It offers SUV practicality, all-electric capabilities round town, and the kind of fuel economy that would make Toyota Prius drivers green with envy, but the delayed U.S.-market version of Mitsubishi’s highly-popular plug-in hybrid SUV won’t be the same car that car buyers around the rest of the world can’t get enough of.
That’s according to Mitsubishi Motors North America Executive Vice President Don Swearingen and Mitsubishi’s U.S. PR boss Alex Fedorak. Speaking with Autobloggreen earlier this week, the duo hinted that the U.S. version of Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid will “be completely different” to the current non-U.S. version.
Originally due to launch in late 2013 in the U.S., the Outlander PHEV was delayed due to strong demand in Japan coupled with a major recall involving incorrectly-manufactured battery packs. If all goes according to plan, the new vehicle will launch in November 2015 as a 2016 model year car, two years behind schedule.
“The touchy-feeling points we’ve been getting dinged on” will get a restyle, Fedorak explained, hinting that the U.S. version of the plug-in hybrid will be a little less focused on value-for money. Like the Mitsubishi i-Miev electric car — which was given a physical redesign for the U.S. market — expect the 2016 Outlander PHEV to be more geared towards American tastes than the eco-focused Japanese original.
Although the Outlander PHEV only went on sale in Japan in 2013 with European and Australian markets following a year later, the refresh of the U.S. market 2016 Outlander PHEV is likely timed to coincide with an overall restyle for the Outlander brand. Promised for 2016, the restyle will bring the Outlander in line with a new design language being used across Mitsubishi’s SUV family.
But the refresh won’t just be cosmetic. According to Swearingen and Fedorak, the Outlander’s existing plug-in hybrid drivetrain will be tuned to improve fuel economy and refinement. While we wouldn’t call the existing Outlander PHEV unrefined, we do note that its CVT transmission — similar to that used in the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt — is clearly audible roaring to life under hard acceleration.
Sadly, there’s no word on expanded all-electric capabilities, although we hope Mitsubishi considers expanding the Outlander PHEV’s range beyond the 20-25 miles of real-world range we experienced a few weeks back when we borrowed one for a week.
Given how popular the current Outlander PHEV is proving among European buyers, we’re hopeful that the U.S.-market revisions — presumably designed to make the Outlander PHEV more desirable to U.S. customers and to enable it to meet tougher Federal and state regulations on plug-in cars — will help the Outlander PHEV fly off the dealer lots when it is introduced to the U.S. next fall.
We await further information from Mitsubishi with interest. In the meantime, you can watch our first initial thoughts of the Outlander PHEV in our recently-posted Quick Charge, and you’ll be pleased to know our full-length ChargedUp review is on its way — just as soon as we get all that video ingested, edited and uploaded!
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