In an interview with Automotive News Europe, Mitsubishi's European CEO Bernard Loire told the publication, "In the second half of next year we will have a replacement of the current Outlander. It will be on an alliance platform. There also will be another smaller SUV coming at the same time." The statements came in response to a question about expanding the automaker's plug-in hybrid lineup, leading readers to expect that by this time next year, Mitsubishi will have two crossover PHEVs on the market.
The current Outlander has been on the market since late 2012, the plug-in hybrid showing for the 2014 model year. We've already seen fairly polished versions of fourth-generation Outlander prototypes out testing, sporting looks inspired by the Engelberg Tourer concept revealed at this year's Geneva Motor Show. Some suspect the 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the current PHEV powertrain will make way for a 2.4-liter mill as in the Engelberg, paired with high-efficiency motors on both axles. The show car also touted features like all-wheel drive improved with active yaw control and enhanced anti-lock braking software. Figure on an EV range that improves the current Outlander PHEV's 22 miles, going perhaps as far as the Engelberg's 43 miles.
Loire didn't give away anything about the second model, but an Autocar report from earlier this year quoted "a senior source" as saying "We will not have a unique nameplate" for the second battery-electric vehicle. The magazine said the Eclipse Cross and Outlander Sport are in line for series hybrid powertrains, without indicating which might come first. Loire told AN the brand's doing fine with respect to Europe's coming CO2 legislation, so it doesn't need to make rash moves. With the Eclipse Cross forming 20% of sales on the Continent, the middle crossover would be a rational choice for the next plug-in hybrid, especially since it's retiring the 2.2-liter diesel option around the end of 2020. On the other hand, the Outlander Sport will be 10 years old next year, a replacement can't be far away.
The new plug-ins come with the realignment of Mitsubishi's crossover range. The Outlander, sitting on a new architecture shared among the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, will grow into a proper mid-size choice; the prototype spotted in Michigan is clearly larger than the current vehicle. The Eclipse Cross will likely grow a touch, staying about eight inches shorter than the Outlander while putting more dimensional space between itself and the smaller Outlander Sport. The Outlander Sport, meanwhile, will shrink a tad, to about eight inches shorter than the Eclipse Cross.
The new model and lineup revamp should strengthen Mitsubishi's already-strong position, the automaker already sitting on Europe's best selling PHEV in the Outlander, poised to increase sales there this year by roughly 75%. On the pure-EV side, Loire said an EV to replace the i-Miev is on the way.