Living up to great expectations

The new Mitsubishi Outlander is wearing a bold new look, one that’s instantly recognizable as part of the Mitsubishi family even from a distance as it shares a blend of visual features from the Pajero Sport and Mitsubishi Eclipse.

A broad chrome garnish borders that bold grille design, which Mitsubishi refers to as the Dynamic Shield. It tapers at the top, underlining the slimline DRLs that extend backward from the grille following the bonnet line, then extends down and across to form a defined ledge over the fog lights, which sit below the distinctive and uniquely placed multi layered LED headlights recessed deep into the front quarter guards, giving the Outlander a purposeful, perhaps brawny, appearance.

With a tapered shoulder line enhanced by the body contour crease running the length of the vehicle, smooth glass, blacked out pillars and the D pillar forming a vertical wing as part of the upright support, it creates a visual impression of a floating roof. The side profile has a handsome somewhat rugged appeal and the back end is nicely stylised with integrated bumper, accentuated by the shape of the LED taillights which wrap around the rear corners and extend into the rear door to complement the Outlander’s husky good looks perfectly.

You are absolutely spoilt for choice; there’s no less than 13 models to choose from. Starting with 4 variations of the AWD Plug-In Hybrid EV, or you can opt for the petrol only 2.5L four cylinder which has 5 different spec levels in AWD capability, plus another four options catering to those who prefer a less expensive 2WD option.

Exterior paint options available for the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid EV include White (Solid), White Diamond (prestige), Sterling Silver (metallic), Titanium (metallic), Red Diamond (prestige), Cosmic Blue (pearlescent) and Black Diamond (prestige).

The Exceed and Tourer spec offer the additional choice of two-tone comprising Black Diamond with Deep Bronze, White Diamond with Black Mica, Sterling Silver/Black Mica or you can have Titanium/Black Mica.

In our garage was the impressive plug-in hybrid Exceed. When it comes to features, Mitsubishi has certainly put together some good options to provide value for money at each price point.

Starting off the EV range is the base ES. In the middle there’s the Aspire, then moving up the line to the Exceed, and topping out with the indulgent Exceed Tourer edition. With respective driveway pricing for EV $61,440 Aspire $68,260 the Exceed rocking $74,040 and the flagship Tourer topping the scales at $76,660,

Both Exceed and Tourer have the 5+2 third row seating option. representing a $15,000 price hike over the EV entry point.

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering whether the increase from the ES to the range topping Exceed Tourer is primarily cosmetic niceties and interior trim details. Mind you, who doesn’t like a little pampering? Or is the value substantiated by additional vehicle and driver management systems included in each upgraded package?

Let’s break it down; starting with the entry point ES, which is certainly not basic with an extensive array of standard safety features covering lane departure warning and prevention, emergency lane assist, blind spot with rear cross traffic alert. Add in forward collision warning and mitigation with pedestrian detection, plus driver attention alert and rear automatic braking to avoid those carpark mishaps and this is stacking up. With active traction, trailer, and vehicle stability control for good measure to keep you safe. There’s also driver, passenger, side, and curtain airbags, plus a center and driver’s knee airbag as well. A comprehensive list in anyone’s terms.

Underpinning the ES are smart looking silver finished 18-inch alloy wheels. With the ES providing hill start and descent control intervention. You get auto high beam, a good rear camera, plus the now common front and rear parking sensors.

On the audio front, there’s a modest 6 speaker sound system, but climate control with rear passenger vents, handy electric mirrors, comfortable cloth seat trim along with convenient one touch fold rear seat storage in a very practical 40:20:40 split configuration. Did I mention the standard inclusions are extensive? This makes the ES an impressive package straight off the showroom floor. Interestingly, there’s no practical EV cable storage bag for either the ES or Aspire, that’s only provided in the Exceed and Tourer variants which seems a little pernickety given it’s an EV.

Following the ES standards, the Aspire introduces several upgrades, such as larger, elegant 20” two-tone alloy wheels, and for creature comfort you get Microsuede trim with synthetic leather bolster. Plus heated front seats with driver’s side power adjustment and soft touch multifunction leather steering wheel and gear shift.

You also get additional driver support features, starting with one of my personal favourites: a heads-up display, plus an electrochromatic rear-view mirror, dusk sensing headlights with automatic levelling and adaptive high beam.

And Mitsubishi has added fog lamps, rain sensing wipers, and the effective stress relieving functionality of multi-around monitor providing a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of your Outlander, perfect for parking and negotiating tight spaces.

You also get additional conveniences like one touch keyless entry, a handy power tailgate, smart wireless charging with not one but two 240V/1500W GPO styled power outlets.

Yes, that means that morning coffee or a toasted muffin is a roadside stop reality!

Our test Exceed builds on the Aspire’s impressive offering, upping the stakes with even more luxury. Let’s start with the capacity to accommodate 5+2 passengers. The rear electric motor is small enough to squeeze in a set of rear seats, granted you lose the floor storage bin as available in the 5-seater. But did you notice I didn’t say seven seats? And the reason is very clear when climbing into the back. It’s for those who want the capability and functionality of a third row but are only likely to need it on the odd occasion—small humans and contortionists will find it perfectly acceptable.

The Exceed audio system transforms from pleasant entertainment into immersing yourself in your favorite soundtracks thanks to the BOSE Premium audio package with nine speakers letting you enjoy both wireless Apple CarPlay and Android connectivity. The perfect complement to open air motoring as you open the panoramic sunroof with a one touch operation. And your rear passengers will appreciate the roll up sunshades to ease the afternoon glare as they set their own individual climate control preferences to gently snooze their way home from lunch at the winery. Of course, let’s not forget the convenience of the hands-free tailgate operation to load those heavy boxes.

You’ll enjoy the opulent leather appointed seat trim in either black or optional grey, allowing you and your partner to find an exquisitely comfortable seating position thanks to the heated and powered driver & passenger front seats with memory for your individual settings. Other little indulgent touches include a unique illumination in the front door trim and an elegant aluminum gearshift trim panel. And for those frosty dark nights, you won’t need gloves as your hands and fingers stay toasty warm caressing the heated steering wheel, knowing your outward visibility is further improved by the stylish front LED headlights and sequential indicators. Both the Exceed and Tourer gain MI-PILOT functionality, including adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist.

And for those who enjoy a little more sporting appeal, there’s the distinctive Outlander LS Black Edition to spice things up.

Not sure you can handle even more splendor and extravagance? Well, for those willing to pay extra for individuality and unique style, the Exceed Tourer delivers the premium experience with a strikingly sharp two-tone exterior body color and contrasting black/saddle tan two-tone leather seating. Front passengers get to enjoy a personal massage, while those sleeping in the back will have no complaints about the soothing warmth radiating through the soft leather as they continue to doze.

Have we caught your attention, cause the Outlander certainly had mine!

With all this splendour, what’s it like to live with? The short version… easy. They say first impressions count, and for me, the Outlander was a pleasant surprise. Granted we had the more indulgent Exceed and I’ll admit I was taken with its quilted leather accents, quiet ride and enjoyable on-road manners. It’s clear that Mitsubishi has placed significant importance upon the Outlander’s interior design and occupant comfort, because this is one area which the Outlander absolutely brings it all together.

The front seating is very comfortable, and there’s plenty of power adjustment with tilt and reach on the steering wheel so both tall and shorter drivers will find their preferred driving position—including memory settings if you’re sharing the driving duties.

The overall presentation is stylish and has a genuine premium look and feel about it. Soft touch material adorns all the human contact points, with provision to accommodate those who enjoy a morning coffee, plus room for the kids’ drink bottles or your favourite gym flask. Device charging is taken care of thanks to a combination of Qi wireless smartphone charging, 2 x 12v sockets, USB ports up front, and USB connectivity in the second row, plus those two innovative GPO style connections I mentioned earlier.

I’ve always been a fan of high-resolution digital instrument displays for clean crisp visuals with the ability to customise the display for personal taste or show pertinent information on the vehicle operation and settings. The Outlander’s 12.3” screen is no exception with large radial displays for engine rpm, current road speed, fuel and temp; while allowing you to choose between navigation information, audio, vehicle driveline operations specific to PHEV variants, including an energy flow meter, kWh consumption information and total EV driving time calculator. Plus, a quick reference for your chosen drive modes, ECO, Tarmac (applying a sportier character to the driving dynamics) Gravel, Snow, and Mud. Aspire and above get the added benefit of a full-colour, 10.8” heads up display. Very handy as it reads and displays current speed sign information just in case you missed it.

Rear seat accommodation is comfortable for two adults, three at a squeeze, and there’s still ample head room with the panoramic sunroof. I like the practicality of the sliding rear seats so you can divvy up additional leg room between second and third row, when in use, to keep the peace, or simply recline the backrest in both rows for longer trips. Parents will appreciate the two ISO-Fix child seat anchorage points, and three child restraint top tethers.

Third row is realistically a kid only zone for anything more than a brief drive. But you’ve got that option if you need it in a clever design. You get 191L behind the third row and that’s only measured to the top of the back rest. The depth is pretty good because you’ve access to the recess normally taken up by the seats, so plenty of room for shopping bags.

Fold the third row into the floor, with one simple lever action and there’s plenty of room for the fur kids, all manner of sporting gear or larger items from the nursery or hardware shop with 461L of space available. Need a longer load area for those awkward large boxed white goods, big screen TV, clothes dryer, dish washer or that theatre surround sound system you’ve been dreaming about.

Then drop the second row for a reasonable 1,387L of spoil yourself shopping capacity. And negotiating your way around multi-story carparks or ludicrously busy shopping malls is a breeze thanks to excellent outward visibility, the 11m turning circle and the great multi around monitor (360-degree cameras) when things get snug.

On the road, the Outlander’s advanced powertrain system uses dual electric motors and a hybrid petrol engine to give you the best possible combination of both disciplines to achieve impressive levels of economy whilst having the ability to deliver smooth strong torque and power from standstill—a desirable characteristic of the modern electric vehicle. The suspension soaks up most road irregularities and the cabin NVH levels are very good, allowing you to enjoy the Bose sound system or hold a normal conversation with your passengers and not have to strain your vocal cords over tyre, engine, and wind noise. This is one interior that allows you to stay calm and relaxed even in stop-start traffic. Steering is nicely weighted and direct enough for confident cornering, as body roll is well controlled with minimal pitch under firm braking. It’s a vehicle that feels balanced and confident to execute a wide range of family duties and looks good doing it.

Being of hybrid design, there are three modes of operation which work coherently together. Mounted on a new platform, it provides this new Outlander with impressive performance and dynamic handling characteristics.

The first being full EV mode, in which the Outlander harnesses the dual electric motors to provide a whisper quiet and exceedingly clean form or transport. This is perfect for stop-start urban environments for low to medium speeds. And it doesn’t take too much imagination to appreciate the environmental benefits in built-up areas with heavy traffic congestion.

The second mode is often referred to as Series hybrid operation. This is where the Outlander will still leverage both electric motors for primary driving duties but will engage the petrol engine as needed to ease load and demand on the battery’s capacity by functioning as a generator producing additional electrical power to supplement the electrical motors’ demands during brisk acceleration or climbing moderate hills. And the change between EV and Series operation is all but seamless.

Last is Parallel hybrid. As the name would suggest, this is when the petrol engine and rear electric motor work together, providing drive to the front and rear wheels, respectively. The petrol engine steps up to take on the hard lifting during higher demands such as passing manoeuvres on the open road. The rear electric motor renders assistance.

It’s the best of both worlds. You gain the efficiencies of the electric motor in stop-start lower speed conditions, ideal for city and suburbia driving, while taking advantage of the petrol engine’s proficient higher speed and sustain load capability, which is why highway fuel consumption for any combustion engine is better than city commuting.

The result is the Outlander has the versatility of delivery responsive and assertive acceleration when needed thanks to its strong torque available from a standstill. Yet around town and in most daily driving conditions, you enjoy the silk smooth serenity and peaceful cabin ambience as the electric motors connected to the 20.0kWh lithium-ion battery pack hum quietly beneath you, for up to 84km of pure electric driving.  

The 2.4-litre petrol Atkinson cycle combustion engine acts primarily as an on-board generator to support the battery and extend the available range when in Series mode, utilising the front 85kW electric motor combined with the 100kW motor at the rear. Plant the right boot to engage Parallel mode and the 2.4L Atkinson petrol motor kicks into life, screwing its 98kW into the black top via the front wheels with the rear electric motor offering additional support for a combined maximum power and torque outputs of 185kW and 450Nm, respectively. 

There’s an indicated combined cycle fuel consumption of 1.5L/100km, given a fuel tank capacity of 56L you’ll enjoy extended range over longer trips.

The big win is thanks to the dual electric motors. Mitsubishi’s all-wheel drive system benefits from the instant torque response, delivering drive to the wheels that can deploy it faster than is possible from a conventional tail shaft driven AWD system. This comes strongly into play when using the different drive modes to optimise the vehicle for the given terrain and conditions. Gravel mode works particularly well, whilst Tarmac is just good fun.

You have six regeneration levels, selectable by the driver through usage of the steering wheel mounted paddles. My preferred option was to use the ‘innovative pedal operation’ mode, accessed via a center console button. This makes it possible to accelerate and decelerate as you press or lift your foot on the accelerator pedal. With a little practice you can become very smooth around corner transitioning from braking to acceleration seamlessly.

When it comes to plug-in charging there are multiple charging modes. Mode 2 utilises a standard GPO 240V AC connection. Mode 3 is for fast 240V AC but requires dedicated Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) and Mode 4 utilises the CHAdeMO port which enables rapid DC charging from a station.

Indicative charging times are as follows:

  • Mode 2 (240V GPO AC domestic): 0 – 100% charge : 12 hours
  • Mode 3 (240AV AC fast with EVSE)” 0 – 100% charge : 6.5 hours
  • Mode 4 (DC CHAdeMO) : 0 -80% charge : 38 minutes

Evaluated on the very latest 2022 ANCAP protocols, the Outlander was awarded a five-star safety rating, demonstrating Mitsubishi’s ongoing commitment to deliver maximum safety for driver and occupants across the entire Outlander range.

The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid EV is covered by Mitsubishi’s market-leading 10/10 Diamond Advantage warranty and capped price servicing program. This comprises a 10-year / 200,000-kilometre manufacturer’s warranty, an eight-year 160,000km warranty on the drive battery plus 10-year capped price servicing, and up to four years complimentary roadside assist.

With striking good looks, the versatility of 5+2 seating, and a comfortable, opulently appointed interior, the Outlander Exceed has a lot in its favour.

Given the ability to glide around town in near silence, operating in the clean environmentally friendly EV mode, and the added range advantage of series mode operation, the Outlander really provides a clever combination of advanced technologies for impressive capability and performance in one package with seamless operation.

When considering my judging criteria for performance, confident on road handling, interior design, fit, finish, functionality and practicality, clever application of technology, driver and occupant safety, economy overall value for money—the Outlander scores well in each category making it a very appealing option for active families.

Model as tested: Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed PHEV

Price: $74,040

  • Engine: 2.4-litre Atkinson four-cylinder petrol.
  • Output: Combined maximum power and torque in parallel mode 185kW and 450Nm, respectively
  • Transmission: Single speed transaxle
  • Fuel: 1.5L/100km
  • Warranty: Vehicle 10-year / 200,000-kilometre; drive battery 8-year / 160,000km
  • Safety rating: ANCAP 5 Stars
Drive Editor - Ray Cully
Drive Editor – Ray Cully

About our Motoring Editor: Ray has been passionate about all things automotive since he first started collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels models when he was five. Since leaving his executive role at General Motors (GM), he’s been sharing his driving experiences with Australian audiences for nearly 20 years, commencing his automotive journalist career with a popular WA-based magazine and was writing his own column in The West Australian for 8 years.

Ray’s strong love of automotive engineering and clever design has seen his articles and photography featured in prominent national magazines in Australia and the UK. He loves sharing his passion with other drivers, including via a long running stint as Senior Instructor for Land Rover Experience, providing training and education for new vehicle owners.

Recently Ray has been presenting on TV shows including Ready for Adventure and the very popular Caravan and Camping WA, to showcase some of the great products, vehicles and companies that make getting out and exploring Western Australia that much more enjoyable.