MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV REVIEW
Vehicle style: Plug-in hybrid family SUV
87kW/186Nm 2.0 litre petrol + two electric motors (137Nm front, 195Nm rear)
Transmission: No gearbox, just a single-ratio transaxle
Trip 1: 1000 kilometres, average 7.9 l/100km
Trip 2: 400 kilometres, average 6.7 l/100km
Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV has a range of around 50 kilometres in full-electric mode.
Enough, most days, for delivering the kids to-and-from school, plus a bit of running around for some shopping or getting to the gym.
It is also enough for most people, statistically, to remain in full-electric mode for the daily commute.
And, should you plug it in to a 15amp household socket in the evening, you'll be able to do it again tomorrow - and not use a drop of fuel.
We've done it, and yes it works. You can do exactly that.
As I write this, for the past week we have used zero petrol. Seven days of running into town and back each day - a 20 kilometre round trip - plus a diversion or two, and not a drop of petrol.
Zero, nil, none.
The PHEV is outside charging now. And that's the key: keeping it charged.
But on the two weekends prior, we took the PHEV on two long country trips. The first, a three-day drive - three adults, plus clobber, plus pooch - from Victoria's Phillip Island to the Wimmera wheat-belt town of Rupanyup, then back again.
A round trip of more than a thousand kilometres, and not an electric charge-point (so much as we were aware) anywhere along the drive.
Then, the next weekend, fully loaded, a two day drive to Wilson's Promontory via Korumburra: a 400 kilometre round trip.
How did the plug-in hybrid Outlander do? Surprisingly well I have to say, surprisingly well.
The Outlander Aspire we're driving sports a very well-put-together interior.
The smart modern dash with a large, elegantly curved gloss-black fascia tying the centre-stack to the instrument panel, gives things an up-market feel.
The firm leather-trimmed seats are well-shaped and electrically-adjustable for both driver and passenger, and the display screen and chrome-ringed push-button functions also have a solid quality feel.
Other highlights like the monogrammed scuff-plates, the classy cool-metal shift lever and the solid air-tight feel to the closing of the doors reminds you that this is a $50k purchase, and doesn't feel underdone at that price.
No complaints with the seats on a long run: front and back there is lots of room, good underthigh support for the legs (also in the rear seats for this upmarket model) and, clearly, the right shaping for a day or two in the saddle.
The firmly-padded rear seats are raised, theatre-style, for added visibility for younger passengers there, but, with good leg-room and shoulder-room, the second row is also perfectly suitable for two adults (three might find it squeezy). There is no third row in the PHEV.
Adding to the sense of comfort and quality, is the serene quietness.
Mitsubishi's PHEV is spookily quiet when driving, especially in EV-mode. Mostly, all you can hear is a soft other-worldly electric whine.
Road noise is also very, very low.
It may have to do with the battery sandwiched below the floor, but the PHEV is certainly the quietest Outlander we've ever experienced and one of the quietest SUVs on the market.
This is a very agreeable car for a few days on the road with the family. It's not as big as Toyota's Kluger or Prado, but feels amply 'big enough' for a family car. (The Kluger is getting ridiculously large and pays a massive fuel penalty for it.)
There are a few debits. The touchscreen functions are frustratingly unintuitive and incredibly annoying.
Even simple tasks like keying in the radio stations confound logic and had us resorting to the manual.
It also doesn't default to the last screen setting. So, if you like to watch what's happening with the charging and EV functions, you've got to search for it every time you start the car.
You'll get the hang of it, and it's got a lot of standard functions like sat-nav, Bluetooth and the works, but it's a pain to use.
Otherwise, the PHEV has all the practicality and space of an SUV family wagon.
There are bottle-holders and deep pockets in the doors, a useful glovebox (that shuts snugly) and a useful space under the centre armrest that will hold an SLR camera and the requisite chocolate supplies.
ON THE ROAD
It becomes intriguing driving this car. Its EV hybrid-drive system will get you in.
And the more you drive, the more you will learn about it and the further you will be able to extend its range.
What we're learning - and still getting better at - is how to get the most efficient use out of the switchable ENERGY SAVE and CHARGE mode buttons (each of which activates the petrol engine).
On a longer country run at highway speeds, the PHEV is happy to run on electric power alone.
Then, as battery charge drops, you can top up the charge via the switchable mode buttons at the centre console. This engages the petrol engine to either charge the batteries, assist by driving the front wheels, or both.
The key however to keeping fuel use down on long country runs is to keep sufficient charge in the battery so you can run it in full electric mode when a conventional engine is at its most inefficient.
Like creeping in long lines of slow (Easter) traffic, or running through towns.
We took to turning the petrol engine off and running exclusively in EV mode when coasting down long hills, and otherwise alternated between CHARGE and ENERGY SAVE depending upon the load on the motor.
(Recharging when the highway driving load is lower, and flicking to ENERGY SAVE - which retains a level of charge - through hills or when accelerating.)
Doing this, and also switching to EV at every opportunity, we noticed that we could really improve the overall trip fuel consumption.
And it had absolutely not the slightest effect on the highway speed we were able to maintain, nor did it compromise the driving in any way.
On road, the PHEV has a very useful turn of speed; underfoot, if you didn't know, you would swear there was a V6 under the bonnet.
It is perfectly untroubled by a load, and that gentle but seamless delivery of power from the electric motors (which deliver maximum torque from off idle) flattens hills with absolute ease.
We averaged 7.9 l/100km on our 1000km trip from Phillip Island to the Wimmera and back.
We improved on this on our second trip to Wilson's Promontory and back (via Korumburra, fully loaded, a hilly round trip of just on 400 kilometres), and averaged 6.7 l/100km.
In our testing, this is around half the fuel use of Toyota's Kluger. And, unlike that car, you can then spend the rest of the week driving the PHEV back and forth to the school, to work or for shopping, without using any fuel at all.
That's what we've been doing. And let me tell you, being the sod that pays for the petrol, I'm loving this car.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
We like electric cars, we particularly like this one. It has a few quirks and a couple of irritations, sure, but Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV does what it does particularly well.
At the least, this car makes sense.
While there are one or two mid-sized diesel SUVs and larger hybrids that - on a good run - can better the 6.7 l/100km we achieved on our second long highway drive, not one of them can then run around for the next week without using a drop of fuel.
Not one, not a single drop.
That's what makes the argument so compelling for this plug-in hybrid from Mitsubishi.
And the more we learn about it, the smarter we're getting at maximising its range and minimising its fuel use.
I have no doubt that this car, used like any other car over a month - for long and short trips, in town and on the highway - will achieve better than 4.0 l/100km when averaged over those thirty days.
This Outlander PHEV is on long-term loan from Mitsubishi. We'll run a diary on it next month, and carefully measure the fuel used and kilometres travelled each day.
We'll keep you posted of results.
- 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - $47,490
- 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire - $52,490