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2023 Mitsubishi Outlander Phev V Ford Escape Phev Comparison 01

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV vs Ford Escape ST Line PHEV comparison review

Two plug-in hybrids that provide immunity to range anxiety

9 Oct 2022

Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV has proven popular with Australians, and now there's a new second-generation model. Ford, too, has joined the fight with its first local plug-in hybrid – the Escape PHEV. How do they compare?

The news story highlighting ‘The problem with new cars’ caused the expected stir on Facebook.

‘New cars’? EVs, presumably. But the car pictured wasn’t new, nor an EV. It was a several-year-old first-gen Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Its owner had run a long extension cord from their house to charge the PHEV, which was parked on the street. Like most of us, they’re probably just dealing with high fuel prices and the spiraling cost of living.

Oh, the outrage! Yet what really stood out from the comments was how little awareness the average non-Wheels-reader has about not only plug-in hybrids, but EVs, hybrids and the sustainable motoring big picture.

That’s not too surprising. The Outlander PHEV debuted in 2014 as the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV and even now with EVs just gaining traction, the distinction between plug-ins, regular hybrids and those nasty ‘new cars’ is still easily lost.

NEW, October 2022: Outlander PHEV long-termer arrives!

Inwood has transitioned out of the petrol Outlander and into a new Outlander PHEV. Get that long-term diary here.


Specs: The on-paper fight

The basics

The newly arrived second-gen Outlander PHEV, as part of the fourth-gen Outlander range, represents a solid upgrade over the original, bringing more powerful electric motors, increased battery capacity for extra EV-only range, a seven-seat option and a higher price.

By increasing the motor outputs from 60/70kW (front/rear) to 85/100kW and increasing the lithium-ion battery capacity from 13.8kWh to 20kWh, compared with the previous-gen, 2022’s Outlander PHEV now has an extended EV-only range of 84km (based on NEDC official figures).

Given that Mitsubishi’s insights indicate more than 80 percent of PHEV owners already do most of their driving in EV mode, after plugging in each day, the well-judged boost to range should see the new model hit the mark.

However now, even in entry-level ES grade as tested, the Outlander PHEV costs around $60K on the road, which does leave some head scratching over the value equation.

Because, without overlooking the driver experience and fuel-saving benefits of a PHEV, that $19K premium over a conventional Outlander would pay for a lot of petrol.

The Ford Escape PHEV had its addition to the Aussie line up delayed due to covid-related supply challenges, duly arriving earlier this year as the first electrified Blue Oval offering.

Available solely in curiously positioned ST-Line grade, the Ford Escape PHEV lines up circa-$63K drive-away with a couple of option packs, or about $17K more than a regular Escape ST-Line.

Is a hybrid-curious family SUV shopper looking for a sporty, 18mm lower and firmer plug-in? That surely depends on the individual.

But the odd part is the sportily positioned Escape 167kW PHEV, with its efficiency focus and extra weight, is actually less muscular than the class-leadingly quick 183W turbo-petrol versions – with 0-100km/h increasing from 6.6 to 9.2 seconds.

And as a front-drive it not only loses the power-down of AWD but also the sophistication of a multi-link rear suspension, which FWD Escapes swap for a torsion beam.

Deal-breaker? We will find out.

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In the cabin

Sophistication was not something I expected from a base Mitsubishi SUV cabin. But wow, things have really taken a step up since I last sat in an Outlander.

There’s so much to like, from the stitched, lightly padded dash covering, soft-touch armrests and door trim inserts to the crisp 12.3-inch digital cluster and mature and responsive 9.0-inch multimedia display with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto and DAB+ radio.

The fairly conventional drive selector and a drive mode dial offering normal, eco, power and a variety of off-road modes are neat and intuitive, with straightforward buttons alongside for EV mode selection and to engage the well-calibrated single-pedal driving mode.

Even the steering wheel is nicely sculpted, though made of urethane, to the Ford’s pliant faux leather. Wheel and fabric seat trim aside it’s easy to forget this is an ES grade from the presentation ahead of the driver.

The front seats, like the wheel, may be cost-effectively upholstered but offer a well-judged blend of comfort with a body-hugging ability that makes the Ford’s sporty-looking seats feel a bit flat and unsupportive.

The lasting impression of the Escape interior is that it feels Focus-derived so a bit below the price point here, as well as being a bit gloomy which is a combination of the shallower glasshouse and dark headlining.

The red-stitched synthetic leather and suede seats are visually appealing and tactile yet many of the dash and door trim plastics feel a bit basic, particularly in the back.

The Sync 3 multimedia unit is smaller at 8.0 inches as well as a fraction slower to respond than its rival’s but like the digital display it is clear and intuitive and you can plug in for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Like any rotary drive selector, the Ford’s dial can be a bit irritating when you’re rushed.

The Ford is a bit more generous on the equipment however, even accounting for the test car’s option packs.

Standard in the Escape are a 10-way powered driver’s seat, wireless smartphone charging and B&O Play audio, the likes of which are not found in the Outlander.

To this the ST-Line pack adds front seat heaters, LED matrix headlights, a head-up display and a powered tailgate, and the Park pack adds enhanced active park assist, a front camera and door edge guards.

To match the optioned-up ST-Line’s key extras you’d need to step from ES to the $6400-pricier Outlander PHEV Aspire.

The Escape protects occupants with six airbags and safety technology including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise with stop/go, rear-seat occupant alert and traffic sign recognition.

You also get a tyre-pressure monitor, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, driver impairment monitor, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and the benefits of a programmable ‘MyKey’.

Outlander PHEV features eight airbags, with a first-row centre airbag and a driver’s knee bag over its rival.

Safety tech extends to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection and junction assist, driver attention alert, traffic-sign recognition (using camera and nav data), adaptive cruise and blind-spot warning and intervention.

The Mitsu also features lane-change alert, emergency lane-keeping featuring oncoming and overtaking traffic recognition and road-edge recognition, as well as lane-departure warning and prevention, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera.

You have to step to Aspire grade to get rear automatic braking, rear cross-traffic alert in an Outlander, which come along with a multi around-view monitor and LED headlights with adaptive driving beam.

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Model by model: Comfort, space and convenience


Large humans in the second row get plenty of head, leg and toe room, a supportive adjustable cushion, and a fold-down armrest with twin cup holders.

There are three top-tethers and two ISOFIX positions here and in the Mitsubishi.

Back seaters get USB-A and C sockets, while the Mitsubishi doesn’t offer any rear sockets but provides USB-A and C sockets in the front, to the Ford’s twin USB-A front sockets.


Relatively low base is a bit short on under thigh support leaving Outlander a bit less cosseting than Escape – no deal-breaker if it’s kids in child seats or boosters.

Headroom is ample, and leg and toe room are good. When flipped down, the centre backrest becomes a substantial armrest with two cupholders.

You can now opt for an occasional seven-seater PHEV (Mitsubishi calls it a 5+2) while Escape is only a five-seater.

Twin 240V Vehicle-to-Load outlets only feature from Aspire grade, which is disappointing.

Boot space: Storage and seat folding


Escape’s decent boot holds 556L behind the seatbacks with an underfloor space saver spare but no dedicated charging cable space. Flippers at each side drop the 60/40 seatbacks for 1478L. Four tie-downs, curry hooks, a 12V outlet, a subwoofer and a fabric cargo blind complete your guided tour of the boot, which is alone in featuring a powered tailgate (ST-Line pack).


The Outlander’s boot holds 485L behind the second row and provides four tie-down points, curry hooks and a lever at each side that flips the 40/20/40 seatbacks to take capacity to 1478L. There’s a 12V outlet, but no spare wheel – you get a tyre repair kit instead – and there is a dedicated storage space for your charging unit/cable beneath the floor.

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Powertrain and driving range

Petrol engines and electric motors team up for power and frugal fuel use

Mitsubishi’s PHEV system is calibrated to feel like an EV a lot of the time – meaning syrupy, strong torque and quiet, calm progress. The combination of 98kW Atkinson-cycle 2.4-litre and front and rear electric motors deliver a muscular combined 185kW and 450Nm that you’re well aware of even cruising the ’burbs.

With the Outlander’s battery fully charged, and Normal or EV mode selected, the combustion engine will only start if the driver explores the depths of the accelerator’s travel.

In the new 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, we saw 70km of battery-powered driving in EV Mode without trying especially hard, before the display indicated a flat battery. Just as in the Ford, when battery range is zero, there is actually some charge left – around 20 percent in this case – which allows for some electric assistance all the time… because a 98kW two-tonne SUV wouldn’t be much chop.

When the Mitsubishi’s big four-cylinder does fire, its interplay with the electric motors is always seamless, and its induction note and mechanical vibes are insulated and isolated to a level in step to the background road noise.

The capability for both series and parallel hybrid operation underpin Outlander’s Save and Charge modes, and allow for maximum flexibility and efficiency.

When the Mitsubishi’s big four-cylinder does fire, its interplay with the electric motors is always seamless, and its induction note and mechanical vibes are insulated and isolated to a level in step to the background road noise.

For example, at suburban speeds (below about 70km/h) the system judges it’s most efficient to drive on electric motor power, so the engine’s function here is to drive a generator that charges the battery and/or boosts electrical output when heavy acceleration or load calls for it.

Alternatively, on a motorway cruise the petrol engine will drive the front wheels directly, with the front and rear electric motors’ role now to capture excess kinetic engine and send it into the battery, or to add torque at the front or rear axle on demand. You can watch all this shuffling by way of an energy flow display on the digital instrument cluster, which helps you get a handle on what’s seamlessly happening.

Mitsubishi, like Ford, notes a 1.5L/100km official combined cycle figure during hybrid operation, however the relevance of this figure is limited to a scenario where much of your trip is on battery power.

The Ford Escape’s similar 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle engine is supplemented by a motor with less power than Outlander’s pair, drawing from a smaller 14.4kWh battery, for a more modest combined 167kW.

The experience is similar in that the Escape behaves like an EV when fully charged, in either EV Now or EV Auto mode, and has a range that will cover a day’s driving for so many city dwellers. Without doing an efficiency run, we saw 54km before the battery indicated it was empty.

An EV Later mode conserves battery and EV Charge tops it up via an engine-driven generator.

The Ford’s engine plays its part smoothly though more often than the Mitsubishi’s, and it’s also more vocal, with a noticeable induction note when it’s involved.

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Tested fuel use

Our test loop saw an overall 3.1L/100km from the Escape with about a third of the driving done in EV mode, and 3.2L/100km from the Mitsu with about half the driving done in EV mode, after starting with fully charged batteries.

The figures from the petrol-only element were a respectable 4.2L/100km Escape and 4.8L/100km Outlander.

The Escape’s Easy Fuel filler calls for 95 RON or E10, while the Mitsu is fine with 91 RON.

Our take-out after an urban and country road loop is that the average driver will rarely burn much petrol in either model, as long as they diligently plug in each day at home or work.

Without frequent charging, the PHEV systems, like a good regular hybrid, will also reduce your petrol use compared with a conventionally powered alternative.

Even on a trip that leans heavily on the petrol engine the battery and motor(s) enhance efficiency – and performance – by enough to offset carrying around the extra mass.

However, a huge plus in the Mitsubishi is the ability for DC CHAdeMO fast charging – which is not possible in the Ford – to take the battery from zero to 80 percent in 38 minutes according to the claim. This port also allows for Vehicle-to-Grid/Home functionality.

Alternatively, 240V domestic charging via the Type 2 AC port can fully charge Outlander in 9.5 hours, or 6.5 hours plugged into a 3.6kW 240V AC fast charger.

Escape takes six hours to charge from a regular 240V outlet via the Type 2 AC port on the passenger front guard, or around half that plugged into a 3.6kW charger.

A huge plus in the Mitsubishi is the ability for DC CHAdeMO fast charging – which is not possible in the Ford – to take the battery from zero to 80 percent in 38 minutes according to the claim.

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On the road

The turbo AWD conventional Escape is bordering on hot-hatch fun, which would be excellent if it didn’t also bring some ride and refinement trade-offs and the ST-Line positioning points to Escape being the driver’s PHEV.

The silhouette, seats and steering wheel spell sporty too, while the Outlander makes no promises with its bluff and pragmatic figure.

There is a keenness and feeling of precision to the Escape’s steering responses though like conventional variants it feels a bit hollow even as cornering loads build, and it’s a bit springy in returning to centre.

While fun, the lively front-end could become tiringly over-enthusiastic.

The Ford’s chassis balance is satisfying yet when you’re hurrying the Escape the teaming of hybrid powertrain with front drive can corrupt that neutrality with torque steer.

Body control is tight and backroad composure commendable however the tautness could be draining during more mundane driving or on a trip.

Despite 18-inch tyres on deep 60-profile sidewalls the ride can be busy too, when the surface is rough or bumpy, and those surfaces can set off interior squeaks and rattles.

The Mitsubishi doesn’t carry the same weight of expectation as the Ford, which surely helped it impress. Taking the baton from the surprisingly well presented and finished cabin are ride and handling that won’t offend anyone; the Outlander is actually very capable.

Take the steering – well weighted with a reasonable sense of connection and an overall air of calm, the Outlander PHEV terrific for cruising, easy around the city with an underlying ability to hold up to a thrash.

All with a pretty quick 2.6 turns lock-to-lock; virtually the same as the Ford (2.5) and with a slightly smaller turning circle (11.0m plays 11.4m).

The brakes are easy to modulate and comfortably handle the mass and performance though the pedal is spongy to the Ford’s grabby.

The Mitsu is serene riding on what feel like reasonably soft springs and dampers. It can be caught out by the odd challenging bump but doesn’t telegraph every road imperfection the way its rival does.

There’s also a weird longitudinal see-sawing motion over some underlations which suggests an ultimate lack of polish, yet it doesn’t undermine Outlander’s comfort or stop it being fun to hustle along for what it is.

The powertrain plays a big part here, with substantial torque number being applied by all four tyres with the benefit of Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC), a handling-enhancing acronym with solid Lancer Evo provenance, which brings attitude-adjusting torque vectoring and individual wheel braking.

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Warranty period and servicing costs

Mitsubishi certainly stands by its engineering with a 10-year, 200,000km warranty to the Ford’s more typical five-year, unlimited kilometres’ cover. But you have to service at Mitsubishi for this level of cover, otherwise it’s a five-year, 100,000km warranty.

Separate eight-year, 160,000km warranties apply to the Outlander’s battery, and to Escape’s motor & high-voltage system, which includes the battery.

Identical 12-month, 15,000km service intervals and services capped at $299 over the first four years or 60,000km suggest there’s little to split them on maintenance cost.


With its impressive PHEV powertrain and well-judged ride and handling Outlander PHEV pulls a lead on the road that the Escape can’t close.

A comfy, nicely finished and decently equipped machine, the Outlander is exactly what a family SUV should be.

Add capable dynamics and a potent and polished hybrid system with the capability for a really useable battery-only range and fast charging, and you have an appealing package for customers that want to benefit from many of the performance, refinement and fuel-saving benefits of an EV, without any range anxiety.

The Escape Hybrid is a decent plug-in SUV in isolation, with a very workable range (but no DC fast-charging capability), yet doesn’t ride as comfortably and, although well equipped, is darker and feels cheaper inside.

For $60K or more, both models have their work cut out to some degree convincing customers they’re worth the spend over a $40K conventional SUV – or something like a base, 2WD RAV4 Hybrid, which is also capable of slashing fuel bills.

No small stretch, that extra outlay would buy a used first-gen PHEV like the one that incited the keyboard warriors to furiously engage caps lock.

But if your personal value assessment suggests it’s money well spent, then it’s a plug from us for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: 8.0/10

Ford Escape PHEV: 7.5/10

2022 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Ford Escape ST Line PHEV specifications


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