(Image: Mitsubishi)

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle: This is it, the ultimate mass-appealmobile for the American market right now. Another sheep to be herded through traffic or the company’s best shot at a ride back to relevance? Maybe both.

We talk about how unloved Mitsubishi is so often it’s become an industry cliché, so let’s look at the scoreboard and see what kind of situation the company’s really in.

Image: Mitsubishi

Last year Toyota reported 2,154,712 vehicle sales in the United States. Honda got 1,409,386. Nissan was on their heels with 1,351,420.

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Mitsubishi sold 95,342 vehicles in America in 2015. The “underdog” title has officially been earned. At least they’re still safely above the waterline where Suzuki drowned (selling about 20,000 cars a year for a few consecutive years, according to Car & Driver).

Still, no doubt Mitsubishi is looking for a big hit right about now which is why they swung for the fences in the segment Americans just can’t get enough of– medium-small sized crossover SUVs.

Image: Mitsubishi

The new Outlander PHEV looks innocuous enough– its main distinguishing feature is a chrome bridle on the smooth face. From the front wheels back and it could basically be any of the oversized on-road high-riding hatchbacks we call “crossovers” today.

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No fuel economy numbers, horsepower equivalent output or pricing has been released yet. All Mitsubishi’s said technically is that the Outlander PHEV is powered by a 2.0 liter gas engine with two electric motors, one at the front and one at the rear axle.

That means the vehicle is 4WD, which is managed by Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system.

Breakdown of how S-AWC works (Image: Mitsubishi)

S-AWC allows the car to put power or brakes to each wheel individually. In the Outlander PHEV’s case, regenerative braking is also managed across wheels to maximize traction.

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The Outlander PHEV can cycle between three different drive modes; “EV (full electric mode), series hybrid (electric power with generator operation) and parallel hybrid (engine power and electric motor assistance).” Mitsubishi says these modes, as well as the S-AWC system, will be working without the driver noticing.

Damn, blank buttons even on the press model huh? (Image: Mitsubishi)

As for features most buyers might have more fun playing with, it looks like leg room in the rear seats is pretty decent and an apparently optional 1,500 watt power inverter should be able to run pretty large electronics at your next tailgate party.

Image: Mitsubishi

Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a heated steering wheel and a suite of crash-mitigating idiot-proofing tech will also be on the options lists. I’ll be interested to see the rest of that list too, because I’m only just now noticing (but shocked by) the fact that there are blank buttons on the display car Mitsubishi published pictures of.

Image: Mitsubishi

Outlander PHEV will be on sale in the fall of 2016, so look for performance specifications before then. Meanwhile, what do you think of the styling and general idea?