The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was first launched in 2014, at a time when the concept of a plug-in hybrid was still relatively unheard of for production vehicles, putting Mitsubishi at the head of a wave that would soon engulf almost every manufacturer amid increasing pressure to reduce vehicle emissions.
This then is Mitsubishi’s flagship, a demonstration of the best it can achieve, with the possibility of city-cycle electric propulsion and the simultaneous ability to tackle long distance journeys without the need for lengthy charging stops, wrapped in the practical body of a family SUV.
Although delayed slightly compared to the rest of the updated petrol and diesel Outlander range, the Outlander PHEV is finally available in Australia, though the most noticeable change is to vehicle styling with minor engineering changes hidden behind the ‘dynamic shield’ front styling.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $50,490-$55,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 120kW/332Nm combined output 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol (87kW/186Nm), twin electric motors (60kW/137Nm front, 195Nm rear) | 1sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 1.7 l/100km | Tested: 6.9 l/100km
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV comes in two variants with the LS grade starting from $50,490 (plus on-road costs) or the more upscale Exceed priced from $55,490 (plus on-road costs).
Price-wise, the plug-in hybrid models command a decent premium compared to the rest of the Outlander range - a petrol-powered Outlander LS with an automatic and all wheel drive can be yours from $33,500 and the most expensive non-plug in variant, the diesel Exceed asks for $47,500.
In the case of the Outlander PHEV, it has a 12 kWh lithium ion battery pack and a pair of electric motors (one front and one rear) packaged in with a 2.0-litre petrol motor - essentially two powertrain systems in place of one which makes up the difference in price.
That complex arrangement allows the Outlander PHEV to operate as an electric vehicle, producing no tailpipe emissions for up to 54 kilometres, before switching to a more familiar hybrid operating mode that balances electric and petrol motivation to enhance fuel economy.
The approach is a somewhat unique in the mainstream market, as the Outlander PHEV is without a direct rival in Australia, short of turning to premium brands like Audi (A3 e-tron), BMW (i3 and 330e) and Mercedes-Benz (C 350 e).
- PHEV LS: Dual-zone climate control, leather and suede-look trim, multi-function trip computer, powered driver’s seat, keyless entry with push-button start, heated exterior mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels
- PHEV Exceed: Leather seat trim, heated front seats, power sunroof, power tailgate, rear cargo blind, EV Smartphone App connectivity
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity, 2x USB inputs, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 463 litres to rear seats
A few smart touches in the interior help keep things looking appropriately premium to justify the higher price, though the fittings are ultimately very similar to the rest of the Outlander range.
The Outlander PHEV LS is trimmed with leather and suede-look seats and includes a powered driver’s seat, keyless entry and start, reclining rear seats, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and digital radio.
The upscale Outlander PHEV Exceed adds a powered tailgate, leather trim, heated front seats, a powered sunroof, front door scuff plates, a rear cargo blind, and Mitsubishi’s EV Remote Smartphone app that allows remote connection to charge timing (to take advantage of off-peak electricity tariffs for example), climate control, headlights, and trip computer data.
Passenger space is unchanged from the regular Outlander, though the PHEV is only available as a five-seat model compared to the optional seven-seat layout of petrol and diesel variants. The battery pack reduces boot space ever so slightly, from 477 litres to 463 litres.
From the front seat the Outlander PHEV feels large with good head room and forward vision, though rear seat passengers won’t find the same amount of sprawling space even if adults will still fit with ease. Unfortunately a wealth of switch blanking plates across the dash and centre stack don’t do the interior ambience any favours.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol, twin electric motors: 120kW/332Nm combined output
- Transmission: direct-drive electric motors, one-speed front transaxle (for petrol engine)
- Suspension: Macpherson strut front, multi-link rear
- Brakes: Four wheel discs - ventilated front, solid rear rotors
- Steering: Electric power steering, 10.6m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Though the experience is somewhat unfamiliar to many Aussie motorists, starting the Outlander PHEV is much like starting an electric vehicle - because initially it is an electric vehicle - by simply as pressing the ‘start’ button, selecting drive, and pushing the accelerator.
The result is near-silence as the Outlander PHEV spools up speed, making only a faint electric whine. Imagine being on a quieter and less graffiti-tagged train and you can appreciate what it’s like.
At the Outlander PHEV’s launch, held in Adelaide, the family-sized SUV looks every bit as run-of-the-mill as any other family truckster on suburban South Aussie roads, yet slipping along without making a sound or sipping a drop of petrol results produces a kind of smug green-satisfaction.
In order to provide motive force, the Outlander PHEV uses a pair of electric motors, one front and one rear, producing up to 60kW of power to keep up with the flow of traffic. If the driver calls for a sudden burst of speed, or as the batteries deplete, the 2.0 litre petrol engine fires up to power the generator or drive the front wheels, or both as necessary.
On a full charge, Mitsubishi suggests there’s up to 54 kilometres of electric-driving range, and from a standard 10 amp wall socket a fully depleted battery can be charged in around 6.5 hours, dropping to 3.5 hours from a 16 amp outlet. New for 2017, the Outlander PHEV also adds DC fast-charge capability allowing the battery to reach 80 percent of charge in just 25 minutes.
Another new feature accompanying the 2017 update is an EV mode for the drivetrain, which uses nothing but electricity to keep the Outlander rolling (except for full-throttle and low battery states), along with the previous charge mode that uses the petrol engine to charge the battery, or a hold mode that sees battery charge saved for later, while the petrol engine does the heavy lifting.
Mitsubishi also touts changes to throttle mapping that result in a more direct driving feel but also lower official fuel consumption from the previous 1.9L/100km to an even more frugal 1.7L/100km - however that figure is really only indicative of the first 100 kilometres on the road. From around the 50 kilometres mark onwards, fuel consumption climbs as the petrol engine is required to run more often.
From behind the wheel the Outlander PHEV feels much like a normal compact SUV in that the ride is fairly comfortable over patchy rural roads, though the more seamless acceleration and quieter running are a hint that things are a little different.
Mitsubishi has also made a series of technical changes to front suspension struts, front cross member, rear suspension spring rates, rear motor mounts and other areas as well as adding thicker glass, more sound deadening, and increasing body rigidity with the aim of reducing noise, vibration, and harshness compared with earlier versions of the PHEV.
ANCAP Rating: 5/5 Stars - The Mitsubishi Outlander range scored 35.58 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2014, the Outlander PHEV shares its rating with regular versions.
Safety Features: All Outlander PHEV models come standard with seven airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain, driver’s knee), electronic stability and traction control, front seatbelt pretensioners, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, rear view camera, rear park sensors, and ISOFIX child seat mounts.
Outlander PHEV Exceed adds additional features including blind spot warning, lane change assist, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, 360 degree camera, automatic high beam, adaptive cruise control, front park sensors, and a misacceleration mitigation system that limits acceleration if the vehicle detects an accidental pedal input.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Servicing: Mitsubishi offers capped price servicing for the first three years/45,000km with each 12 month/15,000km interval priced at $250. Conditions apply, consult your Mitsubishi dealer for full details.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Time will tell, but the Outlander PHEV has the potential to go down in history as a landmark vehicle for Mitsubishi. It is a promising sign that the company has continued to support the vehicle, despite it not being a high-volume seller and the recent financial troubles for the car maker.
Elsewhere in the Japanese automaker’s range, cars like the Lancer and Pajero keep racking up the years with little in the way of significant updates, but the Outlander PHEV shows that Mitsubishi isn't afraid to experiment with green technology.
Though the on-road experience may not be thrilling, the Outlander PHEV is very much the equal of other medium SUVs: comfortable to ride in, quieter than most traditional internal combustion competitors, and missing none of the space and flexibility that make SUVs so popular.
Day-to-day running powered by electricity and the freedom to venture well beyond city limits on petrol power make the Outlander PHEV a flexible family choice, and the lack of oddball aero styling means there’s no chance of being branded a fanatical eco-warrior - all of which makes the Outlander PHEV an enticing, if slightly pricey, prospect.
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