If you want a plug-in hybrid SUV that can fit a family of five but won’t cost you at least $50,000, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the only game in town. [credit:
Jonathan Gitlin ]
As you’re no doubt bored of hearing—I know I am—the SUV-slash-crossover has ascended to a position of automotive supremacy. Customers, we’re told, like the convenience of a hatch to load their luggage and the lofty driving position that trades center of gravity for situational awareness. In response, companies are cutting back on sedans, the station wagon is almost extinct, only a handful of minivans remain in production, and cars that a decade ago would be called hatchbacks are now classified crossovers. If you want to shift metal in the US then, you better get with that program.
Similarly, it’s clear to all but the most motivated reasoners that business as usual is no longer sufficient when we’re talking about carbon dioxide emissions. Many OEMs—particularly the European ones—thought that diesel engines were the answer. But we all know how that one turned out; time and again car companies have been caught cheating on the tests. Even if suppliers like Bosch say they have the technology to make the engines acceptably clean, public opinion has shifted to the point where the fuel is now simply unpalatable. The answer therefore has to be electrification—it’s the only remaining way for carmakers to meet Europe’s incoming CO2 rules that, if applied today, would see a company like VW Group fined 75 percent of its annual global profits.
All of this makes the relative paucity of plug-in hybrid SUVs on sale in 2019 a rather damning indictment of the industry. Here in the US the pickings are slim, particularly if you don’t want something from a luxury automaker with a price tag starting in the $50,000 range. There’s the Kia Niro PHEV and the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, although neither may be considered big enough by many American consumers… which leaves us with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.