By Aaron Turpen, automotive writer
In my career as an automotive journalist, I have driven a lot of cars, trucks, and SUVs. I’ve driven them in the snow, on race tracks, on frozen lakes, in the pouring rain, and in the high heat of the desert. I’ve driven in sand, dirt, mud, on rocks, and through streams. Never have I met a small family sport utility as perfect for Wyoming as the new Mitsubishi Outlander in its plug-in hybrid format.
And that’s saying something. I don’t normally endorse in unequivocal terms like that. I like lots of adjectives and flowing verbiage. Not with this one.
The 2023 Outlander PHEV was fully redesigned for 2023 and combines the best of two worlds. It’s an electric vehicle, in that it can go a short distance (about 20 miles) with its electric motors alone, and a gasoline-powered vehicle.
Unlike a traditional hybrid like the Toyota Prius, a plug-in hybrid can operate as a fully battery-electric vehicle for some distance before needing the engine and can be plugged into the wall to replenish the electrics.
This makes driving around town cheap and easy most of the time, requiring only the battery and a few cents in electricity to do so. The rest of the time, the convenience of gasoline covers it.
Under its hood, the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (which stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that’s paired with two electric motors (one on each axle).
A 20 kilowatt hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery resides under the Outlander’s floor, offering those miles of electric-only driving.
That battery charges in about 7 hours from a standard 120-volt household outlet and in about 3-4 hours from a 240-volt plug.
Even when the battery is out of juice, the motors still receive some power from the engine’s alternator and remain active while driving. Combined together, the 2.4L engine and electric motors output 248 horsepower and a smooth 332 pound-feet of torque.
That latter number matters because, well, that’s what gets a vehicle going. Having a chunk of that torque (nearly half) come from the electric motors means that there is a lot of umph from the get-go. That’s a good thing. It means leaving the light or pushing up the freeway onramp happens with confidence. By the time the engine really gets revved up to full output, the motors have already gotten the Outlander along nicely. And with high efficiency.
A trio of things make the 2023 Outlander PHEV my favorite choice for Wyoming drivers looking for a mid-sized option: great warranty, the best bad-weather all-wheel drive I’ve seen, and three rows of seating.
To start with, there’s the Outlander’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. It’s also got a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a five-year roadside assistance warranty with no mileage limit. Alongside a 7-year/100,000-mile anti-corrosion warranty. Hard to match that with any other automaker. The only thing close is the similar warranty offered by the brands from South Korea.
Mitsubishi’s Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system is a marvel of all-weather excellence. This system offers better torque vectoring and wheel-slip control than any other I’ve tried.
I’ve driven this system on frozen lakes in Breckenridge, on the snow-covered roadways of southeastern Wyoming, and in the heavy sheets of rain at the riverside in Iowa. It never blinks, rarely slips, and always holds things steady. And in the dirt? Let’s just say that there’s a reason Mitsubishi is always a hard contender to beat in rally racing.
Lastly, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is one of the very few small utilities offered with a third row option. There’s no such option in the Toyota RAV4, the Nissan Rogue (which dropped this option a few years ago), or the Chevrolet Trailblazer. Though cramped, the third row does give a lot more flexibility in use.
The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has an adequate interior that is well-appointed with comfortable first and second-row seating. Cargo space is a little smaller than with some other vehicle options, but is plenty for the family the Outlander is sized for. And its safety systems are all advanced, standard equipment, and don’t nanny like some others will.
So what’s the downside to the Outlander? Well, it’s not made in America. But keeping in mind that the most Made in America vehicle is actually a Honda and that Mitsubishi pays a heavy tariff (called the “chicken tax”) to import the Outlander, that issue may be less a problem than one might imagine. Unlike the “American” brands that make much of their product in Mexico or Canada and import without tariffs thanks to NAFTA, it’s a little difficult to find justification for disliking one brand over another just because of its country of origin.
Outside of that one problem, which might be a dealbreaker for some, I found no issues with the Mitsubishi Outlander. I drove it for a week as a daily, toting kids to school, getting through the February winter weather we had this year, and generally just using it as intended.
In short, I found the Outlander PHEV to be exactly what small SUV buyers in Wyoming can use. It gets my full endorsement.
The 2023 Outlander starts at about $27,500 plus delivery, the PHEV model at about $40,000.
Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.