opposed to offering a third seating row — the battery pack and extra hybrid hardware have to go somewhere. The PHEV is also available solely in the Outlander range’s top two trim levels that come with all-wheel drive as standard.
Mitsubishi dealers are thin on the ground, but don’t let that put you off the Outlander PHEV. Plug-in hybrids in this part of the automotive world are scarce, and this might be exactly the vehicle you need.
What’s New for 2018?
The Outlander PHEV is brand-new for this year. However, the regular Outlander has been around for quite some time.
What We Like
Pleasant enough interior, thanks to the higher trim level status; 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on PHEV components
What We Don’t
Most of the driver aids are only available in the top trim; general refinement is not that great
$35,590-$41,290. That’s before a federal tax credit of $5,836 and any state incentives.
The combustion side of the equation is a 2.0-liter/4-cylinder engine. This is augmented by an electric motor up front and one at the back, both running on a lithium-ion battery back. The combined setup sends 197 horsepower to all four wheels.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a way of calculating consumption in plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles that it calls miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe). It rates the Outlander PHEV at 74 MPGe when combining the city and highway cycles. It also puts maximum electric-only range at 22 miles.
Recharging a depleted battery on a 240-volt supply takes about four hours; a fast-charging facility can bring it up to 80 percent in 25 minutes.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is sold in SEL and GT trims.
SEL ($35,590) starts with 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, power remote tailgate, roof rails, rain-sensing wipers, automatic on/off headlights, LED taillights, color driver information display, hill-start assist, heated side mirrors, full power accessories, heated/8-way power-adjustable front seats, slide/recline rear seats, leather seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, piano black interior accents, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, voice control, Bluetooth, a 7-in touchscreen, a 6-speaker CD audio system, HD/satellite radio, dual USB ports and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration.
GT ($41,290) adds chrome exterior trim, LED headlights (with automatic high beams) and fog lights, a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera system, wood grain trim, a sunroof, power-folding mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, adaptive cruise control with frontal collision mitigation and pedestrian, lane-departure warning, two 115-volt AC outlets and a 710-watt/9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system.
Options include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a towing package (when properly equipped, the Outlander PHEV can tow up to 1,500 pounds).
Cargo space behind the rear seats is 30.4 cu ft. With those seats folded down, it expands to 62.8 cu ft. Mitsubishi doesn’t give a figure, but the subwoofer in the GT version encroaches a little on luggage area.
Standard safety equipment includes 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, stability control, hill-start assist and seven airbags (front, front side, driver knee and full-length side curtain).
This PHEV model hasn’t been tested specifically, but the regular all-wheel-drive Outlander received five stars out of five overall in government crash testing, including four stars for front impacts and five stars for side impacts.
In the Independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test program, the regular Outlander earned the top Good rating in every major category and was named a Top Safety Pick Plus.
Behind the Wheel
Soft-touch cabin materials in the cabin are complemented by crisp gauges. Seat comfort is just about acceptable, although more cushioning would be welcome. The rear quarters deserve a mention for their sliding/reclining seats and generous legroom.
The driving experience is safe and secure rather than inspiring.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid — This is where the Outlander PHEV becomes more intriguing, since there isn’t a plug-in hybrid compact crossover offered by other mainstream manufacturers at the moment. So a RAV4 in the usual hybrid form we’ve come to know and embrace from Toyota is one of the few consumption/emissions-conscious alternatives.
2018 Kia Niro PHEV — Kia markets this as a crossover, although it’s more of a raised hatchback. It’s also a subcompact, so it’s smaller than the Outlander. But it starts at $28,840, has an EV range of 26 miles and is quite refined to drive.
Used Toyota Highlander Hybrid — For more space, hybrid economy and three rows of seating, this could do the job. Check out Toyota’s certified pre-owned (CPO) program.
Federal and state incentives make the GT version more affordable, which means extra equipment and more driver assistance features.