2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWC: Still worth it
Mitsubishi has completely redesigned its Outlander compact crossover SUV for 2022. The version is bigger, bolder and more contemporary — everything needed to better compete in the rapidly-evolving popular market segment.
But if you want the advantage of the last generation breakthrough plug-in hybrid version (PHEV), you're going to have to wait. the company says it will bring a new one out, but hasn't said when.
Fortunately, Mitsubishi will keep producing the 2021 Outland PHEV until then, so you can find new ones on the sales lots. And there are several reasons to consider buying the plug-in hybrid version of the older design, even though Toyota now offers a tempting alternatives.
When it was first introduced in 2017, the Outlander PHEV was revolutionary. Toyota was already selling a hybrid RAV4, but the Mitsubishi had extra battery capacity that, when fully charged, could power the Outlander up to 22 miles on electrify alone before switching over to fuel-saving hybrid mode.
Toyota upped the ante when it redesigned the RAV4 in 2018 and included a plug-in version that can go a remarkable 42 miles on electricity alone in 2020. That's obviously a lot more than the Outlander, although 24 miles is still enough for much if not most day-to-day driving, especially since so many of us are now working from home. But I personally believe the 2021 Outlander PHEV offers some advantages.
The first is styling. Toyota redesigned the RAV4 to look more rugged and ended up with an almost cartoonish exterior, especially the front end with a huge grill and thin headlights. One reviewer said it looks angry. I think it looks like an extra from a Transformer movie, although I understand a lot of people like the way it looks. I just think the 2021 Outlander looks classier — the best version of the redesign that was originally criticized as looking like the Mr. Peanut Nutmobile.
The other advantage is how the Outlander drives. It is mostly as smooth and quiet as an all-electric vehicle. That is because the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine acts as a generator when the extra battery capacity runs out, providing electricity to the front and rear motors. It only provides additional power under heavy acceleration, combining with the electric motors to produce a respectable 221 horsepower. In my opinion, the RAV4 is a little courser, but not enough to bother most buyers.
The PHEV versions of both the Outlander and RAV4 come with all-wheel-drive because they include second motors that drive the rear wheels. Mitsubishi calls its system Twin Motor Super All-Wheel Control, or S-AWC for short. It manages both the driving and braking forces of all four wheels to help anticipate the vehicle's behavior during various driving conditions, which not only increases traction but improves handling.
Three other vehicles have been introduced since the debut of the Outlander PHEV that environmentally-minded buyers should consider. Toyota also offers a traditional hybrid version of the redesigned RAV4, as well as a more urban styled Venza hybrid based on it. And Honda has introduced a hybrid version of its popular CRV. But they are all traditional hybrids, not plug-ins, so don't offer the advantage of all-electric range.
Although Mini makes a PHEV version of its Countryman crossover, it only get 17 miles on a full charge, which hardly seems worth the effort.
Inside, the 2021 Outlander is not as sophisticated as most of its competitors. Although test SEL version came with leather seats and an 8-inch display, there was also a lot of hard plastic and the volume control for the radio was only on the steering wheel. Still, it did not feel cheap, and the interior was very roomy for a compact crossover, especially in the rear seats.
The Outlander accepts standard 120-Volt current, 240-Volt Level 2 charging, and DC fast charging. Plugged into an ordinary wall socket, the Outlander will take a full charge in about 8 hours. Recharging time drops to 4 hours with a Level 2 charger, and down to 25 minutes or less with a DC fast charger.
The 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is eligible for a $6,587 federal income tax credit and up to $5,000 in instant Oregon rebates, which is enough to reduce the price significantly.
Mitsubishi has struggled in recent years to bring out new models and it is counting on the 2022 version of the Outlander to be a hit. But if you can't wait for the plug-in version to debut, they'll be glad to sell you a new 2021 instead.
You can read a Pamplin Media Group review of the redesigned 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander here.
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL S-AWC
Base price: $36,295
Price as tested: $37,710
Type: Plug-in hybrid crossover SUV
Drivetrain: 2.4-liter inline 4 and two electric motors (221 total system hp)
Transmission: Direct drive, single speed
Modes: Eco, Save, Charge, Normal, and Sport
EPA estimated mileage: 74 MPGe/25 gasoline only
Overall length: 184.8 inches
Curb weight: 4,178 pounds
Final assembly: Okazaki, Japan
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