I was lucky recently to go test drive the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) with a friend, Michał Wnuk (Facebook profile here). The Outlander PHEV is the top-selling electric vehicle in Europe… by far. It has reportedly been delayed in the US for a few years due to the high demand in Europe (and Japan). So, I wanted to see what is pulling people in.
First of all, I will say that I like its looks. It’s one of only a few SUVs on the market that I actually think look attractive. It also has a ton of space, of course. The pics below — mostly from right before, but also during and after the test drive — capture the exterior look a bit, as well as some of the internal look.
Once we got in, it was quite comfy. In fact, it was super freakin’ comfy. The driver’s seat may have been the most comfy driver’s seat I have ever driven in. I had actually just rented a Mercedes and BMW that had quite comfy front seats, but neither compared to this.
As far as a general take on the drive of the vehicle, it was of course smooth and quiet while in electric mode. Acceleration was decent, but it didn’t really compare to any of the many fully electric vehicles I’ve driven. I’m sure part of that was the weight of the vehicle. An SUV is big, and heavy, and it simply doesn’t shoot off the line like a smaller car (except in the case of the Model X, I’m sure, the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, and the BYD Tang). My friend, pictured above, wasn’t impressed, and I have to say that it really wasn’t what I was expecting from previous experiences with EVs. But it’s an SUV.
One cool thing about the Outlander PHEV is that it has several regenerative braking options — 4 different levels as well as “Mountain Mode.” Of course, I preferred driving on the strongest level, which would practically bring you to a full stop on its own, but I assume some drivers may prefer some of the softer levels (especially to begin with, if they aren’t used to regenerative braking), and there may be times when I’d want to use different levels. (The Mitsubishi guy who drove with us said he always drove on the strongest level, though.)
By the way, the Mitsubishi guy also told us that the Outlander PHEV was the best vehicle in their lineup. He seemed quite fond of it and knew a lot about it as well as EV incentives in various EU countries, which surprised me since there are so many horror stories about dealership guys not knowing much about EVs.
Getting back to the driving, the overall experience was great. It may not get to 60 mph in 4 seconds, but whatev. That said, it was weird to have the gasoline engine kick in while accelerating quickly while already driving on a normal road. (I didn’t check the speedometer, but I’d say from 35 mph, as if you were trying to pass someone.) I’m sure part of it was that I was still spoiled from test driving the Tesla P85D not long before that — that thing is a monster, and it has apparently ruined me for all other cars… just after a short test drive.
Of course, this is not related to the test drive, but I have to mention the fully electric range, which is 30 miles (48 kilometers) on the overly generous and unrealistic New European Driving Cycle (NEDC). That might be closer to 20 miles in the US. It’s not a great range for all-electric driving. Given that it’s been on the market for a few years, and how expensive batteries were a few years ago, I guess it might have been a good compromise between range and price (again, remember that this is now the top-selling EV in Europe), but it would be nice to have 25-100% more range….
The Outlander PHEV had some decent visualizations on the dash and the display screen that you can see in the video. They reminded me of the Nissan LEAF or BMW i3. I can’t remember now if the LEAF or i3 had a bit more or less going on there, but I think perhaps a little bit more.
One nice feature of the Outlander PHEV was the option to “save” your battery. So, if you are on a trip and you want to save your electric driving for the city drive at the end, you can drive in “Save” mode.
The back seats didn’t have as much space as I would have expected, but good enough. The luggage space, however, was huge.
It would have been interesting to compare the Outlander PHEV to a normal Outlander, but alas, I didn’t think of that (or have time for it anyway). The salesman did note that they had a guy come in for a normal Outlander and then decided to get the PHEV (which he hadn’t previously heard of) after test driving it and being very into the electric drive and tech. Overall, the dealership has only sold a handful of Outlander PHEVs. There are no incentives for electric vehicles in Poland, and very little awareness of them. Of course, the higher upfront price is sure to scare the average person away.
There aren’t really any EVs out there that you can compare to the Outlander PHEV. If I were in the market for an SUV, I’d of course go for the Outlander PHEV (unless I could hold out for a Tesla Model X). I’m eager to see the next-generation Outlander PHEV, and give it a test run. My biggest hope would of course be more electric range. A more useful and interesting navigation screen would also be cool, but how much do you really need. And I’d create a bit more space in the back seats, taking it from the luggage area.
Long story short: The Outlander PHEV is a very nice SUV that allows you to drive on electricity, has great regenerative braking options, has decent visualizations, has super comfy front seats and decent back seats, has a ton of space in the back, and looks good. I’s no wonder tens of thousands have been sold in Europe alone.