2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV First Drive

For years now, while the Mitsubishi brand has languished here in the U.S., other parts of the world have been enjoying the Outlander PHEV. It’s Europe’s best-selling plug-in hybrid, and Mitsubishi has been improving on it over the years, testing it, refining the technology and punishing the vehicle in competitions like the Baja Portalegre 500 and the Asia Cross Country Rally.

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

As Mitsubishi prepares to launch the Outlander PHEV stateside, we had the rare opportunity to drive it across the interior of Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles, to test it out on some rugged, scenic roads.

Sitting inside the Outlander PHEV, we were actually pleased with the interior. It was simple and clean, and the plastics didn’t feel especially cheap. Sure, it wasn’t the thoughtful design or plush touch points of the other available plug-in crossovers on the market, but the Outlander PHEV also doesn’t share the same price tag. We definitely found it to be more attractive and appealing than the inside of, say, a Chevrolet Equinox. If you were expecting a pile of hot garbage from Mitsubishi, you’re way off.

The car has two suites of drive modes, one automatic, the other selected by the driver. The car will automatically choose between all-electric, parallel hybrid (using both the gasoline and electric motors to drive the wheels) and series hybrid (gas motor works as a generator) driving. It selects whichever of the three modes will provide the most efficient driving under the current driving situation, whether cruising through town or on the highway, or towing or driving uphill.

So is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV something we’d consider owning? Absolutely. Put it on our short list for now, and we’ll get back to you to confirm once we’ve had the chance to drive the vehicle on the highway. If you’re someone who wants to do most of their driving under electric power, but needs the freedom and practicality of an all-wheel-drive crossover, we’d definitely recommend giving this one a test drive, particularly if you live in a single-car household.

Take a look again at that last sentence. Mitsubishi may have fallen off your radar over the past decade, but the set of needs this vehicle serves is a pretty huge and underserved sweet spot.

The Outlander PHEV will hit U.S. dealerships in late December 2017 with a starting MSRP of $35,535. A fully loaded version costs $41,235. The vehicle is also eligible for a federal tax credit of $5,836, as well as any local incentives.

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