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Over Engineered, Under Appreciated: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Hybrid

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Retro-ness is all the rage these days – bringing something old back to life and constructing it into a trendy or fashionable icon. Like a 1940 jukebox that maybe has iPhone connectivity, 1970’s furniture with modern fabric. Even the retro trend falters into the older generational cars that incorporate modern suspension, brakes and steering. However, when it comes to re-energizing something that’s nearly a decade old, that people really didn’t notice to begin with, we get stuck with something that’s rather, sparingly good, and yet wholly underappreciated.

The Mitsubishi Outlander has always been one loitering in the shadows. Its undistinguished design from 2013 never sought the attention of those looking for a more modern scheme crossover. Its cheaper enterprise was more of its strong suit offering a captivating 3-row crossover for those that needed the extra seats but couldn’t quite afford the Costco-sized family haulers.  Having undertaken mild updates over the years, the dated enterprise and interior depiction has left it somewhat behind the times and out of the consumer’s sight.

There is a little mystery to the Outlander, and it is what has taken Europe by disbelief. The Outlander features plug-in hybrid technology that, for the last five years, has been one of Europe’s most popular PHEV crossovers on the market. So why do we get it now? According to Mitsubishi, they have sold over 100,000 Outlander PHEV’s in Europe over the past few years. It even outsells the Tesla Model X, true story. Here is where the underlining issue falls, Mitsubishi was hesitant to bring the Outlander PHEV stateside because, why sell a heavily discounted Outlander PHEV starting at $35,590 (before the $5836 federal EV tax credit) when they can sell an Outlander PHEV at full price of $44,000 from across the pond. If you force a bear to eat something they don’t want, you might get your hand bitten. As we keep continuing on our track to go green, maybe we might just be hungry little cubs after all.

Now, this obviously isn’t the first plug-in hybrid to be on the road, the Chevrolet Volt has been around for some time alongside the Ford Fusion Energy and now the Hyundai Ioniq. What makes the Outlander PHEV special is the available crossover plug-in hybrids on the market. It’s the first, mainstream crossover under $50,000. The luxury end of the market taps into Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW with all of their plug-in technology.

Due to the complexity of the Outlander PHEV technology, we’re about to get very technical and very boring, so here’s some pictures of puppies to entertain you.

The Outlander PHEV comes standard with an All-Wheel Drive setup, it uses two-large 80-horsepower motors – one in the front and one in the rear. The front wheels make due with 101lb-ft of torque while the rear is more capable with 144lb-ft. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is where the unique versatility comes into play. Its 117-horsepower and 137lb-ft of torque power plant provides power to the 70-kilowatt generator that supplies power to the main battery and electric motor. However, for fuel efficiency purposes, at higher cruising speed, a hydraulic clutch engages that allows operation with either one or both of the electric. (We’re lost too; imagine writing it and understanding it after research.)

Unlike most traditional hybrid or plug-in hybrid ways, the Outlander’s main source of power stems from the electric motors. Once the power has been depleted from the batteries, its then, the gasoline engine plays its role with the generator – the engine cycles on and off power to the generator that feeds the electric motors. It’s this source of power that makes the instant propulsion of the Outlander a pleasant drivable experience despite the nine-seconds it takes to get to 60 miles per hour. Power provides a continuous response that delivers a certain eagerness.

With the different drive modes, Eco Mode was found to be the best source for maintaining the maximum of our 22-mile electric range. The steering wheel paddle shifters are there for five-stages of regenerative braking with level 5 being a similar to a single-footed driving experience without a full-stop braking situation. The Outlander PHEV also allows for the option to use 4WD Lock mode without interrupting the electric drive mode that keeps torque continuing flowing through all four wheels at a control speed, where under normal driving condition it will send power to whichever wheel will provide the most signification source of efficiency.

When it comes to charging, the Outlander carries another unique flair with a Level 3 super charging port capable of charging 80% in as little as 25 minutes. Standard methods of charging can be done through 120V outlet which will take just under 8-hours for a full charge or a 240V outlet which can charge in less than 4-hours.

On the road, the Outlander PHEV starts to show some of its quirks – its chassis refinement and handling is lingering the stages of an uneventful experiences. While steering feels tight, its engagement is more less so. The chassis and suspension rattles and shutters over unforgiving bumps and sends unwanted harsh feedback through the cabin.

Even though Mitsubishi is trying to keep the Outlander current with modern touches of dual-zone climate control, integrated Apple CarPlay & Android Auto and all the latest safety hardware like Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Emergency Braking – its cheapen display of hard plastics and buttons from the 90’s stateside appeal falls less and less each time we sit behind the driver seat.

This is an unfortunate realization, because while Mitsubishi has some pretty impressive technology under the Outlander PHEV, its wrapping and interior comfort is less so fortunate. It’s a crossover with prodigious amount potential nevertheless despondently, it just won’t get the appreciation it deserve by the American consumer.





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