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Auto review: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is plug-in, off-road ready

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

Many potential buyers won't care about those mpg or mpg-e numbers. They'll be more interested in knowing the PHEV status qualifies the Outlander for HOV access.

On the road, at the low speeds allowable on Catalina Island's few paved roads, the Outlander felt solid and planted. The "super all-wheel control" creates the feel and maneuverability of a smaller car -- allowing for a very tight turning radius and nimble feel while cornering.

Climbing the steep dirt roads, the five-seater was smooth and quiet. The suspension smoothed out the washboard and potholes. It was often difficult to tell when the gasoline engine was engaged and when we were in all-electric mode.

One of the Mitsubishi guides had told us that Catalina, beyond the little harbor town of Avalon, was completely uninhabited, and that we could expect to see bison, foxes and possibly deer running free.

We did. One great shaggy buffalo was loitering by a shimmering water hole, like a paid background artist abandoned by the movie company that brought the bison to the island in the first place.

We caught a more fleeting glance of a furtive island fox -- scientific name Urocyon littoralis -- representative of a species native to Catalina and the surrounding Channel Islands.

Though we scanned the cactus-dotted hills for more wildlife, we saw only the occasional hiker or cyclist until we were nearly back into Avalon. I spotted a broad-antlered deer taking the shade behind the city's stately hillside bell tower.

By then, we had been exposed to more of the PHEV's attributes. At a photo stop at scenic Shark Harbor, the Mitsubishi people were demonstrating the PHEV's ability to use its battery pack to run a plug-in appliance -- such as sound systems, entertainment systems or, in this case, a blender for making roadside smoothies.

Mitsubishi has set the suggested retail price low on the two trim levels for the Outlander PHEV, hoping to draw car shoppers looking at the more expensive BMW X5, Volvo XC90, Mercedes-Benz GLE or Porsche Cayenne.

(Those shoppers in the future may be looking at the just-announced 2019 Range Rover P400e Plug-in Hybrid, too).

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