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Car and Driver: How Soon Is Now: Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid Delayed To Summer 2017

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2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

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The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) has been delayed. Again.

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For Mitsubishi, it’s yet another product-cadence shuffle in an unfortunate chronic procrastination pattern in the U.S.  The embattled brand desperately needs a halo vehicle in America, to expand its current buyer base beyond frugal types and the subprime set. With the Lancer Evolution in retirement, driving enthusiasts who look to the brand as having a heritage rooted in performance models feel written off indefinitely. And now the brand’s best hope for getting more affluent shoppers back into Mitsubishi showrooms has been pushed off to the horizon yet again.

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Mitsubishi Motors North America spokesman Alex Fedorak provided us this latest statement about the model’s rollout, which now will be almost certainly furloughed until the 2018 model year (even though the brand’s consumer site still lists it as a 2017 model): “Following a thorough evaluation process, we have determined that in order to meet a level of competitiveness that will exceed customer expectations in the United States, the launch of the Outlander PHEV will be delayed until the summer of 2017.”

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The model already had been postponed once this year. Company officials had been anticipating that the plug-in would reach U.S. dealerships this summer, with the arrival of a mid-cycle refresh for the Outlander lineup, but things had changed by spring, when Mitsubishi showed the Outlander PHEV in cosmetically correct form—albeit as a prototype—at the New York Auto Show and then announced an on-sale date of November.

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Tuned for America

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With the long delay, the brand continues to promise a vehicle that’s tuned for America. Fedorak said that it will have “better driving characteristics and more features.” As of the New York show, a number of details—including the Outlander PHEV’s battery pack—were still subject to change for the U.S.

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The Outlander PHEV was introduced at the 2012 Paris auto show, and originally went on sale in Europe in 2013. There, it’s become a surprise hit; it was the bestselling plug-in model on the Continent in both the 2014 and 2015 calendar years, with well over 30,000 sold in 2015, and three out of five Outlanders sold in plug-in-hybrid form.

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That may be part of the reason the model never arrived Stateside beginning in 2014—when it was originally anticipated—because it’s definitely under more pricing pressure. And the price tag is part of the reason why, when it goes on sale here, the PHEV won’t include CHAdeMO Level 3 fast-charging hardware.

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Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid electrified systemsThe PHEV is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors—one of them operating independently at the rear wheels, with no mechanical connection. Mitsubishi claims that this is one of the few plug-ins that will allow some measure of off-roading and even water-fording. It’s already well-regarded for drivability in Europe, and its all-electric range is anticipated to be around 20 miles for the U.S. market, from a 12-kWh battery pack.

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The move to delay and retune the model could be aimed at achieving a higher official EPA driving range, or perhaps Mitsubishi is attempting a higher-capacity battery (and eligibility for a higher federal tax credit). In this era of sub-$3.00 gas prices and some surprisingly low resale values for electric cars like the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and even generally lauded (though sometimes misunderstood) plug-in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt, the challenge for Mitsubishi will be to balance driving range, gas mileage, and price in a way that adds up to real value for consumers.

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As it stands, the PHEV’s closest rival may end up being a model that wasn’t even on the map when it was first expected in the market: the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in hybrid minivan with nearly 30 miles of all-electric driving. That is, if the Outlander arrives when Mitsubishi says it will.

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