Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: Off-Road and On-Track Prowess…Who Knew?

When I think of the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, a couple of thoughts come to mind:

  • It’s very handsome and features a well-appointed luxe interior
  • It’s efficient, with the Plug-in Hybrid offering 38-42 miles of pure electric range, 420 miles of range when fully charged and fully fueled, and over 64 MPGe when in hybrid mode
  • It’s well-priced – starting MSRP is just under $40,000. Even with full trim, the premium MSRP is just under $50,000 – very reasonable in today’s auto market

What I don’t think about is on-track and off-road prowess. In a Mitsubishi?

In all fairness to the brand from Tokyo, Japan, Mitsubishi’s history in the fastest off-road track – Rally Car Racing – is legendary. Think Lancer Evolution, once a production car for the brand.

Squaring up against other rally supercars from Peugeot, Ford, Lancia, Audi, Subaru, Toyota, and Citroën, among others, The Lancer Evolution carved out a solid place in the history of Rally Car Racing, with multiple World Rally Championship titles.

2001 WRC Champion Lancer Evolution

But that was then, and this is now. And now means a vehicle that appeals to a Sport Utility-mad U.S. market. If you don’t have a variety of SUVs in your lineup, you don’t matter in the U.S. So gone are popular Mitsubishi nameplates from the past, including Diamante, Eclipse, Starion, Galant, Lancer, Mirage, Montero, and more.

Today, it’s Mirage, Eclipse Cross, Outlander, and Outlander PHEV. A big fall-off from the brand’s glory days, but these are four very solid offerings as Mitsubishi is still in the game and getting better year after year.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville has dual significance for this story. It’s the U.S. headquarters for Mitsubishi, and it’s where the brand held the press launch for the 2023 Outlander Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV).

Since its global debut in 2012 as the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV, and its subsequent U.S. debut in 2018, the Outlander PHEV has gone on to become the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrid SUV.  The all-new 2023 model adds to it the next generation of Mitsubishi’s vaunted Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel drive system, wrapping the whole package in the handsome bodywork of the new Outlander.

Head for the Hills!

To showcase the surprisingly varied personalities of the Outlander PHEV, we headed to the hills to the northeast of Nashville. After traveling along winding roads, we arrived at Getaway Dale Hollow. Set in the forests of Moss, Tennessee, Getaway Dale Hollow is spread out over 415 acres with cabins nestled along a ridge overlooking a majestic forest. The vast campground offers a trio of onsite hiking trails and is a day trip to Standing Stone State Park with miles of trails that lead to secluded forests, beautiful wildflowers, and flowing streams.

The property offers 40 tiny cabins or sheltered outdoor sleep areas for the brave at heart.

Getaway’s founder, Jon Staff, grew up in rural Minnesota with most of his childhood spent outdoors. On the heels of a demanding startup job, Jon found himself burned out and longing for the role nature played in his youth. He quit and left the city behind in a 26’ Airstream trailer to take time to reflect. And that led to the creation of Getaway.

Getaway Outposts are designed to be more than a destination, but a way to create distance from the relentless demands of work, schedules, and technology.

With 15 Outposts and counting, Getaway offers simple escapes to nature within two hours of major cities across the country — inviting guests to savor their free time, find balance through disconnection, and enjoy the company of those who matter most.

Getaway’s tiny cabins were great. All 6’9” of me fit well in the elevated platform bed with amazing window views. With air conditioning, a Bluetooth speaker for entertainment, a shower in which I could actually wash myself without kneeling, and a full kitchen, I could get used to staying there.

What I cannot ever get used to are the critters that call such environments home. Getaway offers common sense rules since bears, coyotes, and snakes are a natural part of the very rural environment. No thanks. I did not sit outside and roast smores over my personal firepit equipped with a pair of Adirondack chairs. My idea of camping is looking out of a five-star hotel window to the campground below!

Outlander Versatility

During a great outdoors dinner co-hosted by Gathr Outdoors, an Outlander PHEV, with its standard 1500-Watt, 115-volt AC socket in the hatchback area, powered all of the lights at dinner, and also powered those same lights along with a professional barista coffee machine at breakfast the following morning.

So, during camping, or during an emergency at home, you can run lighting, recharge phones, cook on an electric cooktop, or use a small heater to keep you going.

Gathr Outdoors is a family of brands: Cascadia Vehicle Tents, GCI Outdoor, KLYMIT, ORCA, Pride Sports, and WaterPORT portable shower gear.

The company is committed to making spending time together outdoors more comfortable and convenient. The company’s mission during our experience was to demonstrate how the right gear – including the right vehicle – can help us reconnect with nature. Gathr CEO Keith Bornholtz was on-scene during our camping adventure and had on display cool items like special GCI Outdoor chairs and cool ORCA drink mugs to enhance our experience.

 

Books get better when relaxing in a GCI Outdoor portable chair!

Racetrack and Off-Roading?

Yes. A racetrack and off-roading experience was a super highlight of our three-day experience.

After departing Getaway Dale Hollow, we had a two-hour drive to the Polecat Training Center in Fayetteville, Tennessee, a world-class facility with beginner and advanced racing schools for students of all ages and experience levels. They also conduct military and law enforcement driver training. Additionally, the vast area afforded Mitsubishi the opportunity to create a challenging off-road course to showcase the surprising unpaved road prowess of the Outlander PHEV.

First up was the on-track experience.

So, the Mitsubishi Senior Director of Communications and Events in the U.S., Jeremy Barnes, fancies himself as a race car driver. Actually, he is, with decades of pro-circuit race experience.

 

Jeremy Barnes at the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Photo by DSPORT Magazine

So we knew JB could handle his business on the Polecat circuit, the question was could the Outlander PHEV do the same? The awesome circuit at Polecat Training Center would be the judge.

In a lead-follow configuration, we headed out onto the track. Via radio, Jeremy talked us through the muti-turn, multi-elevation course with speeds increasing over a couple of laps.

Barnes with a Verstappen-like lead on us racing neophytes!

Yes, Outlander PHEV handled its business in impressive fashion, with almost no body lean through fast corners, and the supplied Bridgestone All-Season tires were also up to the task. We activated “Tarmac” mode for enhanced track grip, and also utilized “Innovative Pedal Operation Mode” (works like one-pedal driving) so we could focus on the crisp line Jeremy carved, instead of worrying about braking points. It should be noted that Outlander PHEV’s standard AWD is regulated by Mitsubishi’s legendary Super All Wheel Control system (S-AWC). The system was the backbone of success for the Evo rally supercar, and the system in the new Outlander is the next generation. It features three motors: A gasoline 2.4-liter engine up front, and a generator and electric motor attached to the gas engine. At the rear, a single electric motor completes the AWD system.

S-AWC controls driving and braking forces at all four wheels to improve vehicle dynamics. The system uses Longitudinal Torque Distribution, Lateral Torque Vectoring, and 4-wheel Brake Control tuned for all road surfaces, weather and a reduction in driver fatigue – especially during cross-wind events; and while driving on crowned roads which create untoward chassis motions in lesser, non-S-AWC-equipped vehicles.

After a cool-down lap, we headed into high grass for the off-road portion. While it wasn’t the famed Rubicon Trail, it really showcased the myriad abilities of the Outlander PHEV- emergency or outdoor power generator, track-worthy, gravel hill climber, and luxe-road cruiser. Of course, we used the mode selector again to select the proper off-road settings radioed to us by Jeremy (Gravel/Unpaved Road setting). We also engaged Hill Descent Control which allowed the Outlander to crawl downhill at a mph setting we chose (5 mph) to descend without our foot on the accelerator.

The Road to Nashville

After an afternoon of fun, we headed to Nashville for fine dining and an evening of fun in Nashville’s famed Broadway Street  District. Our drive to Nashville through beautiful scenery gave us the chance to really enjoy all of the luxury features inside the Outlander PHEV, including the dynamic nine-speaker Bose premium audio system.

When we arrived in Nashville, 1 Hotel served as our luxury respite, and the room and service were up to the task of pleasing guests.  The bonus is the hotel is just a short walk to Music City.

Outlander PHEV sits well in front of the luxury 1 Hotel in Nashville

But first, dinner at “Yolan,” where Michelin-starred chef Tony Mantuano served up fine Italian dining, curated expressly for Mitsubishi’s dinner gathering.

Fine dining at Yolan

È stato un pasto fantastico!

After our superb culinary experience, it was time to don some blue jeans, a cowboy hat, and some boots to get our Honky Tonk on along Nashville’s famed Broadway Street, known for its live music venues, bars, and nightlife.

In the 1940s and 1950s, country music went mainstream, and Nashville became known as the “Music City.”

Broadway has been revitalized with new developments, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues opening up alongside the traditional honky-tonks.

It’s one of the nation’s top tourist destinations with music fans and locals enjoying the nightlife.

Well Done, Mitsubishi

We enjoyed our time with the Mitsubishi Communications and Events team and the company’s excellent 2023 Outlander PHEV.

It combines great handling and fuel efficiency with a very well-appointed cabin. While a seven-seat Sport Ute, the third row is really designed for small children or adults under the five-foot height mark.

Safety is also a major priority for Mitsubishi across all model lines, and our SEL trim tester was outfitted with 39 safety systems/components that helped the Outlander PHEV earn TOP SAFETY PICK status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). IIHS is widely viewed and respected for its impartial and thorough crash safety testing program.

With a base price just over $40,000, and a fully loaded price just under $50,000, the 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV represents an outstanding buy in the Sport Utility Vehicle segment.

Outlander PHEV’s Luxe interior