7.8/10Score

Score breakdown

8.0

Safety, value and features

7.5

Engine and gearbox

8.0

Technology

Things we like

  • Long EV range
  • Surprising off-road ability
  • Versatile power options

Not so much

  • Aus not quite ready for full bidirectional charging
  • We haven’t driven it on public roads yet

7.8/10Score

Score breakdown

8.0

Safety, value and features

7.5

Engine and gearbox

8.0

Technology

Things we like

  • Long EV range
  • Surprising off-road ability
  • Versatile power options

Not so much

  • Aus not quite ready for full bidirectional charging
  • We haven’t driven it on public roads yet

It doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to believe that the number-one selling ‘car’ in the United States is, by a substantial margin, Ford’s F-Series truck. Nor would you be labelled particularly gullible to be convinced that the world’s most popular car is the Toyota Corolla.

But when it comes to the global best-selling plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), you might want a few more guesses. I’ll save you the trouble.

With more than 300,000 sales to its name, the first-generation Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is officially the world’s favourite plug-in, and the secret to its success is relatively simple.

In the early 2000s, Mitsubishi, like many other brands, felt the turning tide as more and more motorists ditched their sedans, hatchbacks and wagons in favour of an SUV.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our scoring in this review is based on a track and off-road drive only. Media tests on public roads will commence in August.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

With more than 300,000 sales to its name, the first-generation Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is officially the world’s favourite plug-in, and the secret to its success is relatively simple.

At the same time, the Japanese manufacturer also sensed the groundswell of electrification and the switch to battery power that would surely accelerate with a similar curve.

That’s how the Outlander was the first model to the market that combined the virtues of a PHEV drivetrain, dressed up in the alluring SUV adventure suit that the world couldn’t resist.

Not only that, the Outlander aligned with Mitsubishi’s value-for-money mantra and, in its most affordable form, cost just less than $46,000 – an all-wheel drive mid-sized SUV with zero-emissions capability for the price of a top-shelf Nissan X-Trail.

In the ensuing eight years, however, numerous manufacturers have followed Mitsubishi’s lead, bringing plug-in hardware to market and encroaching on the Outlander’s turf. Time for a reset.

When it arrived late in 2021, the fourth-generation Outlander brought a fresh new look for the company’s popular family SUV along with a significant step up in technology, practicality, quality, safety and all-round driving enjoyment.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

The dramatic transformation was largely the result of Mitsubishi’s alliance with Renault and Nissan, which enabled the binning of the previous-generation’s badly aged platform in favour of an all-new architecture, shared with the new X-Trail.

Since November last year, the resoundingly improved Outlander has been available locally in a choice of five variants, front- or all-wheel drive and powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine.

But a new version of the plug-in hybrid will expand the range even further later this year with an evolution of the electrified system that’s as improved as the rest of the package. The Outlander PHEV is back, but can it reclaim some of the market share it defined?

To try to answer this question we’re at The Bend Motorsport Park in South Australia – a paradoxically obscure place to evaluate a sensible mid-sized SUV. On arrival, the sound of a flat-six at 9000rpm is emanating from the Western Circuit, while I prepare to fill the Eastern Circuit with silence.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

Sadly, I’m not here to set a new track record for plug-in hybrid SUVs even though, as far as I know, I’d be the first. Australia-bound versions of the PHEV are not quite rolling off the assembly line in Japan and, while the example waiting for me is an accurate representation of the range-topping Exceed Tourer we’ll get, it’s pre-production and won’t ever see a public road.

Nonetheless, a closed circuit does offer the opportunity to sample the new powerplant and all the enhancements compared with the third-gen model. For a start there’s more power and torque.

Power and fuel/energy consumption

Like the previous version, the new Outlander is all-wheel drive with an electric motor for each axle.

At the back, the unit is the power player with unchanged peak torque of 195Nm but an extra 30kW boosts power to 100kW.

The front axle is the torque hero, boosted from 137Nm to a sizeable 255Nm, and power rises from 60kW to 80kW.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

They aren’t the only numbers to have grown. The centrally mounted lithium-ion battery is nearly 50 percent bigger with a 20kWh capacity and that has boosted possibly the most important figure – range.

While the gen-three car could manage about 54km on a single charge, the new Outlander can go up to 84km before calling on hydrocarbons or a charge socket.

If the battery is exhausted, combined petrol and electric range is also extended thanks to a larger fuel tank and more efficient Atkinson cycle engine with Mitsubishi claiming 900km as the maximum.

And there’s no shame in firing up the four-pot as the PHEV continues to benefit from hybrid efficiency thanks to the same fuel-saving principles found in mild hybrids.

A combined fuel consumption figure of 6.7L/100km is possible, says its maker.

But a first spin around a few of The Bend’s bends reveals a completely transformed nature to the Outlander’s electric bits.

While its predecessor’s performance was best described as adequate, the new version ups the combined outputs to 185kW and 450Nm, and acceleration now leaves an impression.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

On the track

With the driving mode spun around to Power, the PHEV is locked into its most potent and torque is available at both axles with the immediacy EV drivers love, but with the petrol engine humming quietly under the bonnet.

I’m expecting the lag of combustion power through a conventional gearbox. It requires some recalibration of the right foot to avoid getting the power on too early in corners but it’s an adjustment I’m happy to get used to.

Regenerative braking is also more aggressive and noticeable with up to 0.3g of deceleration possible compared with the barely perceptible 0.1g of its predecessor and, while a final prod of the brake is required to bring the car to a halt, single-pedal driving is possible most other times.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

I’ll not squander too many words talking about the ride and handling of a car driven on a perfectly smooth surface and rolling on a chassis tune we won’t get, but I will say it was surprisingly good fun.

The centrally mounted battery offers excellent weight distribution, while the significant heft is effectively disguised by lively handling. Nor will I talk too much about the interior because it’s the same big step up – at least in the Exceed Touring – you’ll find in any Outlander.

However, one significant bonus includes the 5+2 seating that wasn’t available in the previous PHEV, but a cleverly consolidated motor and inverter into the rear axle unit has freed up enough boot space to allow the kinda-seven-seat arrangement in the new PHEV.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

Off road

But there were more surprises to be had off-road. While more conventional SUVs deal with the approaching limits of ascent traction by revving hard and spinning wheels for a scrabble to the summit, the Outlander is more dignified.

A heart-sinking pause is followed by a slow but surefooted crawl with little drama or apparent effort, and the result is remarkably good progress despite eco tyres.

Ultimately, approach and departure angles and wheel articulation are the limiting factor of the Outlander’s all-terrain ability not, as expected, its traction or grunt.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

With The Bend’s automotive adventure park at my disposal, it’s been possible to demonstrate that the newest PHEV from Mitsubishi has a sophisticated electric drivetrain that imparts respectable performance on both sealed surfaces and unsealed alike.

Its cabin and exterior carries the same mature design and quality as the whole fourth-gen Outlander range and a first hack on the track suggests it’ll take the daily grind in its stride.

But there’s one more feature the new PHEV offers, and it’s my favourite. With the updated orange bits comes wonderfully versatile vehicle-to-X (or V2X) potential. If the concept is new to you as it is to many, Mitsubishi’s Dendo House is just about the cutest demonstration of this exciting future EV development.

There were more surprises to be had off-road. While more conventional SUVs deal with the approaching limits of ascent traction by revving hard and spinning wheels for a scrabble to the summit, the Outlander is more dignified.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

This tiny house has been constructed on the back of a trailer and includes many of the items a regular house or office might include. But rather than taking power from the national grid to power its lights, TV, wine fridge and even a proper coffee machine, it has a number of other options.

Firstly, the Outlander that could easily have towed it or a caravan to The Bend can connect up its battery and provide the power, but the Dendo also has a solar panel and its own battery for electricity needs while the Outlander is away.

When the car parks back at home, stored power can be fed into the car battery or even back into the grid depending on supply and demand.

If that all sounds too complicated, the Outlander also has a pair of on-board 240-volt power points (one in the boot and another at the back of the centre console) for vehicle-to-load (V2L), allowing the plugging in of appliances which could turn a fairly average camping trip into a luxury escape, for example.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

Yes, some EVs can pull the same trick, but when a purely battery powered car’s battery is flat, you’re done. The Outlander, however, simply fires up its engine for the convenience of a mobile generator, without riling the campers next door.

A full tank in the Outlander can provide enough power to keep the lights on in an average Japanese household for up to 12 days, and while Australian houses may have a bigger appetite for power, I’m certain the thousands of people impacted by the regrettably frequent local natural disasters would have loved a car like this parked on their driveway.

So what price should one put on the car that started a plug-in SUV revolution but now returns to reassert its credentials with a comprehensively elevated proposition and some notable extras?

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

If Mitsubishi were any other brand, it would be fair to assume jacked prices to correspond with the significant improvements in quality and performance.

And yet, the best intel suggests the most affordable Outlander PHEV will actually kick off from less than $50,000 for the ES, while the range-topping Exceed Tourer will cost about $67,000 – relatively small increases over the original version, and between $12,000 and $17,000 more than their 2022 petrol-only equivalents.

For a conventional evolution of a model that’s about right, but when you consider how much the Outlander has grown up, there’s probably no better poster child for Mitsubishi’s value mission.

Okay, so throwing the new Outlander PHEV at a racing circuit and full-blown off-road track might seem like overkill for a car that’s unlikely to experience anything as aggressive in its life, but it’s nothing compared with the most hostile and unforgiving environment it must endure – the showroom.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

Closer look: All in the details

One: Ice delivery

Below 70km/h, all four wheels are turned exclusively by electric motors; above this, the engine mechanically connects to the front axle.

Two: On the down-low

Battery positioning under the floor beneath the passenger’s feet (not the boot) keeps mass balanced and low down.

Three: Quick plug

Standard Type 2 socket allows regular charging modes; second proprietary CHAdeMO plug is needed for the full suite of V2X features.

2023 mitsubishi outlander phev review: first australian drive

Four: Zero burn

CHAdeMO plug delivers fastest charging of the 20kWh battery – 80 percent in 38 minutes. Full charge allows a claimed 84km EV range

Five: Cool suit

New battery cooling system uses vehicle air conditioning; offers improved battery stability and faster charging

Six: Safe as

A fresh suite of driver assistance systems and passive safety has earned new Outlander the full five-star ANCAP rating

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV specifications

Model Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Engine 2360cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v
Motors dual (front + rear)
Battery dual (front + rear0
Max 185kW
Max 450Nm
Transmission single-speed reduction gear
Economy 1.6L/100km (claimed)  
0-100km/h 8.2sec (claimed)
Weight 1925kg
L/W/H/W-B 4694/1801/1709/2670mm
Price From $49,000 (estimated)
On sale Q2 2022

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our scoring in this review is based on a track and off-road drive only. Media tests on public roads will commence in August.

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