Plug-in hybrids don’t always get the plaudits they probably deserve, and detractors are many and quite vociferous. But the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GSR PHEV is one of the better options in terms of real-world efficiency.
There’s a reason you look into a hire-car lot at most airports around Australia and see an assembled throng of Mitsubishi-badged vehicles. The price is compelling, the service costs reasonable, and the lifespan almost guaranteed if you take care of said servicing. In other words, Mitsubishis are generally solid value for money.
Despite sales success over the years, the Outlander has never had the media focus of the likes of the RAV4, or the stylistic plaudits of the CX-5. Newcomers have entered the fray and succeeded, and in the meantime the Outlander has kept quietly working away in the medium-SUV segment without too much fuss. Turns out it’s actually a genuinely decent all-rounder.
The Outlander range is nothing if not bountiful – 2WD petrol models start from $29,990, AWD petrol from $34,990, AWD diesel from $41,490 and AWD PHEV from $47,990. Our test GSR PHEV sits in the middle of the three-model PHEV range and starts from $52,490 before on-road costs. In all, buyers have 13 Outlander variants to choose from.
Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid was updated back in late 2020, and the short story from then was a price rise for the ES spec, but increased standard safety tech and the GSR model (as tested here) gaining European-tuned Bilstein suspension. The GSR also features black highlights for the grille, bumpers, mirrors, roof and tailgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights and auto-levelling LED headlights.
We reckon the Outlander GSR looks the part in terms of its exterior styling. There’s hardly anything that sets the pulse racing about the medium-SUV segment in a stylistic sense anyway, but the Outlander does look pretty well executed from any angle.
Standard features (for the range) include smart key, heated seats, ADAS with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, auto high beams, forward collision alert, AEB, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. GSR also gets blind-spot warning, lane-change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and front parking sensors.
The petrol engine is the familiar 2.4-litre four-cylinder, which generates 94kW at 4500rpm and 199Nm at 4500rpm. In addition, there’s a 13.8kWh battery pack that powers two electric motors – a 60kW/137Nm motor for the front, and a 70kW/195Nm motor for the rear. Mitsubishi quotes the combined figures at 157kW and 332Nm. According to Mitsubishi, you get 54km of pure-electric driving – more on that in a minute.
|2021 Mitsubishi Outlander GSR PHEV|
|Engine||2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||157kW at 4500rpm, 332Nm at 4500rpm (combined)|
|Transmission||GKN Multimode automatic|
|Drive type||FWD (petrol engine) AWD (electric motors)|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||1.9L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||9.0L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||5-star rating from 2014|
|Warranty||10 years / 200,000km|
|Main competitors||Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson|
|Price as tested (excluding on-road costs)||From $52,490|
As with any electric vehicle we test, there’s a raft of charging options depending on where you are and what suits your lifestyle. One area PHEVs really do make sense is to simply use a regular power point at home. Given you can execute a full recharge in around seven hours, it’s easily achievable at home overnight.
We always write that if you’re thinking pure electric, you need to set up to charge as fast as possible at home, but a PHEV doesn’t necessarily need any extra infrastructure to be effective.
Inside the cabin, the toned down, blacked-out theme remains in vogue. Piano-black trim is in place, along with a black-accented shift knob, while the black headliner and A-pillar trim contrast nicely with the silver stitching on the armrest, door trim and steering wheel. The seats, which are nicely sculpted, are trimmed in synthetic leather and suede, the driver’s being electric. The eight-speaker audio system works well and is also standard.
Apple CarPlay worked faultlessly for us on test, as did our foray with the Bluetooth connection. The cabin is, at all times, comfortable and insulated, and there’s room for four adults on a long road trip, making the Outlander a practical family SUV even as the kids grow. In general, the Outlander feels quite spacious and airy inside, even with the extra black trim as standard in the GSR. The electric driver’s seat is adjustable through a broad range for all heights and visibility is excellent. Heated front seats are a nice touch.
A little bit less piano black would suit my tastes – I’m not into the visible dust and fingerprints – but that’s a minor gripe. Storage up front is useful and easy to access, and there’s 463L on offer out back with the second row in use. Fold those 60/40 split-fold seats down and it expands to 1602L.
To the earlier point of electric range, we committed to charging up each night at home, so that every day we left home with a full charge. Depending on a few factors such as speed, whether the AC was running, and the vagaries of traffic flow, we saw between 45km and 50km of real-world electric range. And this is where the PHEV makes sense to a broad cross-section of buyers.
The CarAdvice Sydney office is effectively bang on 20km from my front door at home. That means, for the nearly three weeks I spent with the Outlander, I was commuting to and from work purely using electric range. When I topped the tank up at the end of that period, I had used less than $15 worth of fuel.
Admittedly, over that period I had driven other cars on longer weekend drives, so take that into account. I also realise that a PHEV isn’t for everyone, but that level of efficiency for the daily grind is impressive – especially given you don’t really have to change anything with your driving habits.
The long-term average was sitting on 9.0L/100km after we finished our testing, and that’s with more than 3000km on the odometer. Mitsubishi quotes just 1.9L/100km, but keep in mind the first 50-odd kilometres of that test is fuel-free. The argument, therefore, that a PHEV is vastly less efficient than a conventional petrol-powered vehicle due to the extra weight associated with the electric drivetrain isn’t entirely true either.
On longer road trips, one area of compromise is the fuel tank, which only holds 45L. There’s no full-size spare included either, which is a mark against it for long-distance driving. The GSR is quiet and insulated at highway speed, though, with very little wind or road noise entering the cabin, so if you are prepared to stop more often for fuel, the GSR is an excellent road-trip conveyance.
The powertrain can work in three different modes, should you wish to pick and choose what is happening and how. EV Mode forces the electric motors to do the work, then there’s Series Hybrid Mode, which uses the electric motors, but also allows the engine to work as a generator for the battery pack.
Lastly, Parallel Hybrid Mode lets the Outlander work out what it is doing and when, with the internal combustion engine delivering drive to the front wheels. Nail the accelerator pedal and the electric motors fire into life. You can also select between six levels of regenerative braking.
It’s a smooth driving experience, too, with the immediate sensation that regardless of the drive mode, you’ve got plenty of power when you need it. A medium SUV hardly needs to be rapid, but the Outlander is punchy enough to get up to speed snappily.
We’ve taken aim before at the Outlander’s suspension tune – specifically that it could be more proficient on choppy surfaces and more tied down. The GSR PHEV doesn’t have those issues thanks to the Bilstein suspension tune. Front struts and rear shocks have been supplied by Bilstein, and changes to the spring rates have made for a significantly more competent all-round package.
The steering is light most of the time, and could probably do with more heft at speed, but around town it’s tuned to do what’s asked of it. One thing is for sure, it’s effortless to manoeuvre around town, whether that’s at speed or when you’re parking.
The Outlander doesn’t ever feel heavy or boaty, and the conventional brakes – if you choose as little regen as possible – do a competent job of bringing everything back into line. With any kind of modern powertrain, I tend to use as much regen as possible, if only to harvest as much power back as is available. In that instance, you’ll find yourself using the brakes a lot less, and anticipating how and when the Outlander will pull up.
The Outlander is safe – five stars from ANCAP – but that rating is based on testing from back in 2014. There is still, however, a proper array of safety tech included as standard equipment, including ABS, EBD, EBA, AEB with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, lane-changing assist, rear cross-traffic alert, as well as front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
It is covered by a 10-year/200,000km warranty, while the battery is covered by an eight-year/160,000km warranty. Remember the fine print, though, as the servicing must be carried out on time at an authorised Mitsubishi service centre. Service intervals are more than acceptable, too, at 12 months or 15,000km, with an average over the first 10 years of $489/year.
As stated at the start of our review, the Outlander probably flies under the radar a little more than it should. There are newer medium SUVs in the market, and there are SUVs that make more sense in isolated disciplines within the testing that we do. Few, though, offer the value and usability of the Outlander.
It might not be the best, but we found living with the GSR PHEV to be easy and comfortable.