Mitsubishi is a small player in the North American auto market, but they've been producing the Outlander compact SUV for 20 years now. The Outlander has historically provided an affordable option for a basic crossover with three-row seating. Since 2017, the Outlander has been available as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with seating for five passengers in two rows. For 2021, the PHEV is the only Outlander available, in anticipation of a general refresh of the model expected next year.
The value proposition of the Outlander PHEV is really simple: Most people will not have to buy gasoline with this vehicle. On a full charge, the Outlander can travel about 24 miles on electricity alone. That's more than most people drive in a day, and you can easily charge the Outlander overnight using a regular 120-Volt household power outlet. That means you'll buy gas only when you need to take a longer trip.
That's a good pitch when gas prices are high, as they are this summer. The gasoline engine is there when you need it for long trips, but for everyday use, the Outlander functions as an electric vehicle. The 2.4-liter gasoline engine makes about 126 horsepower on its own, but that's bumped up to 221 horsepower when you add in the electric motors at the front and rear axles. Like most EVs, the Outlander uses a direct-drive transmission. The gas engine and one electric motor drive the front wheels, and the second electric motor drives the rear wheels for AWD traction and stability.
Inside, the Outlander is nice enough. It's not a luxury SUV, but the dash and interior are functional and comfortable. Heated leather seats are available. There's room for 30.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the second row, or up to 66.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down for larger items.
Mitsubishi provides an industry-standard infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen system that supports both Apple and Android phone integration. The advanced safety features are also standard for any economy-class SUV, with automatic collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, and lane assistance.
When it comes time to buy, the Outlander PHEV comes in at about $37,710, which is not out of range for economy SUVs, but the price may be mitigated by the fact that you might not be buying any gasoline on a regular basis. Many commuters spend up to $300 a month on gasoline, which goes a long way towards a new car payment.
On the road, the Outlander PHEV feels solid and has adequate power for virtually all commute and family use purposes. It may sound like faint praise to say that the Outlander is unremarkable, but that's just because the general state of the automotive technology is so high. The bottom line is that the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV does everything well, and it's a vehicle you will enjoy using every day. Driving on past the gas station is just an added benefit.
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SEL
Base price: $36,295
Price as tested: $37,710
Type: Compact crossover SUV
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder (221 hp, 147 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Direct drive
EPA estimated mileage: 74 MPGe (combined electric and gas)
Overall length: 184.8 inches
Curb weight: 4,244 pounds
Final assembly: Okazaki, Japan
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