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2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Review


Mitsubishi sells only one Outlander for 2021 — a plug-in hybrid model (PHEV). This 2021 Outlander PHEV is based on a previous chassis, not the one that underpins the all-new 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander already at dealers.

The Outlander PHEV is rare amongst other SUVs in the compact class. That’s because there are very few that offer plug-in hybrid capability. And when it was launched in 2013, the plug-in Outlander was the very first one. It was a pioneer.

Other plug-in SUVs have launched in the years since. It’s likely Mitsubishi will offer a plug-in hybrid version of the all-new 2022 Outlander at some point. But until then, the current model has some compelling mechanical developments to help make the PHEV’s performance more competitive.

What’s New for 2021?

The 2021 Outlander PHEV may look identical to the 2020 model but don’t be fooled. Mitsubishi has made some changes under the skin. First, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine has been replaced with a larger 2.4-liter unit. Mitsubishi has increased the power of the electric motors too. So, the total system now produces 221 horsepower. That’s 31 more hp than the 2020 Outlander PHEV.

But the best news for those that want to maximize the electric driving range? The lithium-ion battery pack has grown from 12 kWh to 13.8 kWh. Mitsubishi says that helps provide the 2021 model with an electric-only driving range of 24 miles—two more than before.

Mitsubishi has added Sport and Snow driving modes and re-tuned the powertrain’s software to provide smoother and quieter operation.

In addition to the mechanicals, the Outlander PHEV has a new LE model that features trendy blacked-out trim, special wheels, and interior upgrades.

One other point: Buyers of the 2021 Outlander PHEV buyers can take advantage of a larger federal tax credit ($6,587) compared to the 2020 model.

What We Like

  • Increased power
  • Boosted EV range
  • Excellent 10-year powertrain warranty
  • Standard AWD

What We Don’t

  • Design is dated inside and out
  • No third-row seat
  • Could use still more EV range

How Much?

$36,295 – $41,995

Fuel Economy

The Outlander PHEV uses a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 126 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired to a single-speed reduction gearbox. When there’s enough battery capacity, a 60-kW front electric motor and a 70-kW rear electric motor join the gas engine to produce 221 total system hp.

Mitsubishi says the Outlander PHEV has an electric-only driving range of 24 miles thanks to the 13.8-kWh battery pack. But when you include the gas engine, the range swells to 320 miles. Still, those numbers are at the shallow end compared to most compact SUVs.

The Outlander PHEV is EPA rated to return 26 mpg combined when using just the gasoline engine. But when electric propulsion is included, which is most of the time, the Outlander PHEV delivers 74 MPGe.

When using a standard 120V outlet the Outlander PHEV will recharge in about 10 hours. That drops to four hours using a Level 2 charger. Mitsubishi says as CHAdeMO DC fast charger will bring the pack to an 80-percent charge in about 25 minutes.

Standard Features & Options

The 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV comes with a long list of standard equipment, including all-wheel drive. There are three trim levels to choose from — SEL, LE, and GT.

SEL ($36,295) is a fairly well-equipped machine and comes standard with LED daytime running lamps, LED taillights, 18-inch wheels, power-folding heated mirrors, 8-way power and heated leather seats, leather-wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 8-inch display audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, six speakers, front and rear USB ports, dual-zone climate control, and more.

LE ($37,995) adds a sunroof, power sound system with eight speakers, a sporty blacked-out grille, dark chrome 18-inch wheels, and a blackout design for the front and rear bumpers.

GT ($41,995) is the top-line model and has LED headlights and fog lights, quilted leather seats, heated steering wheel, gloss black dash trim, multi-view camera system, 1500-watt twin AC power outlets, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, and adaptive cruise control.

Safety

The Outlander PHEV has a solid safety record. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Outlander PHEV a 5-Star safety rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the Mitsubishi the top Good overall rating but the vehicle’s structure was judged one notch down as Acceptable. The Outlander PHEV received the top Good rating for the newer Small Front Overlap test too.

The Outlander PHEV comes standard with a full host of safety technologies that include: forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning with lane-change assistant, automatic high beams, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Behind the Wheel

We drove a 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT, a Diamond While Pearl model with an as-tested price of $43,805 that includes a destination charge of $1,195.

Once you push the start button, the Japan-built Outlander PHEV drives like a quiet EV with excellent torque. If there’s any charge in the battery, this Mitsu operates in a fully electric mode. Once the battery is depleted, though, the new 2.4-liter gas engine starts automatically and begins to charge the battery. In certain situations, the gas engine can also drive the front wheels directly.

A handy pictograph on the center console lets the Outlander PHEV driver keep track of the energy flow. It’s nice to know if this Mitsu PHEV is currently using battery power, gasoline, or some combination of the two. We also like to see how kinetic energy is captured as electricity by the battery during deceleration and braking.

We drove 23 miles before the gasoline engine started. From that point on, the Outlander constantly determined the best source of power for the situation at hand, switching almost imperceptibly as needs changed. Much appreciated are buttons that allow the Outlander PHEV to be driven in an EV mode, plus others that focus on charging the battery or saving the existing charged or emissions-free EV use later. The shift paddles, it should be noted, can be used to turn up the regenerative braking force.

While it’s not particularly modern inside, the 20221 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in GT form is very well equipped with safety and technology. What’s more, the seats are comfortable and the outward view is good. But we do miss the 3rd-row seat.

Other complaints? A couple. We wish the audio system had volume and station knobs. Moreover, the Park button, which needs to be pressed before shutting off the Outlander PHEV, is hard for first-time drivers to find. It’s on the center console, as you’d expect, but it’s blocked from view by the electronic shift lever.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Kia Niro PHEV The Niro is a little smaller and quite a bit less expensive than the Outlander PHEV. But it offers a similar 26 miles of electric driving range. And because of its more car-like chassis, the Kia rides and handles with a bit more athleticism. Plus, it returns a solid 105 MPGe.

2021 Mini Cooper Countryman Plug-In Hybrid If style, sportiness, and a little flash are more important than EV range, consider this Mini. The Countryman is halfway to an SUV in terms of its body shape and offers standard all-wheel drive and a toughened-up exterior. The Mini can travel just 17 miles on a charge before the gas engine kicks in—less than some competitors.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid The Crosstrek Hybrid is another PHEV that offers a relatively modest EV driving range—just 17 miles. But the Subaru carries an excellent 90 MPGe rating and thanks to a relatively potent gas engine, provides reasonably quick acceleration too. Plus, this is a Subaru so there’s a trustworthy all-wheel-drive system that stands ready for the worst weather.

2021 Toyota RAV 4 Prime When it comes to plug-in hybrid compact SUVs, the RAV4 Prime is the gold standard. Not only is the RAV4 an excellent SUV on its own but the Prime brings sportscar-like acceleration and an electric-only range of almost 40 miles. And the RAV offers a surprising level of off-road capability too.

Used Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV The updates to the Outlander PHEV are certainly welcome but the advances aren’t groundbreaking enough that we wouldn’t be tempted to shop for a used model from a year or two ago. And since the Outlander PHEV will be one of only a handful of plug-in SUVs on the used car market.

Used Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid No, the Ioniq isn’t an SUV but it is a good deal on the used car market. The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid can travel 29 miles on a charge and delivers 119 MPGe. The Ioniq might be small but it does have a fairly generous cargo hold and It’s packed with technology.

Autotrader’s Advice

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV offers middling performance in just about every category. The upgrades for 2021 do make the vehicle more desirable. But competitors like the RAV4 Prime are in another league. The Outlander PHEV we’d shop for is the least expensive one. Mitsubishi loads the base SEL trim with almost every luxury and safety technology in the lineup. And when you bake in the $6,587 federal tax credit, the SEL version of this SUV is a pretty good deal at just under $30,000. Find a 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander for sale

 

 

Ben Stewart
Ben Stewart is an author specializing in automotive testing and technology. He has a unique perspective—as a lifelong 4WD enthusiast Ben has driven just about every production 4X4 on road and off for the last 20 years. But his expertise and experience goes deeper. Ben has had the opportunity to drive and report on a wide variety of vehicles ranging from pre-production fuel cell cars to... Read More about Ben Stewart

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