Since its launch in Japan and Europe in 2013 and Australia in 2014, the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid has proven to be one of Mitsubishi’s best-selling cars of recent years, selling nearly 50,000 examples in its first two years on the market.
Like the rest of the Mitsubishi Outlander family — which is getting a mild refresh for the 2016 model year — the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid has been given a few tweaks for the 2016 model year, including a new X-shaped grille and redesigned bumpers front and rear.
Most importantly for U.S. customers, it will debut in the U.S. early next year as a 2017 model year car, the first time the popular mid-sized SUV will be available there.
But while the underlying plug-in hybrid drivetrain remains the same as the previous year’s model, Mitsubishi Motors has announced it has managed to squeeze a claimed 8 percent improvement on fuel economy for the 2016 model year car, raising its fuel economy on the Japanese JC08 test cycle from 18.6 kilometers per litre (43.74 miles per U.S. gallon) to 20.2 kilometers per litre (47.51 miles per U.S. gallon). All-electric range has also been increased by 0.6 kilometers per charge to 60.8 kilometers.
Mitsubishi says that the improved fuel economy is thanks to improved optimization of the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid’s EV system control and a reduction in engine friction in its 2.0-litre gasoline engine. In addition, acceleration is said to be improved over the 2015 model year car, although Mitsubishi Motors Japan has not yet detailed what the new 0-62 mph time is.
While the Japanese JC08 test-cycle is notoriously optimistic in its ratings and unfortunately impossible to replicate in the real world, the tiny improvement in efficiency does show that Mitsubishi has delivered on its promise to refine the Outlander plug-in for the 2016 model year.
That’s something Mitsubishi said was needed to make it more appealing to U.S. customers, as well as the addition of an on-board battery monitoring unit that met with tough California Air Resources Board regulations on plug-in vehicles and tailpipe emissions.
It’s not clear if the Japanese-market version of the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV features that required module, but given Mitsubishi Motors says in its official press release that the Outlander plug-in hybrid has been given “major improvements to the powertrain, body and chassis to deliver better quietness, acceleration, handling and stability, ride and fuel economy,” we’d assume all markets benefit from the same updated electronics.
Other features new to the 2016 model year Outlander Plug-in Hybrid include the inclusion of Multi-around Monitor on all but the entry-level M-trim model, as well as Unintentional Move Off Control System — which prevents the driver from moving the car forwards or backwards if there is another car or detectable obstacle in the way.
At this point of course, we should note that these two features are listed on the Japanese-market Outlander Plug-in Hybrid, and may or may not be featured on European or U.S. models. Given every U.S. car from 2018 onwards must have mandatory rear view cameras as standard however — and most U.S. market cars already offer at least rear-view cameras on all but the most basic trim levels — we suspect all-round vision cameras will make it into a 2017 model-year, U.S.-specific Outlander PHEV.
As for fuel economy? EPA fuel economy tests are far more realistic than either the European NEDC or Japanese JC08 test cycle, so we’d guess a real-world all-electric range of between 20 and 25 miles should be expected, while combined mode hybrid operation will probably yield gas mileages somewhere around 25 miles per U.S. gallon when the on-board 12 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack has been depleted.
While that might not seem like a lot, we’d like to remind readers that the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid isn’t a small family hatchback: it’s a mid-sized SUV with all-wheel drive capability thanks to its twin electric motors and high ground clearance. Admittedly, that’s far less than a fully-electric model, but it’s worth remembering that the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid also comes with on-board CHAdeMO DC quick charging capability as standard, meaning it’s possible to replenish nearly all of those 25 miles of all-electric range in about half an hour from a compatible public charging station.
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