Mitsubishi Outlander III stormed the European car market and surprised it even more than I was surprised to find out that Bonney M is still active.
Seriously now, Mitsubishi Outlander II was a even more significant hit than Makeba and it’s all thanks to those magical words – PHEV – Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Yes, in 2012, Outlander III was the first hybrid SUV, and that made it sell in industrial quantities, for a smaller manufacturer like Mitsubishi at least .
If until now the Outlander was a reliable off-road vehicle with an interior as well-equipped as a college dorm, the 3rd generation Outlander suddenly became an excellent city SUV. Yes, they also had classic petrol and diesel options, but all the attention went to the hybrid model, and that’s the only one worth talking about, which we’ll do.
You had a range of up to 50 kms / 30 miles in electric mode, which was enough for most people. Because back then those who could afford hybrids lived in their own houses with their own driveway and so they could charge them overnight since it’s a Plug-In Hybrid. Charging stations didn’t exist back then so it pretty much was a privilege reserved for the wealthy. Sure, today the battery no longer has a 30 miles range because only The Office can stand the test of time, but even with a 15 mile range you can still go drive a good chunk of your daily routine solely on electric power. You leave home for work, charge the car at work, and then return home to charge it again. Sure, technically this is free-loading and stealing but hey, as long as it works.
But wait, I haven’t finished yet. Just as there are people who don’t leave the table until all the drinks, theirs and others, are finished, Mitsubishi Outlander III PHEV comes with some innovations.
The first one is that it doesn’t have a gearbox. The hybrid Outlander III has 3 engines – one regular petrol engine and 2 electric motors, one for each axle, with the petrol engine functioning more as a generator for the electric motors when the batteries are depleted and it takes over the traction only when speed exceeds than 20 mph. How does it do that? Through the Power of Love, like Fist of the North Star‘s Kenshiro once said. No, not that. With the help of a low range gearbox and a flywheel.
Another industry first is that it was one of the first (or among the first) SUVs with an electric 4×4 system, which today is commonly known as E-AWD. You have two electric motors, one for each axle, so each axle has its own power source (which unfortunately isn’t smoke generating). And when you think that this technology only became widespread around 2020 on the Yaris Cross and other small things.
Are there any drawbacks to this engine? Yes, but I have to write something in the engine section as well.
Mitsubishi Outlander III Engines
- 2.0 MPI 4J11 of 150 horsepower – Starting off with a 2 litre naturally aspirated petrol engine that doesn’t necessarily cope with the body. They could have sold the 2.4 petrol engine from the previous model in Europe aswell, but then they probably would have competed with the hybrid, although I don’t understand exactly why. In any case, this engine is as economical as you’d expect.
- 2.4 MPI 4J12 and 4B12 of 170 horsepower – Not outside Europe though, as the old 2.4 4-cylinder naturally aspirated from the previous Outlander lives on, in pretty much every place outside Europe. Now we’re talking, as this engine is adequate for the job and it might suffer only from oil and spark plug consumption later in life, but that’s about it.
- 3.0 MPI 6B31 of 217 horsepower – Normally found under the bonnet of the Pajero and the Montero, this engine was available in some parts of the world on the Mitsubishi Outlander aswell. Mostly in the parts of the world were there freedom ain’t free and there’s no replacement for displacement. Somewhere late in life you will have to replace the engine rockers and the oil pump but that’s about it.
2.3d 4N14 of 150 horsepower – If you go through ads you’ll see that the diesel Outlander III is temptingly cheap. And you’ll make a bigger mistake buying one than I did when I downed a bottle of Tesco’s finest. All that I remember is that I woke up the next day in my bed, with the wall redecorated. And that’s because the 2.3 diesel is no longer the legendary PSA 2.2 unit, but Mitsubishi’s own recipe. Their own recipe has pretty big issues with the balance shaft, and the repair costs easily rival half the value of the used car’s value.
- 2.0 Hybrid 4J11 of 163 horsepower – After discussing so much about the hybrid engine, now I have to talk about its weak points. And there are two significant issues here. The first one is that after the electric range is depleted, you switch to petrol and the 2.0 naturally aspirated engine will get worse mpg than the regular version because it has to carry more weight around and because it doesn’t have a regular gearbox. The second significant issue is the complex technology, which no one can repair reasonably priced. So if you have the slightest thought of using this SUV outside the city then you might want to pass this one, which makes it a large urban SUV, which was a surprisingly big customer niche.
- 2.4 Hybrid 4J12 of 163 horsepower – 2018 brought a facelift and with that they mended the lack of power of the 2 litre so it got replaced with the old 2.4, but the fuel economy issue persists like mold or chewing gum stuck on the sole. The hybrid is indeed limited to the city life.
Mitsubishi Outlander III Common Issues
- It’s a thin car in terms of quality and options list. The windshield is one of those very thin elements, so be careful and stay away from tarmac or traffic or anything.
- Another component thinner than a summer festival band’s wardrobe is the soundproofing. This shouldn’t surprise us however as it’s a common issue with JDM cars.
- Just like with JDM cars, the interior is very cheap. Yes, the whole point of the Outlander is of a reliable workhorse, but the sort of person who buys an Outlander III doesn’t want cheap and glossy plastic and doesn’t want to be left with the charging port in hand.
Verdict Mitsubishi Outlander III
Mitsubishi Outlander III certainly remains a memorable car, or the PHEV edition at least. One of the first hybrid SUVs and one of the cars that fundamentally changed our perception of hybrids. Until then there was the Toyota Prius, which showed us that hybrid cars can be good, but they are essentially practical and economical wheeled washing machines. Then came the Outlander PHEV which showed us that you can have an SUV hybrid, an SUV that you can drive around the city all day without using petrol. Up to 30 miles when the battery was new atleast. And for this reason, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV remains a memorable car in history. Is it worth buying one in 2023, though? It depends only on how much life the battery still has and if you are willing to pay for its refurbishing. And if you can find specialists for this.
Which engines do I recommend? Honestly, they should have only sold the Outlander in the PHEV version, regardless of whether we’re talking about the 2.0 or 2.4 engine. If you’re not into hybrids, then the 2.4 naturally aspirated petrol is the next best thing.