Mitsubishi's all-new Outlander PHEV might be gunning for the crown in the plug-in hybrid sector, but a major price premium over petrol-only models raises some big questions.

Mitsubishi was perhaps the greatest pioneer of plug-in hybrid vehicles in Australia with the original Outlander PHEV, and although plug-in hybrids haven’t caught on in Australia quite as Mitsubishi (and others) might have hoped, the company is still pressing ahead with the technology and hoping this all-new Outlander PHEV can cement its place as the country’s leading PHEV brand.

What the 2023 Outlander PHEV must overcome to do that, though, is its big price tag. Four trim levels are offered in the PHEV range, with the base ES model costing $2000 more than the top-spec petrol powered Outlander Exceed Tourer at $55,990 before on-road costs. The models we’re testing here, however, sit in the middle of the range, with the black Aspire 5-Seat priced from $61,990 and the red Exceed 7-Seat costing $67,490, while the top-spec Exceed Tourer is $69,990. To put that another way, those numbers represent price increases of more than $16,000 over their non-hybrid equivalents – a seriously astronomical price increase.

Where that extra money goes is all on giving it a bigger battery and more electric driving range than the majority of its rivals, with it sporting a 20kWh lithium-ion battery pack that claims to deliver 84km of pure electric driving while also reducing combined cycle fuel consumption to a mere 1.5L/100km.

Visually, you won’t be able to spot many differences between the petrol-powered Outlander and this PHEV model. Namely, there’s now a flap on both the left and right sides of the car, the latter for its Type 2 and CHAdeMO charging ports, while there’s a range of PHEV badging on the front doors and tailgate. Otherwise, no one will be any the wiser to you spending an extra $16k on your car.

Sitting inside the Outlander PHEV, you won’t be any the wiser either as the only changes are a ‘power’ gauge in place of the usual tachometer and some buttons on the centre console for cycling through its EV modes and one-pedal driving. Sure, the TomTom sat nav system will also now help you locate charging stations near you, but otherwise, you’ll be hard pressed in a game of spot the difference.

Mind you, the interior of the new Outlander is so good that it doesn’t feel in any way too cheap for this PHEV model’s high price tag. The perforated leather steering wheel could’ve been nicked straight from an Audi, and the leather trim on the dashboard and door cards is so soft and plush you’ll never think you were in a Mitsubishi if the badge on the steering wheel were covered up.

What I do find a bit pointless, though, is the step up to the Exceed model over the much cheaper Aspire. Personally, I prefer the Aspire’s suede seat upholstery, the Exceed’s sunroof eats into headroom a drastic amount, and there aren’t enough unique features it sports to truly justify the price increase. Sure, it has a Bose audio system, white ambient lighting strips, tri-zone climate control, and a new-for-2023 Level 2 semi-autonomous steering system, along with a heated steering wheel and speed limit assist system, but is that worth another $5500 to you? I’d be pocketing the change there if it were me, or spending the extra $2500 on the Exceed Tourer and its massage seats.

Of course, the other key difference is that while only the ES petrol Outlander is offered as a five-seater, both the ES and Aspire PHEV models come with two rows as standard, while the Exceed and Exceed Tourer remain seven-seaters with a third row. Although the third-row seat design has been changed slightly to accomodate the big battery pack, it’s still just as cramped and, to my eye, as pointless as it is in the petrol model – you’re once again better off with the Aspire in that regard unless seven seats are an absolute necessity.

Plus, both feature the same 20-inch alloy wheels, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 9.0-inch infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay, a wireless phone charger, heated front seats, a head-up display, and a powered tailgate. If that doesn’t sell you on saving a big chunk of money – or spending a small amount extra for the even better-equipped Exceed Tourer – I’m not sure what will.

In terms of cargo space, do also consider that the Aspire offers slightly more with 485 litres with the second row seats up and 1478 litres with them down, and it has an under-floor storage compartment in the boot as well. The Exceed, meanwhile, offers the same 478/1473 litres as the standard seven-seat Outlander.

READ MORE: Lexus’ first ever plug-in hybrid offers luxury, strong fuel economy, and a lot of quirks

Unlike the standard Mitsubishi Outlander which is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, all Outlander PHEV variants are powered by a slightly smaller 2.4-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine that makes a mere 94kW. However, when combined with two electric motors – one on each axle to give it all-wheel drive as standard – it lifts the PHEV’s system outputs to 185kW and 450Nm, a major increase over the standard model.

Certainly, that extra punch can be felt when you flick it into Tarmac mode which livens up its throttle response, with the PHEV feeling surprisingly punchy when you really punt it. With that said, the seat of your pants may have you questioning those power outputs slightly as it doesn’t feel quite that strong, but it’s certainly a fair sight sportier than its predecessor ever felt.

Where there’s a slight compromise to be felt is when it comes to ride quality, as the PHEV feels a little bit more jittery and unsettled at times, likely owing to its weight increasing by a substantial 381kg in the case of the seven-seat Exceed model. That low-down weight does help it feel a little bit tidier in the corners, though, so you win some and lose some with it.

The real drawback of the hybrid system is the Atkinson cycle engine it uses, however. Like most engines of its kind – which are used in hybrids due to their increased efficiency – it’s utterly noisy when it does fire into life. Given how down it is on power despite its high displacement, it also needs to be revved quite hard, further emphasising its overbearing volume.

By comparison, when you put it in EV mode – there are also drive modes to recharge the battery on the move using the petrol engine, simply rely on the petrol engine and save the electric range you have, or let the car make up its own mind – it has enough torque from the electric motors to keep it moving effortlessly, smoothly, and totally silently.

Given you can rely so much on the electric motors, it makes getting some impressive fuel economy out of the Outlander PHEV possible. When driving mostly in town and with a bit of freeway driving thrown in, I was able to come pretty close to the 1.5L/100km claim in both cars. After adding in a mix of other driving conditions, however, I saw the overall figure rise to a still-impressive 2.4L/100km after 595km in the Exceed. As for the Aspire, I took that on a longer road trip during my time with it, but even after those sub-optimal conditions for a plug-in hybrid I still only saw it rise to 3.8L/100km after 540km.

As for its electric-only driving range, I did average 20.8kWh/100km over my time in both cars, but that does factor in time spent relying on the petrol engine instead. When relying on electric power alone, you’re looking at more like 24kWh/100km, but not all of the battery pack is usable, meaning it will likely tap out just before reaching 80km.

Where Mitsubishi is going to win a lot of fans is when it comes to its impressive 10-year/200,000km warranty, which is an industry-leader in terms of how many years of coverage it offers. Do note, though, that the battery pack is only covered for eight years/160,000km.

While the 10-year warranty only applies if you service your car at a Mitsubishi dealer (you get a five-year/100,000km warranty if you don’t), there is the sweetener of 10 years of capped price servicing. However, servicing is much more expensive than for the petrol-powered Outlander, with the PHEV’s servicing averaging at $509 per service, compared with $319 for the petrol model. Four years of complimentary roadside assistance is also thrown in.

It’s also worth highlighting that while the Outlander PHEV was once the lone operator in this space, there are now a host of other plug-in hybrid SUVs for it to compete with in today’s market. Certainly, the MG HS Plus EV, the country’s cheapest plug-in hybrid, presents a massive price saving with drive-away prices at around the $50k mark, although its electric-only range and fuel economy leave a little to be desired.

Mitsubishi’s own Eclipse Cross PHEV is the next cheapest, although it’s a size down from the Outlander, but it’s the Ford Escape ST-Line PHEV that I think presents the greatest rival. Priced at $54,440 before on-road costs, it might not have as big a battery as the Outlander, but it does have enough standard equipment to rival it – even if the Escape doesn’t feel as premium inside. That big price saving will tempt some away though, I’m sure.

As I see it, there are two big challenges for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. For one, the lack of market awareness for PHEV vehicles in Australia has me wondering just how many of these Mitsubishi might sell. You never know – it could be the car that manages to elevate PHEV sales from the mere 5937 sold during 2022.

The other challenge, however, is clearly the price. When you’re looking in the face of a $16k premium, tough questions certainly have to be asked. As I’ll always advocate when it comes to plug-in hybrids, though, just carefully consider your use case – if you’re driving mostly in the city, it’ll make more sense, but if you live further afield and commute on highways it perhaps won’t.

What is clear is that the new Outlander is a surprisingly premium prospect in the mainstream SUV space, and that this PHEV works well and delivers far more electric-only range than the majority that are currently out there. When it comes to popularity, however, the market will have to decide.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire: $61,990 | Exceed: $67,490
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Ride & Handling - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Fuel consumption claims are achievable when commuting, surprisingly premium interior, impressive amount of electric-only range
Cons: $16k price premium over non-hybrid model, ride feels less settled than in petrol model due to extra weight, pointless third-row seat in Exceed variant

Photography by Tom Stuart.

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire 5-Seat

2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Exceed 7-Seat

Full Disclosure: The vehicles tested here were provided by Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited for a week each with a full tank of fuel and full charge upon delivery.

Patrick Jackson
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