Back in September 2018, John from Drive Life tested out the Mitsubishi Outlander VRX PHEV, and overall he was pretty impressed, giving it a 4.5 chevron rating. High praise from the man who has an Audi RS6 as a Daily Driver.

Then in December, I had to drive from Wellington to Auckland and back – and was lined up to take the Outlander VRX diesel on that trip, then keep it for a week. That plan didn’t happen, so Mitsubishi teed me up with the base LS 2.4-litre petrol model, then switched me into the VRX diesel for a few weeks when I got back.

No sooner had I got out of the VRX, and there was an Outlander PHEV waiting for me to use for three weeks over the Christmas break.

What could be better than that? Comparing the base model petrol, to the top-spec VRX diesel, then into the ‘base’ PHEV, plugin hybrid?

And so this is a story about my drive in the PHEV over Christmas, and comparing it to the other two models.


The Deal

First off, let’s talk about cost. The XLS ‘base’ model of PHEV has an RRP of $60,990, which is around $5K more than the top-spec VRX diesel ($56,990). The RRP of the VRX PHEV is $67,990. If you were in the market for an SUV, then the price difference over the diesel might really sway to you avoid that PHEV – that’s an $11,000 difference, and you lose two seats in the process.

But here’s the thing; Mitsubishi NZ have been running a special for a while now, with the XLS PHEV priced at $50,990 and the top-spec VRX PHEV priced at $55,990 – a grand cheaper than the VRX diesel.

Unless you absolutely need seven seats, your choice of SUV just got a whole lot harder.

Having driven both – which is better? A shame we didn’t get the VRX PHEV to compare apples and apples, but hey – we know what the specs are – you can read them here, in my review of the VRX diesel – so on the whole, doesn’t matter at all.

I covered 1,600km in the base model petrol, another 500km in the VRX diesel, then 850km in the PHEV – one Outlander after another. I think that gives me the edge in calling this fight, and deciding on the winner.


The Drive

When I picked up the PHEV, I did notice I was missing a few things that I liked in the VRX diesel, like heated seats and an electric tailgate. But I survived the hardship. The XLS-spec PHEV has most things you need, although blind spot monitoring was sorely missed.

One item I liked over the VRX was the suede/leather seats. I found the black leather in the VRX cooked my butt sometimes, after getting back into the car on a hot day. Not so in the PHEV – suede is always a great option for the centre of the seats, at least.

Another thing is does have that is needed is adaptive cruise control. However, like in the VRX, it beeps when a car pulls into or out of your lane when you are using adaptive cruise, which can become annoying.

But what about the PHEV side of things? There’s only a small capacity battery in the Outlander PHEV – just 12 kilowatts. Compare this to the Prius Prime at 8.8kW, and the Outlander PHEV looks much bigger. But with that extra weight, fully charged will take you 54km, according to Mitsubishi. But if it’s hilly or you hit the motorway, expect this figure to drop pretty quickly. You can adjust the regenerative braking amount using the paddles though, and this is always a good feeling, scoring some free power from going down hills. But you never get the same amount of range back that you used going up the hill.

While you can adjust the brake regen using the paddle shifters, you can also use the funky and cool gear lever. I do prefer this gear lever over say the Toyota Prius Prime; it’s much simpler and you can switch between drive/reverse etc without looking down. But I do wonder why you’d use the gear lever to change your brake regen, when it’s right there on the paddles. I think dropping that function from the gear lever would make things even simpler.

So, going up and down hills kills your range – big time. We live in Wellington, so that must factor into the buying decision quite a bit? Not really. In the first week and a half, we didn’t use any petrol at all. Not a drop. Every trip, I pushed the EV button to force the car to use battery only, no matter how hard I pressed the accelerator down.

Why didn’t we use any gas? We didn’t do long trips, and any motorway driving was short, so we always got home on a single charge.

A shame though that the Outlander PHEV doesn’t remember you had it in EV mode when you got out of the car – you have to manually select it every time you start the car. Ditto for the brake auto hold function – it doesn’t remember the setting you left it in. To be fair, not many cars do remember this, but it’s so handy when they do. Just to have a setting in the menu system to be able to force the car to remember things like this would be nice.

After a week and a half of driving around town, we hit the highway to go to Waikawa, a 200km round trip. We left home with 47km of full battery charge, and the engine started when we hit 33km from home – the motorway took all our juice. By the time we got home again, our EV ratio (of which we were proud when it stood at 100%) was sitting on 61%, and we had used fuel at 5.5l/100km.

That’s still a good number for a larger SUV, but not quite the claimed 1.7l/100km.

A few days later we hit the road again, this time heading to Castle Point, a 350km round trip. I must say, the handling on the petrol or diesel Outlander is very good – better than it should be – but the PHEV model is better again. We were following a late model Prado on that windy road, and he was all over the place, using up half the other lane at times to get around corners. We stayed on our side of the road the entire trip, and could have easily outpaced him.

I barely used my brakes at all on that road, using brake regeneration instead, and I’m am sure we could have taken most of the corners at double the posted advisory speed, if we had wanted to.

It may be only a small battery pack, and I’m guessing here, but that low-down weight of the PHEV seems to make it handle better than the petrol or diesel version.

On getting home from Castle Point, our fuel economy was 5.8l/100km, and our EV ratio had dropped to 52%. One thing I picked up on in my time with the PHEV, is that when using the adaptive cruise control, the car will turn off the regen setting you have on for the brakes, which is fine, but when you take adaptive cruise off again, it doesn’t put the setting back on. Not the end of the world, but I always drive with max regen, so found myself turning it back on quite regularly.

When John reviewed the VRX Outlander PHEV, he managed to get 69% EV out of it, and covered 1000 km with 398km of petrol still left in it. I did 850km, and had to put petrol on it.

So it all depends on use, as anyone would guess.

As is always the case with a hybrid, or plug-in hybrid, it’s the short trips where they shine. And let’s be honest, most of us do short trips anyway. This is why John got such a good result, and how we managed to get away with a week and a half of not using any petrol. This is the case with the Outlander PHEV too, but in this case you get a medium-large SUV and all the practicality that goes with that.


The Verdict

I shouldn’t have suggested I could call a winner on this one, and I hate to do this, but…it all depends.

Need seven seats? The PHEV won’t be on your list.

Need to tow? The PHEV won’t be on your list, with a maximum braked tow rating of 1,000kg.

But if those two things don’t factor in, I’d be going for the PHEV. A VRX model at a grand less than the diesel? No brainer.

Yes, yes, it wasn’t as economical as I thought it would be, or hoped it would be. But it has the potential to be very economical.

I see the Outlander PHEV won the 2018 DriveLife Eco Warrior award – and it deserves it. If you don’t want to spend $75,000 on the Kona EV and need more space than that – it’d be very hard to go past the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

So what about the base model petrol vs the VRX diesel? That’s a big price difference, and let’s be honest – you would probably be comparing the base model petrol to the base model diesel, but I’ve got to say, I was extremely impressed with the 2.4-litre petrol XLS Outlander – another Outlander I could easily live with.

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


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