If you’re going to make a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) make it at least appealing to the masses. There seems to be a habit of making such cars look as berko as possible, but the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a rare exception. It’s been awhile since I last jumped onboard and I have to say it’s still a pretty impressive green offering.
The 10 Minute Test Drive.
The 2017 Outlander range was comprehensively updated with refreshed looks, technology, ride quality and important safety features added. The current Outlander just keeps giving via incremental improvements and the PHEV adopts all of those while scoring some of its own renovations.
Take a spin in one at a dealership and you’ll experience that typical electric car feel. A slight whir at start-up then you simply drift off into the traffic in almost complete silence. The gear selector that looks like a joystick and a big round EV Mode button are the most obvious clues this is not your typical Outlander.
Our test car was the lower spec LS model but look around and you’ll notice Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, DAB+ radio, heated exterior mirrors, LED headlamps, an electric handbrake and importantly a DC fast charging socket.
The interior remains the same familiar place, with a broad dashboard. But new touches such as a redesigned steering wheel, trim and materials lift the cabin mood a tad.
The Outlander range is one of the better executed SUVs in terms of looks. You may well admire the new take on the ‘Dynamic Shield’ front grille and day time running lights. The rear end scores a new bumper while keen eyes may spot the shark fin antenna and LED rear lamps.
Ins and Outs
The drivetrain is a little fiddly to explain but at the front end sits an electric motor with an inverter capable of 60 kW /137 Nm. The actual petrol engine acts as an electric generator. The 2.0-litre MIVEC DOHC engine can produce its own 89 kW /190 Nm, it’s fuelled by at 45-litre tank. Under the floor, Mitsubishi has placed a 12 kWh, 80 cell, 300 V Lithium-Ion air-cooled battery. Then at the rear another electric motor and inverter provide a further 60 kW / 95 Nm. So electric motors on each axle and a petrol generator.
There’s no gearbox and with twin motors at each end, the Outlander PHEV is also a permanent 4WD, there’s even a lock mode. The EV range is said to now sit at 54km, a figure that is a tad ambitions under real world conditions. At the very most I found it good for 30 – 35km, still handy for the daily school run and trip to the shops.
The main difference for the 2017 PHEV over the one I drove in 2014 is a new EV Priority Mode. It allows you to drive the car in electric mode entirely, until the battery drains. Essentially locking out the system from entering hybrid mode. There’s also a Charge button that slowly tops up the battery via engine and regenerative braking, plus a Save switch that preserves whatever power remains under the floor.
The whole system left to its own devices will flick back and forth between different modes to extract the longest range possible according to the driving conditions. I managed 670km to one tank for example.
On the right side of the Outlander PHEV is a flap that contains two charging sockets. One is DC fast charge capable if you can find a charging station and will recharge the battery to 80% in 25 minutes. The other socket is used at home via the included charging kit with five-metre long cable. This allows for a 100% charge via a 230V / 10 Amp plug over about 6.5 hours. A 15 Amp plug will do it in 3.5 hours.
But How Does It Drive?
A stack of work has been put into making the latest Outlander PHEV a more comfortable, refined and slightly perkier experience. The family and I loaded it up for a trip away to the South Coast of New South Wales. At freeway speeds life is serene thanks to noise isolating improvements in suspension mounts, window seals and even the design of the front windscreen.
On B roads however, the added weight of not just our cargo (thanks nine-month old) plus the battery does cause a little instability. Mainly over continuous undulations and sweeping bends. This is probably the case for any number of SUVs, but it did cause one episode of motion sickness for a backseat passenger.
The newly electrically assisted steering is easy enough to cope with, although it hardly provides top-shelf feedback. Funnily enough despite a raft of upgrades to the suspension and even tyres the Outlander PHEV manages to produce both a cushy and firm ride. It really is dependent on the surface, but there are times like crossing railway tracks that things become a little rattled.
Acceleration is gentle but more responsive this time around. Overtaking at speed is reasonably safe, providing you pick the correct gap. However sometimes when the petrol engine is called upon it can sound a little under duress.
Paddle shifters provide five levels of engine breaking, so much so it’s possible to coast to a stop without touching the brakes at all.
The Hip Pocket
The claimed combined fuel economy cycle figure is a mere 1.7L/100km. You’d have to be continually doing short trips to achieve such a figure. But under normal conditions, such as a 320km weekend getaway the actual figure should fall between 6 – 8L/100km. The base Outlander PHEV LS is priced from $50,490 while the top spec Exceed starts at $55,490. But the extra coin adds some very important safety gear including Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation with human detection, Multi Around Monitor, Auto High Beam, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and an Ultrasonic Mis-acceleration Mitigation System. LS PHEV owners are left with plenty of blank buttons!
The EFTM Rubber Stamp of Approval.
The current Mitsubishi Outlander just keeps giving even after six years in service. While this model does miss out on a seven-seat option there are genuine savings at the pump. It does sit in the shadow of some of the leaders in the category, but the PHEV technology does give it, dare I say, a spark of interest for some. I award it the EFTM Pass Rubber Stamp of Approval.