Driven: New 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Finally Designed for the U.S.

The last generation of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV became the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV. Globally it was a hit, but it never got the traction that the company hoped in the U.S. That could change with the launch of an all-new 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The new SUV is longer, wider, has a third row, more range, and has standard all-wheel drive.

Could the new for 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV finally break the company through with a tech-laden plug-in hybrid SUV in the U.S? If we had a magic 8-ball to ask, it would probably say, “Signs point to yes.”

Is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV fully electric?

2023 Motsubishi Outlander PHEV
2023 Outlander PHEV | Dan Mayfield, MotorBiscuit

The new Outlander PHEV is based on the $28,000 gas-powered Outlander and looks similar, but dynamically it’s entirely different. The Outlander is the only seven-passenger (though not the only three-row) SUV that offers a plug-in hybrid system. In most driving, Outlander’s gas motor acts like a generator powering the two electric motors. When you’re cruising, the one-speed transmission kicks in and it acts like a traditional parallel hybrid, with the gas motor providing more power.

Those electric motors feel like, well, a gas motor. Dynamically on the road it doesn’t punch you in the back with power like, say, a RAV4 Prime or a fully-electric SUV. Sure, that electric punchiness is a great party trick, but having a smooth linear “gas” pedal feels great in this SUV. That’s helped by its full-time all-wheel drive, which is optional on the gas-powered SUV, that seems to smooth out the ride and reduce head toss.

How much range does the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV have?

New 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV in white in Tennessee
The new 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV | Dan Mayfield, MotorBiscuit

The EPA Says the Outlander PHEV can travel 38 miles on a full charge, which is only four miles less than a RAV4 Prime. But in real-world driving through the rolling hills of Tennessee recently, depending on which charge mode you picked, it ran in hybrid mode and never seemed to need more juice, except when every accessory was turned on. The two motors combined add up to 248 horsepower, and while it certainly has power during most situations, highway passing takes a bit of pre-planning. You can tick through the charge modes using steering wheel-mounted paddles, including a cool “save” mode that relies on the gas motor.

That power, though, is funneled through Mitsubishi’s  S-AWC, or Super All Wheel Control, which was programmed by the same engineer that made the old Mitsubishi Evo X super sedan a blast to drive. On the wet racetrack where we put the PHEV through its paces, it remained planted and stable at speeds none of us would go on the road. The rear motor is more powerful than the front, and that adds to a bit of tail happiness in the PHEV that, in the mud, allows it to step out for some NASCAR-style shenanigans.

Do all Outlanders have seven seats?

The interior of the Outlander PHEV is a lot like the gas version, except the optional digital gauge cluster is now standard. The leather and cloth seating surfaces, as well as the leather trim on the dash and doors, feel like a higher quality than many of us would remember in Mitsubishis of the past. There are some echoes of its economy SUV roots in back, where some door plastics felt a bit flimsy. Though it does have a third row, it’s sized for kids and jockeys but great in a pinch when you need to carry an extra couple of people.

Nissan fans will recognize some of the interior bits, like the navigation screen and the shifter, from the Pathfinder. The two are corporate cousins and sharing some critical bits can help keep costs down. Though the gas motor/generator does have an odd droning effect at some speeds, the cabin is conversationally quiet, even while we were romping the SUV on the racetrack, thanks to double-pane glass.

Is the new 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander worth $42,000?

Outlander PHEV getting muddy | Dan Mayfield, MotorBiscuit

The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV starts at $41,190 (with delivery) in ES trim. In White Diamond SEL trim, it can approach $51,000. The interior doesn’t live up to the $39,000 Lincoln Corsair’s. It doesn’t have the off-road chops of the Toyota 4Runner, or the power of a Chevy Traverse. But you can’t really compare a tech-laden, hyper-efficient three-row PHEV to those gas-powered SUVs. A PHEV simply costs more and is more efficient.

This PHEV SUV’s competition consists of the Toyota RAV4 Prime and the Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV. The Toyota is quicker and more powerful with a slight range bonus, but it only seats five, and it has a harsher ride. The $40,000 Hyundai is well-equipped but has less range, and the PHEV version still feels (and looks) like a $28,000 SUV. However, the new 2023 Outlander’s tech, range, third row seating, and competent all-wheel drive could make it a significant player in the growing PHEV SUV segment for the U.S. market. Finally.