The EV/Hybrid/EV-Heavy Hybrid Future is Now with the Impressive 2018 Outlander PHEV

2018 Outlander PHEV rises above. All photos courtesy of Mitsubishi

At a recent Mitsubishi media event near Venice Beach, I was given more time than other journos with a 2018 Outlander PHEV … because I am special.

Actually, it was because I had no way to get to Venice Beach that particular week day, so Mitsubishi arranged for me to drive a 2018 Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid from Orange County to the event and back. I did not realize at the time that the 2018 Outlander PHEV would be one of the two vehicles Mitsubishi would be promoting that day. (See a future Ride Me for more on the other.)

It drove like a dream. There is nothing that compares to pulling away from a stop sign in all-electric mode, except to say you feel the power immediately in an EV while you build up to it in a gas guzzler.

Fortunately, there was no light traffic between OC and VB (Venice Beach), and by the time I got took the 405’s Washington Boulevard/Venice Boulevard exit, I was super impressed with the 2018 Outlander PHEV GT.

Juice up the Outlander PHEV with this standard household charger or a DC Fast Charger.

That respect doubled after a Mitsubishi rep told me more about the incredible hybrid sports utility vehicle. Longtime Ride Me readers will know how unlikely my positive view is given I have not always written glowingly about Mitsubishi’s i-MIEV all-electric compacts. According to the rep, Mitsubishi is relying on years of trial, error and experience with the i-MIEVs to come up with the best technology to incorporate in the likes of the Outlander PHEV–and at a time when other automakers are only rolling out their initial generations of EV sports utility vehicles.

For instance, did you know all-wheel drive and plug-in capabilities were standard by the time we got to 2018 Outlander PHEVs? I didn’t.

Did you know those models actually have two electric motors–one in the front and one in the back? Again, no clue over here.

Well, did you know that you can choose to drive all-electric, all-gas powered or allow onboard sensors to detect and automatically switch to the optimal mode for each particular driving situation you find yourself in? Wait … what? Cars can do that?

What the engine and motors are doing is revealed on the touchscreen monitor.

Here’s where it really gets freaky: Anxiety about the range you have left on an electrical charge has been eliminated on the 2018 Outlander PHEV. Forgot to recharge with the standard charger nozzle plugged into a household outlet overnight? Too far from a commercial charging station (including an adaptable DC Fast Charge)? You can have your 2.0-liter, gasoline-sipping, inline four-cylinder engine simultaneously power the SUV and, with the push of an onboard button, recharge the electric motors. That’s right … while you are already driving.

Like most EV chargers at commercial stations, the gas engine will only get a lithium battery up to an 80 percent charge. But you can also deploy the “save mode” to hold that charge until you are again ready to switch over to all-electric. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

When it comes to charging on your own, from a low battery it will take less than eight hours to recharge to 100 percent on the standard charger plugged into a household outlet, 3.5 hours to get up to 80 percent at a normal commercial charger and 20-25 minutes to get to 80 percent with a fast charger.

You can set it up to get an alert on your smartphone when charging is done, and there’s also an automatic shutoff for juicing so you are not unnecessarily drawing from the grid. Again I must ask: WTF? This here is Jetsons’ shit!

Notice the sporty stitching on the (comfy) black leather seats.

Truth be told, my first impression when I encountered the 2018 Outlander PHEV after it arrived at my home was it’s a damn fine looking SUV, regardless of how it’s powered. The sleek design, shiny chrome framing, dark chrome grille accents, 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels, tinted sunroof and silver roof rails bring to mind a sporty crossover vehicle that ready to take you skiing or tailgating.

Indeed, if “PHEV” was not embossed near the bottom of the rear doors or there were no California carpool lane stickers on the back bumper, you would have no idea you were looking at a hybrid SUV. Meanwhile, the interior is luxurious, especially when considering the plush leather seats with nifty stitching, leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather inserts on the side panels.

The front seats can be heated and power adjusted to eight different settings. Other goodies include: paddle shifters; 1,500 pounds of towing capacity; near-universal LED lighting (fog, running, headlights, tail lights); map, dome, floor and cargo lights; and color multi-information and high contrast meter displays.

By the way, everything mentioned above comes standard, as do the: digital high definition radio; 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with nine speakers; 7-inch screen smartphone link audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; SiriusXM satellite radio (or a three-month subscription, at least); voice, audio and phone controls on the (heated, tilting and telescopic) steering wheel; dual USB ports; multi-view camera system; power remote lift gate; 12-volt accessory outlets and 1,500-watt AC power supply with two outlets; and underfloor cargo storage area.

Hey, where are the California carpool lane stickers?

There are also advanced safety features that come standard, including: electric parking brake with auto hold; anti-lock braking system with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist; traction, stability, adaptive cruise control and anti-theft alarm systems; hill start assist; automatic high beam headlights; Forward Collision Mitigation; blind-spot, lane-departure and rear cross-traffic warnings; and dual front, driver’s knee, front side-mounted, side-curtain air bags.

Government Five-Star Safety Ratings were not yet available at the time of test driving, but the EPA did rate my PHEV GT tester at 25 miles to the gallon running on gas alone, 74 mpg with combined fuel and battery, an all-electric range of 22 miles and an all-everything range of 310 miles. You save $1,000 in fuel costs over five years when compared to the average new 2018 vehicle, sayeth the gubment, which rates this ride at a seven on a 1-10 scale (10 being best) for smog, an eight for MPG and a 10 for greenhouse gas emissions (or actually lack thereof).

According to the rep, the 2018 Outlander PHEV SEL model comes in at $34,595, while the fully loaded gray GT I drove to Venice and back was $40,295. That was the same base price for the Ruby Black Pearl GT sampled on the test drive (and pictured in this review), although the $295 paint job was among other additions that pushed the total manufacturer’s suggested retail price up of the tester to $42,225. The PHEVs are eligible for $5,836 in energy tax credits and possibly other California incentives that remind me: Get those carpool lane stickers while you still can.

Mitsubishi provides a 10-year or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first) warranty on the powertrain, seven years or 100,000 miles anti-corrosion/perforation warranty, five years or 60,000 miles new vehicle limited warranty, and five years or unlimited miles of roadside assistance. I asked the rep about battery life, and he answered the Outlander PHEVs have been running since 2013 in Europe, where there has yet to be a lithium battery that needs replacing. But he added that expensive battery swapping is a topic among automakers who are keen for ways to help drivers make the choice for cleaner EVs and hybrids. As a for instance, the rep said that while the Mitsubishi warranty on the engine and transmission apply only to the first owner of the vehicle, for the battery it covers all subsequent owners as well.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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