While last year was tough for all automakers in the Philippine market, many did hold new vehicle introductions and launches online. That's the new normal for us in this field, doing Zoom meetings and live streams as a means of showing the new models that automakers are offering to the public.
There was one launch from 2020 that met little (if not zero) fanfare. It was the new Mitsubishi Outlander. It was so low-key that Mitsubishi just sent us a press release saying it was available in the market. That's because their plans for an event were stalled by the stricter quarantine measures at the time.
Some might think that the lack of a big announcement belies the notion that the model is insignificant, and that's simply not true. The Outlander that Mitsubishi launched is special; it's a PHEV or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. And as far as I know, it's the first PHEV offered for sale in the Philippines by a major volume manufacturer here. BYD did offer the Qin but didn't sell many. Volvo is also starting to sell PHEVS, along with Jaguar Land Rover.
The Outlander model itself is a memorable one for me. The first time I drove an Outlander was a second-generation model when I was still a rookie writer in 2006, and I enjoyed it. I liked the look, I liked the interior, and I thought it was a hoot to drive with its 6B31 3.0-liter V6 and the 6-speed automatic with Mitsubishi's great four-wheel-drive system. It was also the first time we enjoyed the Mitsubishi magnesium paddle shifters; Mitsubishi's paddle shifters are still our favorite amongst all.
Alas, Mitsubishi didn't sell the third-generation model Outlander in the Philippines. The pricing of these Japan-made units that don't qualify for JPEPA (below 3000cc) just made them too prohibitive to introduce in our market. And that goes double if you're offering a far more complicated and more expensive plug-in hybrid variant. That's why the Outlanders you may have seen on the road was likely units that Mitsubishi Motors Philippines brought in for testing (but never sold) or the PHEVs donated to the Philippine government.
Now, Mitsubishi is selling these vehicles via selected dealerships, but technically speaking, the Outlander is not new globally. This generation has been around since 2013, succeeding the 2006-2012 model that we truly enjoyed. Initially, the Outlander looked very different from the one we're driving as this is already a facelifted version.
This updated look first appeared in 2017; actually, I drove it back then for another publication. The look is far more modern than the model it replaced. This model has the Dynamic Shield design treatment that we also see in other models like the Montero Sport and Strada.
The designers sought to break up the naturally slab-sided looks of the crossover with some flat black plastic trim all around and complemented it with a neat set of wheels. I particularly liked what Mitsubishi did to the back, doing away with the pre-facelift clear lens taillights and put in a pair of red ones that appear connected by a larger and more cohesive tailgate garnish.
Like the outside, the cabin got an upgrade. The tone of the interior is black, a shade befitting the more executive update to the Outlander. Gloss black and CF-style bits serve as accents on the doors, the dashboard, and the transmission panel; the latter also revised for better ergonomics. The differences are more subtle compared to the pre-facelift model but very much welcome.
You'll also appreciate how the dashboard is how driver-oriented, and we like it that way. The driver-side AC vent and the center console are angled inward, the focal point being the driver. The steering wheel is similar to the Montero Sport (Pajero Sport, for other markets), and has those paddle shifters we like so much.
The controls and instrumentation are somewhat different from most cars. The gauge cluster is different because this is a plug-in hybrid, so you've got a power meter gauge on the left and a speedometer on the right with a multi-info display in the middle. The shifter is likewise unique; if you've driven the Prius before, this will feel very familiar with buttons for P, EV mode, and a B-R-N-D style gated knob. An interesting button on the shifter panel is the SAVE/CHRG button; it tells the drive system to prioritize engine power and conserve the juice in the battery.
There's a control panel for the 4WD system that uses dual motors. You can also set it for more aggressive driving by pressing the sport mode. We'll tell you more about that later. You've got an electronic parking brake and an auto brake hold feature; that's useful in traffic, but I generally don't use those functions. But one feature we don't use is the dual seat heaters. Seat coolers we find useful, but seat heaters not so much... unless we're pranking the front passenger.
The rear seat is a pleasant place to be. The cushioning is quite good, and the backrests are nicely scalloped for comfort. There's a fold-down center armrest if no one is sitting there, and there are dual A/C vents for comfort and a USB charging port for convenience. If you want to use a laptop, there's a regular outlet for your adapter too. The one thing I would change is the height of the seat; it just feels a bit too upright. You don't so much settle into it as you do sit on it. The reason for that under the seat is the electric motor for the rear axle. More on that later.
The boot is much more spacious than I thought it would be considering this is a PHEV. It's about 430 liters or maybe a bit more with the rear seats up. We didn't have official figures for the boot space with the rear seats folded down, but we wouldn't be surprised if it tripled right then and there. Yes, it isn't bad considering it's got a spare tire under the floorboard and a mobile charger.
Now that brings us to the drive system of the Outlander PHEV. There is a petrol engine in front, and it's a 2.4-liter MIVEC unit that makes 128 PS and 199 Nm of torque, both at 4500 rpm. That's a strange fact about the PHEV as we never usually see a petrol engine that makes both peak power and torque at the same rpm. The 2017 Outlander PHEV I drove had a 2.0-liter gas engine/generator; it was a retuned version of the 4B11 found in the Lancer EX.
It has two electric motors, meaning one for each axle; one motor handles the front, while another takes care of the back. There are lithium-ion batteries under the floor of the Outlander PHEV. It can be charged by the generator unit hooked up to the engine or via the plug-in ports. That's why the PHEV has a fuel filler cap on the left rear quarter panel along with another door on the right that houses two charging ports that can be used with a variety of chargers.
With the mobile charger, you can hook up your PHEV to your home outlet. That might not work if you live in a condo without outlets, but it's an option if you have an outlet in the garage or want to run an extra-long extension cord. But don't expect quick charging times with that; I was only able to get a full charge overnight. Mitsubishi does say it can fill up the 13.8 kWh battery in 5.5 hours, but I left it overnight and just unplugged it the next day.
If you want a quicker charger, you can have one wired into your home system, but that can be pricey depending on where you ask. Mitsubishi does have a Dendo Drive House package, but for that, you'll have to inquire at your local Mitsubishi dealer that offers the Outlander.
Now, for the driving: it's actually quite alright. In EV mode, the Outlander's electric motors do most of the work. That also makes for very smooth driving; electric motors don't have any moving parts apart from the actual shaft compared to an engine which has many valves, pistons, shafts, and other moving components. The logic is simple: more moving parts = more vibration. Let's put it this way: on a long drive with the smooth PHEV, you'll need fewer stops to, uh, pee.
Fuel efficiency, as expected, is superb. On my daily route to and from the office and driving casually (meaning overtaking and the like, activating the engine), the Outlander PHEV was yielding 16.8 kilometers per liter (average speed 21 km/h). And yes, that can still be improved quite handily if I managed how the vehicle was driving in series hybrid mode.
What I wanted to try is to drive the Outlander PHEV on my daily commute on purely electric power. I fully charged it, tried to keep the speed consistent, turned the climate control to maintain a comfortable 24 degrees C, and drove sensibly. The Outlander did the whole 20 km drive without activating the engine in parallel hybrid mode; actually, it still had about 1/4 of the charge remaining. Mitsubishi says it can do 55 km, but there are caveats: the first is traffic, the second is our tropical heat (meaning more intense A/C load), and the third is that it can be stressful to be that mindful of your throttle pressure.
The key here is the goal of the PHEV system, and that's something best explained by the electrification spectrum. The first step is an MHEV like the Geely Azkarra; it runs primarily on fuel but has an integrated generator/motor that gives a power boost when needed or lets the engine rest when coasting.
The next step is an HEV or hybrid like the Corolla Cross, or Prius equalizes (generally) the role of both the electric motor and the gasoline engine for better efficiency.
PHEVs like the Outlander skew the driving roles towards the electric system because you can depart your home fully charged every day with the gasoline engine serving as a back-up for recharging duties or relegates it to higher speed driving. Basically, the PHEV is just one step away from a full EV but doesn't get limited by the lack of charging infrastructure.
Now for the fun bit: the performance. Zero to 100 can be dusted off in just under 11 seconds. The reason is that electric motors are a potent combination with a good sensation of thrust. The front motor makes 60 kilowatts or about 81.5 PS while the rear motor makes 97 PS. But the benefit of an electric drive is you get maximum torque from the system the moment you touch the throttle. If you're not mindful of your pedal pressure, that will surprise you because the front motor has a max torque of 137 Nm while the rear has a max torque of 195 Nm. And that means on an uphill winding road, the Outlander PHEV is enjoyable when it comes to performance. On the downhill, you can take it easy and pop the shifter into B to allow the battery system to recuperate some of that energy more aggressively.
The handling of the Outlander PHEV is alright. I say that because while the propulsion system can move it very easily, it's still a lot of weight to lug around. MHEVs aren't that heavy, but HEVs and PHEVs are very heavy vehicles compared to similar models without hybrid technology. A front-wheel-drive Honda CR-V with a 2.4-liter gasoline engine weighs 1505 kilograms while a Toyota RAV4 with the 4WD system (which we don't have in our market) weighs about 1560 kg. This Outlander PHEV weighs in at 1890 kilos; that's close to the weight of a 4x4 pick-up like a Strada or Navara.
The reason for the weight is because you're effectively carrying two drive systems in one vehicle, plus the heavy battery pack. Mitsubishi did position the battery pack underneath the floor to give a lower center of gravity, but you will feel the weight that can make cornering more challenging than a similarly sized vehicle. Thankfully, the superb electric-drive 4WD system does make up for it with a good grip around the bends.
There are quite a few things that I have to be critical about with this Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. I've already mentioned the weight; thankfully Mitsubishi knows their performance-oriented 4WD systems well. The second is that there's still a bit of noise coming through the doors; by my assessment, it's the windows or the sealing around them that needs improvement. The third is that there may not be enough height in the Outlander PHEV as the ground clearance is just 190mm and the wading capability (a big concern in a country where flooding is common) is just at 400mm. The fourth is that they may have taken too long to introduce this; Mitsubishi launched this last year in the country, but just a few weeks ago they revealed an all-new generation Outlander internationally.
Perhaps the potential dealbreaker is the price. Yes the drive is interesting and it is superbly efficient, but at PHP 2,998,000 it's a hard sell even to longtime Mitsubishi fans (i.e. me). At that price, the vehicle should be more comfortable, more refined, more polished. Import duties, taxes, and exchange rates play a major role in the price of the Outlander PHEV, but still, the price tag sticks out like a sore thumb for a vehicle I really wanted to like.