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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Outlander - PHEV GSR

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Styling, decent cornering ability, low-end grunt, interior space, build quality
Room for improvement
Real world fuel economy, CVT blunts engagement, ride quality, no sat-nav, new-generation just around the corner

Mitsubishi adds Bilstein suspension to its Outlander PHEV to create the sporty GSR

7 Apr 2021



GSR is a nameplate synonymous with sporty Mitsubishis and now for the 2021 model year, it’s been stuck on the back of an Outlander PHEV, right as the current-generation family hauler enters what will likely be its last year on the market.


In this instance, the GSR badge denotes the addition of inverted Bilstein suspension struts and beefier dampers, complemented all-round by stiffer springs and some darkened styling cues pinched from the now-defunct Outlander Black Edition.


Inside there are some sportier front seats upholstered in a mix of microsuede and synthetic leather, complemented by red stitching throughout and a black headliner.


The point of the GSR according to Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) is to broaden the Outlander PHEV’s appeal by offering a variant aimed specifically at those who want “something a bit sportier to drive than your typical SUV”.


To find out if the brand has succeeded in making a sportier SUV, we spent some time putting the GSR through its paces both in town and on the open road where it’s meant to rise above the rest of the Outlander range.


Drive Impressions


Adorned in its ‘Red Diamond’ metallic paint work and flaunting its black roof, mirror caps, rear spoiler, front and rear skidplates, radiator grille, front air ducts, tailgate garnish as well as its exclusive two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels, there is no denying the Outlander PHEV GSR is a half-decent looker.


The blacked-out front end in particular does well to mellow out what was previously a busy, bulbous nose full of chrome while simultaneously adding a whiff of aggression.


Under the bonnet resides the same 157kW/332Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder plug-in hybrid drivetrain as the rest of the PHEV range, supported by a 13.8kWh battery offering up to 54km of all-electric driving and a combined fuel consumption of just 1.9 litres per 100km.


We didn’t get anywhere near that figure during our time with the car with the indicated figure at one stage climbing to 7.9L/100km on a run from Perth to Bunbury via Lane Poole Reserve, even though we started the journey with a full battery.


That wasn’t a one-off either, with the figure climbing as high as 8.9L/100km (indicated) on a separate up and back run, this time sticking exclusively to the freeway however we admit the battery was low on charge when we started.


Around town with a full charge, the GSR will quite comfortably achieve that 1.9L/100km claim (lock it in EV mode for an even better figure) so long as the journey is under 50km or so and doesn’t involve many runs up above 80km/h – the petrol engine will kick in more and more as the battery depletes.


Given the GSR’s sportier aspirations however, confining it to around-town duties would be a waste of its abilities and time given the base ES and flagship Exceed come with the regular (softer) suspension set-up and are therefore more comfortable day-to-day.


Get the GSR out of town and onto a sweeping road and the whole sporty theme starts to make a bit more sense and rewards the driver with decent body control and composure over less than perfect road surfaces.


At 1920kg, the GSR is certainly no light-weight and with 190mm of ground clearance it’s no low-sprung road-hugger either but it does well to contain its bulk relatively low down and never really as feel top-heavy as other SUVs can.


That said, the steering can feel at odds with the rest of the package on a twistier road, feeling a little over boosted while not providing much in the way of feedback.


The sportier front seats do a decent job of blending comfort with lateral support and go a long way to contributing to the sportier image of the GSR, even if the leatherette bolsters squeak against the seatbelt buckle during spirited stints behind the wheel.


Even with minimal charge in the bank, the twin-motor PHEV system provides ample low-end shove out on the open road, especially when accelerating out of slower bends.


The electric motors contribute 62kW/134Nm to the combined outputs with all of the torque available the moment you hit the throttle.


All-out performance is adequate rather than inspiring – 0-100km/h takes 10.5 seconds – with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) doing little to up the engagement stakes.


As such, this is a powertrain aimed squarely at refinement and it does a fine job of being both quiet and smooth around town and on the highway alike, swapping between electric and petrol power almost seamlessly.


The same can’t quite be said about the beefier suspension set-up however which, while great in the bends, can prove a bit too firm over poorer road surfaces both around town and on the open road.


Unsurprisingly, things get much worse off-road where the sports-oriented set-up bangs and crashes through potholes and corrugations, aided in no way, shape or form by the 225/55R18 road tyres.


After grinding to a halt half way up a loose pinch in the Wellington Mills mountain bike park – due to a lack of torque (empty battery) and gearing – we can’t recommend you take the GSR off road at all besides a well-groomed gravel road.


Back on the blacktop, the GSR, like all Outlanders, offers plenty of space both in the front and the rear with plenty of head and legroom on offer in the second row.


Boost space suffers slightly in comparison with the regular Outlanders (463L vs 477L) due to the battery pack being stashed beneath the floor along with the charging cables.


Standard equipment is generous, consisting of dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, eight-speaker sound system, reversing camera, Bluetooth with voice recognition, adaptive cruise control, LED daytime running lights, dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, hill start assist, automatic high beam, power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather door trim, DAB+ digital radio, front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated folding door mirrors, privacy glass, electric tailgate and leather steering wheel.


One notable omission for us given the $52,490 plus on-roads asking price is satellite-navigation, however those who prefer to use the smartphone mirroring systems won’t notice its absence.


All in all, the Outlander PHEV GSR is an interesting proposition within the medium SUV segment given it boasts both sporting and eco-friendly pretensions but it could prove a tough sell.


While it delivers on offering a sportier driving experience, its claimed 1.9L/100km fuel economy is only achievable in town or on short journeys which in some ways contradicts having the sportier suspension set-up.


There are other models within the segment that offer a sportier drive for less money and, out of town at least, match the GSR on fuel economy and best it in terms of performance.


Factor in that the new-generation Outlander is due in showrooms later this year on an all-new platform with a PHEV drivetrain and questions begin to rise about its validity at this current point in time.

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