For good reasons, the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander doesn’t seem to be as appealing as other compact crossovers. Its biggest selling point is its sole selling point. Although we have always loved the Outlander’s plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrain it is now the only one. This means that shoppers cannot get a model without a third row and that the most affordable model now costs more than $37,000. That’s about $11,000 more per year than last year’s base gas-powered model before any federal tax incentives. Because rivals also offer plug-in models like the Ford Escape or the Toyota RAV4 Prime, the Outlander PHEV isn’t as unique as it once was. The 2021 Outlander’s unfashionable interior, unwieldy driving habits and incontinence make it difficult to sell unless you are a fan of the brand that was once a rally racing icon. However, the introduction of a new generation in 2022 could make everything better.
What’s new for 2021?
Although Mitsubishi has already unveiled the next-generation Outlander for 2021, it still has significant updates to make. The Outlander lineup now comes with a plug in-hybrid powertrain. The base four-cylinder engine is gone, as well as the V-6. Because it is not compatible with the location for the PHEV’s battery pack, a third row of seats has been eliminated. This PHEV now has a greater capacity and provides more all-electric driving distance (24 miles versus 22, and the top speed of the PHEV increases from 79 mph to 83 mph when all-electric. The plug-in’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has been replaced by a 2.4-liter version. The PHEV’s total horsepower has increased by 31 to 221 horses thanks to a larger rear-mounted electric motor.
Pricing and Which One To Buy
Mitsubishi’s decision not to make the entry-level model, which is more affordable and non-hybrid, means that Outlander’s value proposition has been lost. However, the Outlander PHEV still qualifies for federal tax incentives which will significantly lower its cost. We recommend the basic trim SEL to keep our investment as low possible, especially since there is a new model. The Outlander SEL is standard with blind spot monitoring, automatic high beams, and a touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Engine, Transmission, & Performance
Only the plug-in hybrid powertrain is available for the 2021 Outlander. The PHEV features a state of the art hybrid system that uses Level 3 fast charging. This system combines a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine with two electric motors on each axle that combine to produce 221 horsepower. This combination makes an all-wheel-drive system that is responsive, but not fast. The PHEV offers different levels of regenerative braking, which can be selected via paddles at the steering wheel. We were close to one-pedal driving even in the strongest setting. We were also impressed by the quiet ride and comfort of the Outlanders that we tested on different roads in southeast Michigan. Their soft suspensions caused excessive body motion, which made cornering difficult. Although Mitsubishi’s all-wheel drive system was designed to improve cornering ability, it felt less poised than its rivals. Its lifeless steering felt more like a relationship with a lonely lover: cold and disconnected, with a twitch of discomfort every now and again.
Fuel Economy and Real World MPG
The 2021 Outlander is slightly more efficient that the previous model year. The EPA rates it at the same 74 MPGe when combined with a mixture of gas and electrical operation. However, the combined rating with the gasoline engine increases from 25 to 26 mpg. These figures are worse than those of PHEV competitors, however. The 2021 RAV4 Prime has a rating of 94 MPGe, and 38 mpg together. The front-drive 2020 Escape plug in is rated at 102 MPGe combined and 41 mpg. We are unable to evaluate the real-world efficiency of the Outlander PHEV since we have not tested it on our 75-mph highway route, which is part of our extensive testing program. Visit the EPA website for more information on the Outlander’s fuel economy.
Interior, Comfort, & Cargo
Although the Outlander’s interior is spacious and not particularly impressive, it does not offer a third row, as opposed to previous models. The plug-in version must have enough space for its battery pack. The cabin is quite quiet, but its old design and few options puts it behind many of its competitors. We were able to fit nine suitcases in the Mitsubishi’s back seat, as well as 26 with the second row stowed. The Outlander’s interior cubby storage is also competitive, according to our testing. There are many competitors that have better center-console functionality, adjustable load-floor heights and superior load-floor functionality.
Connectivity and Infotainment
Don’t be fooled by the Outlander’s standard touchscreen and optional Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability–Mitsubishi’s infotainment system is the opposite of attractive or intuitive. You also lose many features, including wireless charging, that are offered on other competitors. The Outlander can have up to three USB ports, three 12-volt outlets and a few other features that rivals lack. The GT model, however, has a 1500-watt AC power supply that can power LED TVs and other power-hungry devices.