Having announced its flagship vehicle, the Mitsubishi Outlander, will be all-new for 2022 and built with help from the Nissan, the 2021 model might not seem like its worthy of your attention.
Yet surprisingly, it is. Uniquely, for its final model year of the current generation, Mitsubishi offers its crossover solely as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The gas-only model returns for 2022 and is already on sale. The new PHEV will debut in the second half of this year.
This delay makes the 2021 model well worth considering, even if it’s been overlooked in the marketplace. In fact, it’s so overlooked, Consumer Reports didn’t bother testing it.
And yet it shouldn’t. For the Outlander PHEV LE proves to be peppy and fuel-efficient, although not quite as fun or frugal as some competitors. Yet it still proves to be a superior commuter bauble that quickly endears itself.
Having axed its 4- and 6-cylinder gas engines, the Outlander’s remaining plug-in hybrid driveline grows in power, efficiency and capability, gaining 2 miles in pure EV range. Software has been updated for improved powertrain dynamics and reduced noise, vibration and harshness. All-wheel drive is standard, and Sport and Snow driving modes have been added to fine tune driver control in any situation.
Available in SEL, LE, and GT trim levels, the Outlander’s new LE trim gains a standard sunroof, Mitsubishi sound system, blacked-out grille, unique 18-inch alloy wheels and special blackout exterior trim.
Still, the elimination of gas models makes the PHEV pricey, although federal tax credits do help mitigate the financial hit. Mitsubishi says the Outlander PHEV’s improvements makes it eligible for $6,587 in federal tax credits, an increase of $751 from last year. Prices start at $37,490 with destination charge, but before any tax credits or incentives.
While its exterior shape is designed for maximum interior space, its overall look is acceptably current, with a symphony of glossy black plastic and brightwork accenting its mug. It’s unmistakably a Mitsubishi, one that is further advanced with the 2022. Although its styling isn’t new, it doesn’t seem outdated either. Our LE tester had heated side mirrors, but no spare tire. A tire repair kit is standard.
The interior’s simple layout isn’t flashy, but provides excellent ergonomics, with large chunky buttons that are easy for operate — especially for the tech-averse. The infotainment screen is easy to reach, as its slightly angled towards the driver. It rests just above the climate controls.
Gloss black surfaces and diamond-quilted seat and door trim offset the extensive sea of hard plastic that feel more frugal than fancy. Seats are comfortably firm, and far from punishing. It made long trips in the saddle possible. The interior is fairly quiet and accommodating, although it only has two rows. Its almost useless third row has wisely been axed to house hybrid components and provide generous cargo space.
The Outlander PHEV is a series hybrid, so the gas engine powers a generator, while electric motors power the wheels. The 2021 model uses a new, more efficient, 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder gas engine that produces 126 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque.
A more powerful 70-kilowatt rear-axle-mounted electric motor replaces last year’s 60-kilowatt unit, generating 94 hp and 144 lb-ft of torque, while the unchanged front motor produces 80 hp and 101 lb-ft of torque. Overall, it makes a more-than-respectable 221 hp, a 31-hp increase from 2020.
Additionally, engineers also increased battery capacity to 13.8 kW/h from 12 kW/h. The powertrain provides 24 miles of electric-only range, after which it reverts to standard gas-electric hybrid mode. Top all-electric speed is now 83 mph, up from 78 mph last year. Overall, it delivers 320 miles of range overall according to the EPA. Our weeklong test drive returned 30.3 mpg.
In addition to the expected drive modes, the Outlander offers two other unique ones. There’s a Charge mode, where the engine forsakes fuel economy for refueling the battery, and a Save mode that preserves battery charge for later EV-only use. Fully recharging the battery takes four hours using Level 2 charging.
Safety and Technology
Standard driver assist safety features include forward collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, blind-spot warning, lane-change assist and automatic high beam.
Many have criticized the Outlander for its compliant ride, which is one of its unique qualities. This lends the Outlander a comfortable demeanor. Yes, there’s some body rebound, although it’s far from excessive. No, it’s not a sports sedan, but that’s not why you buy an Outlander.
Instead, this is a four-season friend, one that returns better than average fuel economy for its size, yet proves nimble for the nip and tuck of urban driving warfare. While 0-60 mph times may not set records, in the real driving world, where the art parrying and dodging is essential, the electric motors’ instant torque provides a liveliness lacking from a traditional four-cylinder gas engine.
It’s endearing, in that its personality is distinct from its competition, one that doesn’t conform to the rigid dogma dictated by car magazines. Best of all, its size makes it ideal for squeezing into narrow parking spots that populate urban environments.
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV LE Specifications
|Dimension||L: 184.8 inches/W: 70.9 inches/H: 67.3 inches/Wheelbase: 105.1 inches|
|Powertrain||2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder, twin electric motors, 1-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||74 MPGe combined, 26 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||221 total system horsepower|
|Price||Base price: $37,995; As tested: $39,835 including $1,195 destination and delivery charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
What seems like a brilliant marketing move — offering its flagship crossover utility vehicle solely as a plug-in electric gas electric hybrid — turns out to be a one-shot deal. It’s this sort of scattershot thinking that has led Mitsubishi to be overlooked by consumers, as the company changes courses for no discernable reason.
Yet the Outlander is an interesting proposition, with a lively personality; simple, easy-to-use instrumentation; and a size and comfort factor that make it a good choice for bombed out urban environments. It’s worth checking out and grabbing; it will be far different next year.
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV LE – Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Mitsubishi Outlander reliable?
Mitsubishi was the top-ranked Japanese brand in the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality study, placing sixth ahead of 10th-place Lexus, the only other Japanese brand to rank above the industry average.
How long will a Mitsubishi PHEV battery last?
The Outlander PHEV comes with a 10-year/100,000-mile limited warranty on PHEV components and the lithium-ion battery, in addition to a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, and a 5-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty.
Do Mitsubishi Outlanders hold their value?
According to Kelley Blue Book, Outlanders don’t hold their value as well as the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.