Limitations: The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC
The 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC
"A man's got to know his limitations." ---Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in "Magnum Force",  1973

I wanted to like the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) GT S-AWC.  And, in a lot of ways, I do, and have for some time. 

Two years ago, the gasoline-powered version of this machine got me over Donner Pass (and back) in a snowstorm.  Even then, I acknowledged the Outlander's age (despite a new one in 2014, this is very much a 2010-era machine), but the value equation---surefootedness, a reasonably powerful V6 engine and feature content including a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system for less than $35,000---won the day for the Outlander.

Rear 3/4 view of the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC.
But now, the United States gets the Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC.  It has been a hit in Europe---the best-selling plug-in hybrid over there, in fact.  Shorter distances between points and cities that are increasingly banning internal combustion engines in their most congested districts no doubt play a part.

With the Outlander PHEV, you can charge the battery to deliver 22 miles of range, press a "HOLD" button that keeps that electric power in reserve, and then drive it as a pure electric when required or desired.

Folsom to Palm Springs and back (courtesy: Google Maps).
Part of this is my fault---in that the driving I had planned for the eight days we had the Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC was the polar opposite of that.  Mrs. TireKicker and I stretched the three-day Martin Luther King, Junior holiday weekend to six days and escaped the cold and rain of Northern California for fun in the sun in Palm Springs, including a trip to understaffed but open (during the government shutdown) Joshua Tree National Park, and at the end, home through the mountain town of Idyllwild, lunch in Santa Monica and then the straight shot up Interstate 5 to Folsom.

There was no time to charge the Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC before leaving (though it does a remarkable job regenerating through braking),  nor are Quick Charging stations plentiful in the areas where we travelled.  So, apart from building up 15 or so of the 22 miles of pure electric capability the vehicle has through regenerative braking on the back roads to I-5 as we left town,  I drove it as a gasoline-powered vehicle.  And, it did pretty well---averaging about 28.5 miles per gallon during steady cruising on the interstate.

But---the inclusion of the battery pack required space compromises, and one of the Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC's compromises is an 11.3-gallon fuel tank.   Regular TireKicker readers know that I never let the needle drop below a quarter-tank, so what could have, in other vehicles, been a tank to L.A., a tank to and around Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park and back to L.A. and a third tank back to Folsom ended up being nine fuel stops from beginning to end (the map above doesn't take into account the around-the-desert driving done, which added another 600 miles to the odometer).

And the gasoline engine's output of 114 horsepower is severely challenged by mountain roads like the Palms to Pines Highway linking Palm Springs and Idlyllwild. 

Finally, there are limitations as well to the fuel economy provided by the Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC.  If you can charge it daily and drive less than 22 miles between charges, you're golden.  But those 22 miles take a lot longer to get than, say the Chevy Bolt, which can get you 238 miles in a shade over an hour on a DC fast charger.  A full recharge on one of those for the Mitsu is about half an hour, during which the bolt would regain about 110 miles range.

On a Level 2 charger (the more common kind in public spaces and home garages),  the Outlander PHEV takes three and a half hours to gain back those 22 miles.   And on home current---the good, old-fashioned extension cord---you're looking at eight hours.

The EPA puts the MPGe rating for the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC at 74.  Checking TireKicker's Top Fuel Savers on the right side of this page, that's far behind any of the nine vehicles listed.  The Ford Fusion Platinum Energi, also a PHEV, is the lowest at 97.

Interior view of 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC
2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC.
Upsides?  The Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC comes well-equipped, including the 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Audio system with Apple CarPlay and HD Radio.   Mitsubishi has re-designed the front seats, taking them from among the least comfortable out there to among the most comfortable.

It has all the creature comforts we enjoyed so much in the 2017 gasoline-powered Outlander GT S-AWC, but the plug-in hybrid technology affects the price.  Base is $41,495.  Ours also had $295 added to the sticker for Pearl White paint and $135 for carpeted floormats and portfolio.  With $995 destination and handling, that's $42,920.

And at that price, I have to question whether, even if I drove fewer than 22 miles between charges, the Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC makes sense.  It is, at present, the only plug-in SUV out there.  But that's not going to last forever.  On the day competition arrives, even in Europe where the Outlander PHEV does well, its limitations may be its undoing.