The Mitsubishi Outlander has always been a bit of a hit. Go for a drive and in under two minutes you’ll probably spot one. In 2022 there came a fresh new look, and with it a redesign of the mystical Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV).
I say “mystical” when it comes to the whole PHEV thing because trying to explain it to friends and family is like taking them into a deep dive lesson on Chinese Arithmetic. Not that I could do that. However, in this instance it’s honestly rather straight forward.
There is a battery and a petrol engine, as simple as that. A PHEV is the stepping stone up from a hybrid, technology that has been around since my days at Club Troppo on the Central Coast in the 90’s. Think Toyota Prius.
The big difference is a PHEV can be charged via a cable at home or elsewhere, allowing you to travel moderate distances on electric power only. A hybrid is constantly switching back and forward between petrol and a smaller battery, kind of like a ping pong match.
The intent and outcome is to give you better fuel economy. A fully electric car just has a battery, so once that’s drained you have no petrol backup. See, it’s not rocket science.
The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV can travel up to a tidy 84km on electric power alone, and that’s rather impressive. For example, I drove from Gosford to Marrickville in Sydney using just 1.1-litres of that liquid gold stuff found at alarming prices these days.
That’s a trip of 74.9km to be exact, proving that the claimed EV range is rather spot on. Of course, that was a one-way trip. If I was to return home the petrol engine would need to burn the good stuff.
This is the thing about PHEV’s, they are really good if your daily drive involves shorter trips around town and runs to Maccas, like my flatmate does. Every. Single. Day.
The Outlander Aspire PHEV, for those who like to know the technical ins and outs, gets around using a 2.4-litre petrol engine that produces 98kW and 195Nm. It’s joined by two electric motors, front (85kW/255Nm) and rear (100kW/195Nm).
The internal combustion engine (ICE) also pumps electric power back into the batteries, like a generator of sorts, and can also drive the front wheels when required. The battery itself packs 20.0kWh of lithium-ion power.
All up this boxy, yet sleek SUV, has a combined output of 185kW/450Nm. When it comes to charging, I really think most people would just plug in at home via a domestic 240V socket. An overnight charge is more than enough to get that 84km back.
If you do want a faster charge (Mitsubishi claim around 38 minutes on a fast DC charger up to 80 per cent) you’ll need to find one that has a CHAdeMO port. The standard for most PHEV’s and EV’s across Europe is a Type 2 plug.
The Japanese style CHAdeMo port is capable of vehicle to grid charging, where you essentially use the car as a battery backup for your house, much like the Nissan LEAF.
There’s also the added benefit of what Mitsubishi call Super All Wheel Control, which is their version of all-wheel drive. There’s just one single gear and enough up and go to put a slight smirk on your face when you plant it.
The other benefit of owning a PHEV is that they all come with several driving modes. This is to extract the absolute best from the fuel saving measures, which is the entire point of the technology.
It can act as either a typical hybrid, where the ICE engine is doing most of the work sending power back to the electric motors when possible, or via capturing otherwise lost energy from the brakes.
You can also tell the car to enter a Charge mode, where the ICE engine will dedicate all its time to driving the car while acting purely as a battery charger. This is handy for highway driving, when for example, you may anticipate an upcoming city stop and go environment.
In such a situation, having some EV spark on tap is more beneficial. Plus, there’s a Save mode, which simply halts all power coming out of the battery for use later on. While that sounds complicated, once you get your head around it, you’ll learn tactics.
Those will makes all these options useful. Put simply though, a PHEV is all about range stretching before you need to go and get voluntarily robbed at the servo. That’s where the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Aspire lives up to its intended purpose.
The claimed fuel economy is a mere 1.5-litres/100km, and in my particular case that would be fanciful at best. However, I am not you, and if your daily errands require no more than say 30km a day, you may well get close to that over an extended period.
During my time with the Aspire PHEV, I averaged 6.3-litres/100km. In theory, you could last weeks without filling up, but I suspect most would probably manage an overall range of 800km.
Behind the wheel it’s pretty clear that the Outlander PHEV is, in my view, the best vehicle the company has on offer in Australia. That title is pretty easy to obtain given the line-up only includes six makes and models, but you get the point.
Inside, there’s a high level of interior refinement; it’s not spectacular but more than adequate. There’s little sense of cheap materials, with soft touch surfaces in all the right places. You won’t score leather seats, but the microfibre style material is just fine.
It complements the digital dash, leathery style door inserts, and a clean and simple centre console. The only jarring part might be the floating 12.3-inch infotainment screen, as it has big black glossy borders and detracts from the otherwise sleek upfront experience.
At least the package includes a wireless phone charging pad, plus wireless Apple CarPlay, although Android Auto users will still need their USB cable. It’s a tad tight in the back, especially for an adult sitting in the centre.
A couple of teenagers or adults could spread out nicely though. It’s well-stocked back there too, with USB-A and USB-C charge ports and even a rare 240V outlet that allows for up to 1500W of charging. Handy if you need to top up your laptop on the go.
The electric tailgate reveals a 450-litre boot or up to 1,478-litres of cargo space, should you fold the rear seats down. The Outlander Aspire PHEV delivers a refined, smooth and well insulated drive too.
Driving dynamics in the real world are more than adequate for most drivers. Those who tend to get a tad spirited at times will pick up on a few moderate issues. Grip levels start to get a bit antsy when you decide to push through corners with enthusiasm for example.
Electrified vehicles are often equipped with eco-friendly tyres that reduce rolling resistance, making life a little less enjoyable, particularly when the heavens open. That battery onboard also adds some heft, in fact close to 400kg more than a standard petrol version.
The result is a kerb weight of 2108kg. Overall though, and considering the AWD system will help reign things in, I can’t really mount a scathing attack on its driving manners. It has the power, a sensation of fun and the looks to make it a well-balanced package.
Safety technology is taken care of thanks to standard key highlights such as blind spot warning, forward collision mitigation with cyclist (daytime only) and pedestrian detection, eight airbags, hill descent control and lane change assist.
There’s also automatic high beam and rear braking, rear cross traffic assist and trailer stability assist. It also scores a five-star ANCAP rating. Unfortunately, some of the more desirable 2023 upgrades are reserved for the $67,490 Exceed PHEV.
Likewise, the $69,990 Exceed Tourer gets the good stuff. A Mi-Pilot system introduces semi-autonomous systems such as lane keep assist, traffic jam assist, and even the ability to adjust the cruise control based on speed sign recognition.
Now to the price. The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Aspire PHEV starts at $61,990 before on-roads. The base ES PHEV starts at $55,490 before on-roads. A 5-year 100,000km warranty is on offer as standard.
If you stay loyal to the Mitsubishi dealer network you’ll score a 10-year or 200,000km upgrade. The battery is covered by an 8-year 160,000km warranty. These are rather lavish prices and it’s not the best warranty going around.
You’d also want to own the Outlander PHEV for a very long time to off-set any fuel savings. That said, it’s an impressive piece of kit and one of those SUV’s that actually doesn’t look like every other high-rider on the market.
Our test vehicle was provided by Mitsubishi Motors Australia. To find out more about the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Aspire Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV), contact your local Mitsubishi dealer.