The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV took a remarkably long time to get to the United States. It went on sale in Europe in 2013, and was originally planned to come to America the year after, but didn't arrive until late in 2017. Mitsubishi was also fortunate that, in the time it took to finalize the American model, the entry-level competition remained primarily sedans and sedan-like hatchbacks, with the exception of the Niro PHEV, a crossover smaller than Outlander, and closer to a traditional hatchback. So the question is, was it worth the wait, and is it worth considering against other plug-in hybrids?
A mostly frugal and very smooth powertrain
The big appeal of the Outlander PHEV is of course its plug-in hybrid powertrain. It comprises a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and two electric motors, one up front, one in the rear. This powertrain can function in three different ways. There's full electric mode, series hybrid mode (the gas engine acts like a generator, and propulsion is handled solely by the electric motor), and parallel hybrid (a clutch engages the engine to the front motor for additional propulsion assist). The Outlander switches automatically between these operational schemes depending on drive mode settings. For example, with a full charge you can press a button to keep it in EV mode, at least as long as there's enough battery power. Two other buttons can allow you to save the battery charge for use later, such as in town after a highway drive, and a charge button to replenish the battery level while driving.