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Mitsubishi Really Hopes The Outlander PHEV Reminds You Of Back When It Made Cooler Cars

The Outlander is a fine SUV, but Mitsubishi seems desperate to convince you it's something more.

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For the first time in a long time, Mitsubishi has the closest thing to a winner on its hands with the 2022 Outlander. And that’s great for Mitsubishi! We all want Mitsubishi to be the best Mitsubishi it can be, and producing a car someone might actually want to buy is an important step toward achieving that goal.

The only issue is that Mitsubishi doesn’t really have anything else in the pipeline to follow up the Outlander except for a plug-in hybrid version of the SUV due next year. So it’s left little choice but to play that puppy up, big time.


How big? By reminding us of Pajeros bounding over sand dunes and Lancer Evolutions skittering on the ice-slick, sidewinding passes of Monte Carlo. Yes: By reminding us of how it used to rally.

Mitsubishi’s YouTube account released the above video last Friday, the same day it sent out a press release about the S-AWC — that stands for Super All Wheel Control — system in next year’s Outlander PHEV. Mitsubishi fans will know S-AWC as the automaker’s branding for its all-wheel drive system that once underpinned the Lancer Evolution X. And its resurgence might ring more significant if S-AWC wasn’t also the name of the all-wheel drive option on the regular Outlander you can buy today, with all 181 of its horsepower.


Granted, the S-AWC system in the Outlander PHEV will work quite differently from how it does in other Mitsubishi models by nature of its powertrain. The PHEV will have a pair of electric motors, one on each, axle contributing a yet-undisclosed sum of power. Those motors will work together to determine the optimal amount of go from the front to the back of the car. Surely nothing you haven’t heard before with regard to all-wheel drive systems, though this one will supposedly do it better because it’s got both those motors — plus the ICE one, of course. It’ll also be able to brake the rear wheels individually. From the press release:

Conventional models employ a braking control system to control the brake forces in the left and right wheels only on the front, but the evolved S-AWC adds a braking control system for the rear wheels. This reduces the load on the front wheels and makes it possible to extract the maximum performance from all four tires in a more balanced manner and delivers handling true to the driver’s intent for safe, secure and comfortable driving in various conditions.

Around the 3:44 mark of the video above, we see an Eclipse Cross — which I had to reconfirm to myself was not an Outlander, based on the facial resemblance — being pushed hard around a test track, so as to convey the sporting pedigree that we’re supposed to believe still beats deep within every Mitsubishi. I’m willing to bet that the Outlander, a 3,800-lb SUV, is not the sort of vehicle that springs to anyone’s mind when asked to imagine a canyon carver, even though my colleague Raph says it handles “fine.”

But this is the card Mitsubishi wants to play, so play it it will. Five months ago, I wanted so badly to believe that Mitsubishi’s plan to revive Ralliart might result in something more profound than an appearance package. Today, I’m coming to the grim realization that nostalgia has probably fooled me again.