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Mitsubishi Outlander 2021 review: PHEV

The new Mitsubishi PHEV welcomes a new trim level - and new suspension - for 2021.

If plug-in hybrid vehicles do truly take-off in Australia - and all the evidence suggests they will - then Mitsubishi will rightly claim to be a pioneer in the segment, having launched the Outlander PHEV in Australia way back in 2014.

The PHEV stands for plug-in hybrid, of course - a technology that promises a true best-of-both-worlds solution, with pure EV driving backed up by the convenience of a petrol-powered engine.

But if this Outlander is to end up ahead of its time, then that time has to actually arrive. And Mitsubishi is hoping some nips and tucks for the 2021 model will help bring that time just a little bit closer.

There's a new trim - with new suspension - called the GSR, and a renewed focus on vehicle-to-x bi-directional charing capability, meaning, eventually, you'll be able to use your vehicle to power your house, rather than the other way around.

So is all that enough to see the Outlander PHEV take charge of the electrified SUV segment? Let's find out.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Mitsubishi Outlander now arrives in three, slightly more expensive trim models - the entry-level ES at $47,990 (+$600), the new mid-tier GSR at $52,490, and the most-expensive Exceed at $56,490 (+$100).

Kicking off with the ES, you get 18-inch alloys, privacy glass, a rear spoiler, keyless entry and halogen fog lamps, while inside you'll find push-button start, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, black cloth trim on the seats and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Stepping up to the new GSR model adds a new 18-inch alloy design, a black roof spoiler and roof rails, nicer interior elements, an eight-speaker premium sound system and - crucially - the addition of Bilstein suspension for the very first time.

The GSR model adds a new 18-inch alloy design. The GSR model adds a new 18-inch alloy design.

Finally, the Exceed model adds a sunroof, LED headlights, standard navigation, leather seats and and chrome design elements outside.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

It remains largely unchanged - much like it did for its 2020 update - so its safe to say we've had some time to get used to the looks of the Outlander PHEV.

Not that there's all that much to get used to, really. Badging aside, there's little that says you're driving a plug-in hybrid here, with the Outlander PHEV slotting nearly into the more conventional Mitsubishi line-up.

The Outlander remains largely unchanged - much like it did for its 2020 update. The Outlander remains largely unchanged - much like it did for its 2020 update.

Outside, you get a pretty bold-looking front end, dominated by Mitsubishi's sizeable grille setup (which for ours looks a little like the Predator's smile) along with those big shining alloys, and a fairly slab-sided side profile broken up by some swelling of the wheel arches. Step to the rear and it looks, well, a lot like a SUV, with no major stand-out features to draw your attention.

Inside, it's actually refreshingly simple, with a centre-mounted 8.0-inch screen that lifts the cabin ambience, as well a familiar, straightforward centre console and steering wheel set-up, boosted by the addition of a digital screen in the driver's binnacle. In fact, the futuristic gear selector is the only real hint you've climbed into a future-facing vehicle at all.

How practical is the space inside?

It feels bloody big, the Outlander PHEV, and like it could easily carry seven seats. It doesn't, of course, but all that room is a boon for passengers you've got, as well as any cargo you need to carry.

The Outlander PHEV stretches 4695mm in length, 1800mm in width and 1710mm in height,  and delivers a total 498 litres of luggage room across its two-level boot.

Boot space is rated at 498 litres. Boot space is rated at 498 litres.

Up front riders are welcome into a bright and spacious cabin space, complete with a ton of storage, USB charge points and power outlets, and a brace of cupholders and bottle holders.

In the rear, you'll find a pretty cavernous space, too. I'm 175cm tall and was able to ride behind my own driving position with absolute ease. There are also ISOFIX attachment points in each of the window seats, as well as individual air vents and charging points.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

No news here, folks, with the 2021 model carrying over the same drivetrain as the 2020 model, which itself received a fairly major update.

But that's no bad thing, as it means this model combines the same 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine (94kW at 4500rpm and 199Nm at 4500rpm) - which works in tandem with twin electric motors, (60kW/137Nm front, 70kW/195Nm rear), delivering maximum outputs of 157kW and 332Nm, while the 13.8kWh battery enables an emissions-free driving range around 54km.

The 13.8kWh battery enables an emissions-free driving range around 54km. The 13.8kWh battery enables an emissions-free driving range around 54km.

The PHEV gets a single-speed automatic gearbox.

The big news, at least with the GSR, is the addition of Bilstein premium suspension - it's the only model that gets it - designed to add a sportier edge to the Outlander's on-road characteristics.

How much fuel does it consume?

It all depends how you drive it. Keep the batteries charged, and your effective fuel use rate can be zero, with the Outlander PHEV able to travel up to 54km/h - and at speeds of up to 135km/h - between charges, thanks to its 13.8 kWh on-board battery.

When petrol kicks in, though, then you will return a claimed/combined figure of 1.9L/100km, though that calculation is based on a combo of electric and petrol-powered driving, and you can expect the figure to be much higher should you run out of charge and use the traditional engine exclusively.  

Charging from home will take around seven hours. Charging from home will take around seven hours.

Plug in at home, and you'll take around seven hours to recharge, though that number can drop to as low as 25 mins (to 80 per cent capacity) using an appropriate fast charger.

There are three drive modes – Pure EV, Series Hybrid and Parallel Hybrid.

What's it like to drive?

Our test was limited to the new model, the GSR, which is also the only model fitted with the new Bilstein suspension, which, in the words of Mitsubishi, is designed to deliver "a sportier flavour to the drive".

So let's get the hard stuff out of the way first; sporty this ain't. But I also don't think that's the point here. Because what the new suspension definitely delivers is a more engaged, mostly more compliant - except over the sharper bumps - ride quality that undeniably lifts the drive experience of the Outlander PHEV. The steering, though, doesn't quite manage the same sense of connection as the suspension.

This is a family SUV in which your eco-friendliness comes with little in the way of compromise. This is a family SUV in which your eco-friendliness comes with little in the way of compromise.

But easily the most impressive thing about this plug-in SUV is the fact that it genuinely changes your driving style. I collected the PHEV with a full charge on board, and was drawn as if by magnet to trying to extend its range for as long as possible.

As a result, we took plenty of cross-city trips where the average fuel use read-out remained at 0.0, which was surprisingly satisfying, a feeling made more so by the easy, breezy - and near-silent - way the PHEV went about its pure-electric business.

The GSR is the only model fitted with the new Bilstein suspension. The GSR is the only model fitted with the new Bilstein suspension.

This, then, is a family SUV in which your eco-friendliness comes with little in the way of compromise, though it must be pointed out here that, when the petrol engine kicked in, that same fuel reading jumped to over 10L/100km. So it pays to keep it charged.

Still, it's familiar and eco-friendly, so much so that you can easily forget you're driving something with a plug at all.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

Even the entry-level Outlander gets autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, automatic highbeams, and hill-start assist.

Step up to the GSR and you'll add blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and front parking sensors, while the top-spec Exceed will add a surround-view monitor.

The advanced gear joins six airbags and the usual suite of braking and traction aids. The Outlander was awarded a full five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2014.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

A decade-long warranty. Yep, a full 10 years of coverage, provided you play by Mitsubishi's rules, of course.

The brand's Diamond Advantage coverage spans 10 years or 200,000kms, and includes a decade's capped-price servicing, too. In order to qualify, though, you must "have had all scheduled services done through the authorised Mitsubishi Motors Dealer Network".

Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, and the capped-price servicing program will set you back a total $4890 for the 10 years, or an average $489 per annum.

The PHEV's batteries are covered for eight years or 160,000kms.

An easy step into electrification, the Mitsubishi Outlander balances family-sized practicality with genuine eco-friendliness, provided you keep the batteries charged. Refreshingly familiar and future-facing all at once.

$31,990 - $63,990

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