Pros-Sleeker. Economical. Roomy. Comfortable. Quick. Well-equipped. All-wheel drive.
Cons-Very light steering. Awkward console shifter. Not a familiar brand.
Bottom Line-Key improvements make Outlander much more competitive.
The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander
PHEV compact/crossover SUV has key improvements that make it considerably more competitive in its class. But Mitsubishi never has been a household word in America despite having sold some good cars here and having enjoyed strong foreign sales.
Mitsubishi has sold more than 200,000 Outlanders worldwide since the Outlander's 2013 introduction. The Outlander PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is the world's best-selling plug-in hybrid and is the only PHEV among compact crossover/SUVs, Mitsubishi says. "GT" is the top model and "S-AWC" stands for Super All-Wheel Control system. Let's just say "very sophisticated all-wheel-drive" system.
The 2019 model has gotten overdue improvements, including a new front grille design, retuned suspension and improvements in the areas of noise, vibration and harshness and overall ride comfort. The new Outlander is smooth and quiet at all speeds, unlike its predecessor.
There's also new 18-inch alloy wheels, new rear spoiler, new interior accent panels, center console and front seat design.
However I found the small console shifter control and electric parking brake rather awkward to use and the quick steering to be overly light, as it was on some 1950s and 1960s American cars. The steering also lacks road feel. However, it lets you make quick moves in city traffic. But let your attention wander and you might find the Outlander drifting to an adjoining lane.
Outlander models start at $35,795 and go to $41,495, which was the list price of the top-line Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC I tested.
A low floor makes it easy to get in and out of the Outlander PHEV, and it's plenty roomy for four to five tall adults, although there is no third-row seat, likely because the batteries take up room. Revised firm, supportive power heated leather front seats help occupants stay in place in curves, and the rear seats provide good support, although they're rather stiff.
The middle of the rear seat is best left for the fold-down armrest with cupholders, but the split rear seat backs fold flat to enlarge the roomy cargo area. That area is reached via a power remote hatch, which needed a slight upward push to get it moving automatically.
The interior looks upscale, with attractive stitching throughout and many soft-touch surfaces. While the touchscreen seems rather mediocre, there are lots of clearly marked manual dashboard controls. Cockpit features include a pushbutton start, power sunroof, tilt/telescopic wheel, heated steering wheel with audio, phone and sound system controls, a premium audio system with 9 speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, multi-view and rearview camera systems and dual-zone automatic climate control.
There are plenty of storage areas, and cupholders are conveniently placed, as are dashboard vents for climate control.
The color-keyed, heated sideview mirrors have turn indicators and a power-folding feature to prevent parking area damage.
Safety features include an advanced air bag system and patented safety cell body construction.
The Outlander HEV is powered by a smooth 2-liter four-cylinder engine with 117 horsepower and two twin-electric high output motors, one at the front, one at the rear. Combined horsepower is 190, which gives this 4,178-pound vehicle lively in-town performance and strong passing on highways. There's a single speed, fixed reduction gear transmission. The steering wheel paddle shifters work quickly. Towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.
The retuned suspension helps give the Outlander PHEV stable handling. It's no sports vehicle but streaks confidently around curves thanks to such items as active stability control and traction control. The brake pedal has a linear action and there's a regenerative braking system.
Only 87-octane gas is needed, although the fuel tank is rather small at 11.3 gallons. Mitsubishi says the battery pack can be charged to 80 percent capacity in about 25 minutes, while a conventional 8-hour charge gives the batteries 100 percent capacity.
Fuel economy is largely the name of the game with an electric hybrid, and the Outlander PHEV gets an estimated 74 MPGe and a combined 25 city/highway gas only rating. The Outlander PHEV can do a claimed 22 miles on electric power before switching to hybrid mode. It's said to have a 310-mile range, but all gas-electric hybrid figures depend on a number of factors, including driving habits.
Body "PHEV" badges let the world know you're driving a "socially responsible" SUV that looks good and drives well. And the 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on PHEV components and the Main Drive Lithium-ion battery should be of some comfort.