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Get in quick if you want a comparatively bargain-priced medium-sized plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) from Japan, because the next Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is expected to cost up to $5000 (or more) over the outgoing version.
Due sometime in the first half of next year, the successor to the world’s most popular PHEV will most likely start from about $52,000 before on-road costs, topping out to nearly $60,000 for the anticipated Exceed Tourer PHEV version.
And this doesn’t include the exciting, hotly-rumoured Evolution flagship of the all-new Outlander PHEV – which would put it in a different pricing and performance orbit altogether.
In contrast, today’s ageing third-generation, ZL-series Outlander PHEV – which debuted at the Paris Motor Show back in 2012 before hitting Australian roads two years later – kicks off from $47,990 before on-road costs for the PHEV ES AWD, stretching to the PHEV Exceed AWD from $56,490 before on-roads are added.
Of course, Mitsubishi's just-announced smaller SUV sibling to the Outlander PHEV, the Eclipse Cross PHEV, enters the fray from $46,490 and tops out at $53,990 before on-road costs, which puts upward pressure on the new model.
That said, to help justify the extra cost, the all-new GM/GN-series Outlander PHEV is a very different beast compared to its dated predecessor, adopting the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CFM-CD medium SUV architecture shared with the coming, redesigned Nissan T33 X-Trail, as well as the imminent Nissan J12 Qashqai.
As a result of this connection, the Outlander grows dimensionally to the benefit of interior space for people and cargo alike. The cabin presentation is boosted substantially through better design and higher-grade materials, while specification levels also rise. Expect to see larger touchscreen multimedia, wireless smartphone charging, multi-zone climate control systems and improved safety items.
The latter runs to advanced driver-assist technologies such as lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with full stop/go functionality and speed sign recognition, broader-spectrum autonomous emergency braking and a total of 11 airbags, including a front-centre item to protect front-seat occupants from colliding into each other in lateral impacts.
It is understood that – despite a larger motor and greater battery capacity – the next Outlander PHEV will adopt a three-row, 5+2-seater arrangement as per the new non-plug-in hybrid models, thanks to more-efficient interior packaging. No seven-seater model has been available in the current-generation PHEV.
According to overseas reports, the Outlander’s shift to the next X-Trail’s CFM-CD architecture has brought major advances in the way all grades of the big boxy Mitsubishi steers, handles and rides, with noticeably better refinement, quietness and comfort qualities compared to before.
A massive hit and a true ground-breaking vehicle on launch, the outgoing Outlander PHEV was the first affordable plug-in EV SUV in Australia’s history.
Updates have been regular over the years – including a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol internal combustion engine (it was previously a 2.0 litres), greater generator output (now 80kW), a 1.8kWh bigger battery (now 13.8kWh) for longer range, an improved AWD system promising better handling and road holding, more safety features, and an updated multimedia display for the 2019 model-year, as well as the addition of a sporty GSR that brings with it a Bilstein premium suspension package for claimed improvements in steering response, high-speed stability and ride comfort.
The second-generation Outlander PHEV comes hot on the announcement from Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) that it will favour PHEV technology over the series-parallel hybrid systems pioneered by Toyota in Australia.
As outlined by CarsGuide earlier this month, this means that while Australia will probably not see a rival from the Diamond Brand for the incredibly popular Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in the foreseeable future, MMAL will instead continue to offer Australians a medium-sized SUV that can, in theory, operate as a pure EV for the entirety of most normal commuter situations without having to rely on an internal combustion engine to complete a journey.
The only other affordable medium SUV rival to the Outlander PHEV that’s currently available is the MG HS Plug-in Hybrid from $46,990 drive-away, while the delayed Ford Escape PHEV starts from $52,490 before on-road costs, or about $58,000 drive-away – even though there have been no deliveries to customers in Australia. Ford says that situation should be rectified by the end of the year.
Others are expected to follow soon, including Kia and Hyundai, so it will be a very different playing field for the all-new fourth-generation Outlander PHEV when supplies start coming through sometime in the first half of 2022.
Will all the improvements justify the anticipated big price hike? As soon as we know, you’ll know, so stay tuned…