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“EXPLORING THE LIFESTYLE AND GENEROSITY OF TAMPA BAY”

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There are those little surprise and delight moments in life. Like eating oysters for the first time. Or watching Ted Lasso. 

Another; taking a drive in Mitsubishi’s new, surprising-and-delightful, Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV, or PHEV for short. 

For those of you not quite ready to make the giant leap for mankind to all-electric, this Swiss Army knife of compact crossovers will ease your range anxiety while making you think you’re driving electric.

Plug it in, charge it up, and it’ll whirr along in silent, zero-emission electric mode for a good 38 miles. That’s plenty for most of our daily travel needs.

But when the ohms and watts run out, and you have to get to grandma’s house, there’s a gas-sipping 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor under the hood to come to the rescue. That’ll give you a total range of around 420 miles. 

At the end of the day, plug it in, and a regular 240-volt Level 2 home charger – using the same juice that powers your washer-dryer – will top-up the battery pack in around six and a half hours. 

What sets this surprisingly good-looking new Outlander PHEV apart from competitors, like Hyundai’s Tucson, Kia’s Sportage and Toyota’s RAV4 Prime, is that it’s the only vehicle in its class to offer DC fast-charging.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Selects

So, find yourself one, and the Mitsubishi can ingest up to 50 kilowatts of power, charging its lithium-ion battery pack back up to 80 per cent in 38 minutes.

What I love about this new Outlander is that, unlike its rivals, it drives as an electric car first, and a hybrid second. So, around town it’s always gliding along on battery power alone, with flick-of-a-light-switch response and near-silent running.

Need more thrust to accelerate out of that freeway on-ramp, or scoot past that 18-wheeler, and the gas motor kicks-in seamlessly to deliver a combined 248-horseys and meaty 332 lb-ft of torque. 

OK, the single-speed transmission for the gas motor does make for a droning sound not unlike an outboard motor on wide-open throttle. But it’s generally well-muted and disappears the instant you ease off the throttle. 

What the Outlander also does extremely well is one-pedal driving. Setting the level of regenerative braking to its highest level lets you drive without almost ever touching the brake pedal. 

It’s perfect in stop-start traffic, where lifting off the throttle can bring the Outlander close to a complete halt. Yes, it takes a little practice, but once mastered it’s addictive.

Add to that the traction-enhancing benefit of all-wheel drive, a nicely-smooth, refined ride, precise and nicely-weighted steering and a generally solid, confident feel.

But there’s so much more goodness with this new three-row compact SUV than just an innovative hybrid powertrain.  

For starters, it looks terrific. In a world of generally tofu-bland SUV design, the Outlander stands out with its bold front-end, cool LED lighting, dipping-and-diving waistline, and good-looking wheel design. 

And the surprise and delights keep coming when you climb aboard. I’m driving the high-end $50,880 Outlander SEL-spec (the PHEV range starts with the $41,190 SE ) comes with lovely diamond-quilted leather, massaging front seats, a full-length panoramic glass sunroof and head-up display. 

It’s super-roomy too, with terrific second-row legroom, a PODS-like 78 cubic feet of load space with the split rear seats folded, and lots of headroom. Yes, there’s a flip-up third row seat, and no it’s not suitable for anyone over five-feet tall. 

What also impresses is the peace-of-mind warrant that comes with this new Outlander PHEV. In addition to the five-year, 60,000-mile new-vehicle coverage, the powertrain has a 10-year, 100,000-mile guarantee, and five years of free roadside assistance.

That’s a whole lot of surprises and delights.

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