You can argue that the current electric vehicle market doesn’t address the consumer demand. While crossover sales soar, you’d be hard pressed to find an SUV you can plug in for EV driving that also delivers the space and utility people want.
So far, only luxury brands from Tesla (the all-electric Model X) and BMW (the plug-in X5) have hit the market, and prices for these models start around $70,000.
But the low end of the plug-in SUV market has started taking shape in 2018. As we wait on the next wave of all-electric SUVs from Hyundai as well as Mercedes, consumers can pick from a few crossovers (two, actually) capable of driving electric.
The list starts with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, a popular model across the globe that only recently landed in America. Here’s everything you need to know about the plug-in hybrid that starts at $34,595 (before incentives), including impressions from a mid-October drive.
1. Standard all-wheel drive, close to 200 hp
Hybrid manufacturers have to find a sweet spot delivering the power drivers need along with the economy they want at an affordable price. The cost of EV batteries makes this an especially tough challenge.
Mitsubishi managed this part well enough. The total output of the Outlander PHEV falls just below 200 horsepower, and it comes standard with super all-wheel control (S-AWC). That gets the most common option SUV drivers add (all-wheel drive) on the board in the entry-level model.
2. Electric driving for 22 miles, 310 miles total range
Of the luxury plug-in hybrids we’ve seen make it to the U.S. market, electric range has been lacking. That’s not the case with the Outlander PHEV, which manages 22 miles of EV driving on a full charge. That’s about the equivalent of the midsize Ford Fusion Energi and a little less than the compact Toyota Prius Prime.
Fuel economy in EV mode (74 MPGe) is solid. When the battery runs out of juice and the gas engine kicks in, you can drive another 290 miles of so before filling up the small (11.3-gallon) tank. That’s fairly limited without being an inconvenience. Economy in regular driving comes to 25 mpg combined.
3. Solid SUV space and cargo capacity
While some plug-in vehicles have struggled with battery placement, Mitsubishi went the correct route of adding the pack beneath the vehicle to avoid compromising interior space. As a result, you get slightly less passenger space but more cargo capacity (78 cubic feet) than the 2019 Nissan Rogue.
Unlike the standard Outlander, the plug-in hybrid does not offer the standard small third row of seating. It seats five, and you can get AC outlets in the cargo hold capable of powering a small refrigerator, stereo, and other electronics.
4. Charging times and protocols
If you routinely drive 20-25 miles a day in this car, you’ll rarely visit gas stations. Drivers can charge the battery on a standard (110v) outlet at home and get the battery to full in 8 hours.
Using the Level 2 (240v) chargers you find at grocery stores and in parking garages these days, you can charge to 100% in 3.5 hours. You can even use a DC-Fast charger to juice the Outlander PHEV (though we’re not sure why you’d go through the trouble or pay for this service). Using that system, you can get to full in 25 minutes.
5. Impressions from behind the wheel
At nearly 4,200 lbs. of curb weight, the Outlander PHEV gives you the impression of lumbering a bit in stop-and-start traffic. However, once you get going in EV mode, this model accelerates smoothly and brings all the enjoyment electric driving will. (With the battery down below 5 miles at the start of our drive, we only got a brief taste of that.)
You can check your battery levels and fuel economy on the 7-inch touch display that comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Push-button start, keyless entry, dual-zone auto climate control, and power seating also come standard in both models. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alerts are two more nice safety features you don’t have to add.
Otherwise, this model performs like you would expect a relatively heavy compact SUV. In terms of length, it matches the Rogue and is slightly longer than the Toyota RAV4, so parking is not a hassle in the plug-in Outlander.
6. Pricing, incentives, and 10-year warranty
Given the advanced safety features and other standard equipment in the base (SEL) Outlander PHEV, you get a solid deal at its starting price of $34,595. If you can claim a tax credit, you’ll knock it down below $30,000 after applying the available $5,836 in federal incentives. State incentives can knock the price down even lower.
Outlander PHEV’s GT model ($40,295) adds on LED lighting, the 2 AC outlets, more safety tech, and other comforts. Meanwhile, no one should sleep on this model’s 10-year limited warranty for powertrain, battery, and electric-drive components. It doesn’t really get better than that.
Overall, the Outlander PHEV is a solid deal for SUV drivers who want to go green without splurging on a luxury model. In fact, outside of the smaller Kia Niro PHEV, it’s the only option consumers have these days.