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CAN MITSU GRAB THE REBOUND?

Car Reviews

CAN MITSU GRAB THE REBOUND?

Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV Plug-In

AS PLUG-INS RECEIVE MORE ATTENTION,

CAN MITSU GRAB THE REBOUND?

At a moment when we, as part of a larger global entity, seem to be rushing into vehicle electrification as if on crack cocaine, it would make perfect sense (if, of course, you can give up cocaine…) to consider an electrified vehicle, especially if that vehicle came from an electrified braintrust. And few are more closely connected to an electrified brain than Mitsubishi Motors, part of the Mitsubishi Group sharing – we’ll guess – bath towels with Mitsubishi Electric. Ya’ gotta’ think this relationship could bear fruit, or within the context of electrified vehicles…fruit juice. 

With that, consider Mitsubishi’s premier plug-in hybrid, the Outlander PHEV. Sharing a platform with Nissan’s Rogue, in the walk-up the Outlander – available with both a standard, conventional drivetrain and as a plug-in hybrid – is the more gregarious partner in this partnership; if the Rogue is Jennifer Garner (without, of course, Elektrafication), than the Outlander is Jenny from the Block. Within its 185-inch overall length atop a wheelbase of 106.5 inches, the Outlander in its SEL trim and with Mitsubishi’s all-wheel control, offers a generous amount of side sculpting, enough chrome embellishment to make you think Cadillac, and a front fascia that suggests the design team had a lot of extra dollars to work with…and desperately wanted to spend them. In combination with its softly upright proportion and reasonable amount of glass, it all comes together nicely; if given a choice, however, I’d take Jennifer Garner.

Inside that SEL trim it’s easy to see where some of the money goes, as the leather-appointed ‘everything’ impresses as more Maserati than Mitsubishi. The SEL Premium package will cost $2,700 above the base $48K (with destination) window sticker, but the semi-aniline leather seating surfaces, synthetic leather door inserts, BOSE sound system and the 10.8-inch Head-up Display will make that $50/month bump seem totally incidental. Here, Mitsubishi fully earns the vowel at the end of its name…and it’s bellissimo! 

Behind the wheel, you quickly realize that this, in fact, is a Mitsubishi and not the Italian job. While the standard Outlander package comes with a completely pedestrian 2.5 liter four delivering 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, the Outlander plug-in gives you 131 horsepower from its 2.4 liter inline 4, along with two AC motors. Combined output is 248 horsepower, 332 lb-ft of torque driving all wheels via a CVT. 

The above plug-in recipe is quick, with Car and Driver reaching 60 in just 6.6 seconds, and in doing so – if you can overlook the all-too-typical drone of its CVT – in an almost sublime fashion. Despite the Outlander plug-in’s quick reflexes, this isn’t the SUV for track days; in feel it’s closer to your dad’s Oldsmobile, but ain’t no Rocket 88. As an EV it’s exactly what you’d hope: even more serene, and with none of the financial anxiety that comes with burning gas at $3+ per gallon.

The payoff, of course, to all that’s going on under the hood is up to 38 miles of all-electric driving, a 64 MPGe EPA estimate when calculating battery and ICE propulsion, and something around mid-20s when out of juice and using only your right foot. If there’s a hitch in this git-a-long it’s the amount of time required to replenish its 16.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack: It takes over six hours – again, according to the EPA – to completely recharge from ‘zero’ when hooked up to a 240V Level 2 charger.

And therein lies the kicker for those considering a plug-in. If your total commute is something around 30 miles, and you can recharge at night from your home Level 2 charger, you’ll almost never buy gas. However, if you don’t have home access, and those chargers at work are invariably taken by the *ssholes that leave their cars parked in front of the charger ALL DAY LONG, you’ll be buying gas – and you’ll have spent roughly $10K over the price of a conventional Outlander to have done so. At 15,000 miles per year of driving at 25 miles per gallon, that’s 600 gallons – and about $1800 when gas is $3/gallon. You’ve already done the math…that’s 5.5 years of plug-in ownership – at the earliest – before you can start paying yourself back for that plug-in ‘penalty’. 

And there’s this: While you can spend as little as $42K for the Outlander PHEV in base form, Toyota offers its own plug-in, the RAV4 Prime, for just a few thou$and more. I’m all for betting on the underdog (and Mitsubishi, despite the resources of the Group, remains an underdog), but I’m not inclined to bet on the underdog with my own money. An Outlander PHEV lease is well under $400/month – and that’s the way to go.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as AutoTrader.com, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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