The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV arrives at the end of the year with more power, a higher-capacity battery, and an estimated EV range of up to 38 miles. In the growing class of compact SUVs with engines and plugs, the range of the redesigned plug-in-hybrid Outlander is surpassed only by that of the Toyota RAV4 Prime—and exceeds that of models from Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and Subaru.
The 2023 PHEV is the plug-in version of the all-new Outlander that launched last year. That 2022 model was the first Mitsubishi to share significant technology with a Nissan line (in this case the Rogue) following the Renault-Nissan Alliance's takeover of Mitsubishi in late 2016.
The new Outlander PHEV is the second generation of what you may be surprised to learn is the world's best-selling plug-in-hybrid SUV. The bulk of those sales came in Europe, starting in 2013—the model didn't go on sale in the U.S. until 2018. Over almost a decade, global sales of the Outlander PHEV now total roughly 300,000.
One Engine, Three Motors
The new PHEV Outlander uses the same powertrain setup as its predecessor: an inline four-cylinder engine that can power the front wheels alone, turn a generator to recharge the battery while a second front motor powers the wheels (as a series hybrid), or power the front wheels along with that e-motor (as a parallel hybrid), depending on which scenario is the most energy efficient.
Interestingly, the PHEV version of the Outlander uses an entirely different engine from the standard model's. The non-hybrid Outlander switched over to a Nissan engine-and-CVT powertrain, but the new PHEV retains the Mitsubishi-designed Atkinson-cycle 2.4-liter four from the previous generation.
The two front motor-generators function as a continuously variable automatic transmission, though one powers the wheels while the other acts as a generator to recapture energy on overrun or braking, using it to recharge the battery. To provide all-wheel drive, a third electric motor powers the rear axle, with torque shuffled front to rear as required.
The power of the two electric motors that drive its wheels, however, is far higher than in the old model—increasing to a combined 249 horsepower from 174. The total combined power of the engine and motors is 248 horsepower with peak torque of 332 pound-feet.
The capacity of the lithium-ion battery pack, mounted below the cabin floor, rises to 20.0 kilowatt-hours from 13.8 previously. That, in turn, boosted range to a projected 38 miles from the outgoing model's 24 miles.
Despite the new larger battery, the onboard charger is still rated at just 3.3 kilowatts, meaning a total recharge from empty will take about 6.5 hours. Unusually for a plug-in hybrid, Mitsubishi fits DC fast-charging on the higher trims—though it uses the old CHAdeMO connector and protocol, found only on Nissan Leafs and a few discontinued Kias. Limited to 50 kilowatts, fast-charging will return the battery to 80 percent capacity in 38 minutes (if you can find a CHAdeMO station). A portable 120-volt charging cord comes standard.
Smooth One-Pedal Driving
We spent roughly an hour and covered more than 25 miles around Ann Arbor, Michigan, in one of several pre-production Outlander PHEVs, of which, we were told, "no two are exactly the same." Ours had a VIN below 000100, and its badges and labels didn't reflect final production designs.
In electric-only mode with a charged battery, the plug-in Outlander is smooth and adequately fast, especially in the 20-to-50-mph range suburban drivers often use. When we floored it, the engine kicked on to provide maximum power. But a detent in the accelerator travel helps drivers avoid waking the engine.
Drivers have a lot of choices: three drive modes (Normal, Eco, or Power) and four traction options (Tarmac, Gravel, Snow, or Mud). Then there are four powertrain settings: Normal (or hybrid), EV (for electric-only driving), Save (to conserve battery range), and Charge (which uses the combustion engine to recharge the battery for later EV use).
Finally, there's the "innovative pedal" button, better known to experienced EV drivers as one-pedal driving. It only slows the car to 5 to 8 mph—drivers must still brake to a complete stop—and idle creep remains. Other than full stops and panic braking, though, we found it possible to accelerate and brake the Outlander PHEV with just the accelerator pedal.
A unique feature is consistent deceleration whether the powertrain is delivering hybrid, gasoline only, or fully electric power. That's to get customers used to the behavior of an electric car, execs said, whether it's stronger regenerative braking via paddle or the full innovative-pedal one-pedal driving experience. We think that's smart.
Mitsubishi notes that the plug-in-hybrid Outlander uses the latest generation of the Super–All Wheel Control (S-AWC) suspension tuning the late lamented Evo performance sedan made famous. The goal was "strong and smooth acceleration" in electric mode that avoided "FWD feel," said Mitsubishi's Kaoru Sawase. It's provided by a deliberate rear-wheel-drive bias in power delivery (100 kilowatts from the rear electric motor versus only 85 kilowatts at the front).
In 20 miles of mostly suburban and highway driving, the Outlander PHEV felt balanced and certainly more powerful than the CVT-equipped conventional version. That's appropriate, since the plug-in variant slots in at the top of the Outlander lineup, replacing the previous V-6 model.
As the top Outlander trim, the plug-in model comes standard as a seven-seater. The third row is useless for adults (we tried) and only for small children on short trips. It does fold flat for cargo space, and the second row slides and reclines. Various optional features on lower-end Outlanders are standard here; one is the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Mitsubishi has large, clear graphics throughout its infotainment screens, and we found them easy to read in all conditions including bright sunlight.
As with most new vehicles, there is a long list of advanced driver-assistance systems. DC fast-charging is standard only on the SEL and higher trims.
Prices start at $41,190 and top out near $50,000 for a fully loaded version. First deliveries will come in the last week of November with nationwide availability in
early December. The field of plug-in-hybrid compact SUVs is becoming more crowded, but Mitsubishi has done a credible job of polishing its latest version to keep it from getting swamped by the competition.
2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
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