What’s Hot: Remarkable user-friendly technology.
What’s Not: Pricey, and there's no spare: only an all-but-useless inflator kit with a bottle of ‘goo’.
X-FACTOR: The ability to do a week’s commuting without a drop of petrol, plus room for the family.
Vehicle style: Medium 4WD SUV plug-in hybrid
87kW/186Nm 2.0 litre petrol four + two electric motors (137Nm front, 195Nm rear)
Transmission: No gearbox, just a single-ratio transaxle
Fuel consumption listed: 1.9 l/100km (91RON) | tested: 2.1 l/100km.
Range: 52km range running on electric motors alone.
How does this sound for a motoring scenario?
You live within say 15 or 20 kilometres of your workplace, and you can commute to-and-from home for the whole week and not use a drop of petrol.
To replenish your car’s ‘juice’ (also known as electricity), you simply plug the car into a 15AMP 240V power-point overnight and, presto, five hours later, the battery is fully charged for a cost of around $3.60.
It’s a scenario that’s gaining momentum everywhere with car buyers, and car companies are responding.
Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is that company’s pitch to families to enter the electric age of motoring. In fact, the Outlander PHEV is the world’s first plug-in SUV hybrid.
We’ve tried it, and we think that for its green credential and low-cost motoring, Mitsubishi’s very well thought-out Outlander PHEV is one that a lot of Australian families will warm to.
The only dampener for family buyers is that, unlike conventional variants in the new Outlander range, you cannot have seven seats – just five, thanks to the battery and the rear electric motor.
We tested the entry-level model, tipping the scales at $47,490 plus.
- Seven-inch touchscreen
- Reversing camera and satellite-navigation
- Six-speaker audio system; CD, SD card and USB playback and iPod and iPhone capability
- Dual-zone climate-control air-con
- Rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlights
- Multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Rear-parking sensors
Quality: Being the entry-level PHEV, the car does not have the top-spec Aspire’s leather trim. Instead, it has a combination of cloth facings and leather-look vinyl bolsters.
There is no electric adjustment for either front seat but there is adequate manual adjustment. Only the driver’s seat has height adjustment.
Despite the absence of some of the classier goodies on the range-topping Aspire, the entry-level PHEV’s interior does have a quality feel about it.
There is a nice soft-plastic dash top and the same material is used on the tops of the door trims.
It also comes with a leather-wrapped multi-function wheel which is height-and-reach adjustable but is also the right size and feel.
Comfort: The front seats are comfortable and adequately bolstered, and, for a medium SUV, head, shoulder and legroom is pretty good.
The composed ride and quite snug cabin adds to the sense of on-road comfort.
Storage: With the rear seats occupied, there is 463 litres of cargo space. When folded flat, this rises to 888litres.
Other storage features include a big glove box, two front cup-holders, two more housed in the pull-down centre arm rest for rear-seat passengers, an open cubby hole at the base of the centre stack, front-and-rear door pockets, handy open side-bins in the rear cargo area and some under-floor space in this area as well.
The rear seat backs also have a 60/40 split for added cargo flexibility. What is missing however is a roof-mounted sunglasses holder in the front.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 87kW/186Nm 2.0 litre petrol four + two electric motors (137Nm front, 195Nm rear)
- Transmission: No gearbox, just a single-ratio transaxle
- Fuel consumption listed: 1.9 l/100km (91RON) | tested: 2.1 l/100km.
- Range: 52km range running on electric motors alone
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front end, multi-link rear
- 18-inch alloy wheels
Driveability: The PHEV’s easy driveability is a pleasant surprise.
Like the Toyota and Lexus hybrids, there is plenty of technical information on the large screen to let you know exactly what is happening so far as battery capacity, charge and petrol consumption are concerned.
You’ll find, as we did, that hyper-miling – using as little petrol as possible – can become a bit of an obsession.
On a longer country run at cruising highway speeds, the PHEV is happy to run on electric power alone.
Then, as battery charge drops, you can top up the charge via a switchable mode at the centre console. This engages the petrol engine to either charge the batteries, assist by driving the front wheels, or both.
This pushes up fuel consumption but extends the range to that of a conventional car. The PHEV otherwise feels quite like a conventional car.
It is quite alert off the line. When running smoothly away from the lights, it has that unusual pressing wave of torque that electric motors provide.
For a really quick get-away though, the petrol engine chimes in, and, though there’s a bit of roar from up front, the combined effort of the petrol engine and EV drive on front and rear wheels gives the PHEV a V6-like turn of speed.
Off-road, ground clearance can be a bit of a problem, but the new Mitsubishi handles things extremely well.
Irrespective of whether the PHEV is in electric-only or petrol/electric modes, it is always in four-wheel drive. There is also a 4WD-lock that is engaged via a button on the centre console.
In this mode, the drivetrain system prevents wheelspin by managing torque distribution when there is limited grip; ie. feeding drive to the wheels with traction.
One feature conventional cars do not have is steering-wheel-mounted paddles for operating the settings on the regenerative braking.
You can flick it from B-zero to B5 (B5 the strongest setting) for really useful engine braking controlled by the electric motors.
Refinement: Road and wind noise on the highway are at perfectly acceptable levels.
There is a little tyre noise on coarser-chip surfaces, but, generally, the PHEV is a quiet country cruiser.
It is quieter, in fact, than others in the Outlander stable, due, I would suspect, to the dampening effect of the battery beneath the floor.
Not surprisingly, around town in electric mode, things are eerily quiet.
Ride and handling: Here too, Mitsubishi’s new PHEV is a well-behaved vehicle. Despite its SUV construction, it sits pretty flat in corners, again, helped by the battery.
Mitsubishi engineers were able to locate it under the floor in a midships position, the result is an excellent front-to-rear weight distribution of 55:45.
Braking: Stopping power comes from ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. The pedal feels a little unusual at first, a common feature of hybrids where braking releases energy for charging the batteries.
It is assisted greatly by the regenerative braking, which, once you get used to it, has you barely touching the brake-pedal in coasting stops.
ANCAP: 5-Star rating
Safety features: Front driver and passenger airbags, side, curtain and knee-protection airbags, AWD control system with active yaw, stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, hill/start-assist, reverse camera and rear parking-sensors.
A high-impact energy absorbing body structure and, for added strength, the under-floor drive battery-pack is protected by four cross-members welded to the under-body.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five-year/100,000km that also includes the battery.
Service costs: Four-year capped-price servicing at $360 for the first service and $470 for the second, third and fourth services that are scheduled every 15,000km or l12 months.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
As the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV, the Outlander PHEV has no direct competitors.
Perhaps, at a stretch, you’d line the Outlander PHEV Active up against the $35,990 Toyota Prius V (which is not a plug-in hybrid).
But the Toyota has less power and torque, has none of the PHEV’s SUV 4WD capability, nor its ability to run at highway speeds without intervention by the petrol engine.
Considering the technology under the Outlander’s skin, you have to say that $47,490 represents good value for money. It may be pricey compared to most conventional SUVs, but it’s far from conventional.
And even the top-spec 2.2 litre Toyota RAV4 Cruiser is nearly $10,000 dearer than the PHEV.
Note: All prices are Manufacturers’ List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It may not be well-known that Mitsubishi has been developing electric and hybrid technology for around four decades.
In fact, it expects that 20 percent of the cars sold in 2020 will be electric-powered or hybrids.
By breaking new ground in the field of sustainable motoring, Mitsubishi engineers have moved the goal posts significantly with the Outlander PHEV.
What they have come up with is a very clever piece of advanced EV technology that is also very user-friendly.
Anyone considering putting an electric vehicle in their garage should not feel daunted in any way by this car.
The Outlander PHEV allows you to become completely involved in all the EV technology... or not be involved at all.
You can simply put it in ‘Drive’ and cruise around like in any conventional set of wheels. Except your fuel bills will be so low they’ll barely matter.
And everyone knows how to push a three-pin plug into a power point.
- 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - $47,490
- 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire - $52,490