Tun­ing of amps

Fit out your house­hold power points and you can steer the fu­ture of SUVs — the new-fron­tier Out­lander

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

MEET the SUV that changes elec­tric car for­ever, and may even con­vert the harsh­est cyn­ics. It’s a fam­ily car that can travel more than 50km on bat­tery power alone (cov­er­ing the daily com­mute for most mo­torists), drive from Syd­ney to Mel­bourne on one tank of petrol, or make its own elec­tric­ity.

It sips less than 2.0L/100km or al­most 150 miles per gal­lon in the old money.

With two elec­tric mo­tors (one for the front wheels, one for the rear) and all-wheeldrive grip, it knows few bounds.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, this is not an ex­per­i­ment on four wheels. The Mit­subishi Out­lander plug-in hy­brid will be in lo­cal show­rooms early next year priced from less than $50,000, in the mid­dle of lux­ury SUV ter­ri­tory.

In our ex­clu­sive first Aus­tralian drive, we didn’t just take the Out­lander for a lap around the block, we took it to the place where eco-aware cus­tomers are likely to get the elec­tric­ity to run it.

We ven­tured 200km north of Ade­laide to the na­tion’s largest wind farm, the AGL site at Hal­lett, which sup­plies more than one-fifth of South Aus­tralia’s en­ergy and more than half of the whole coun­try’s wind power.

I just wish I’d brought a jacket. It can get pretty windy up there.

VALUE

New tech­nol­ogy al­ways comes at a cost but it’s be­com­ing within reach as each mile­stone passes.

Twelve years ago, when the cock­roach-shaped Honda Insight be­came the first hy­brid car on sale in Aus­tralia, it cost $50,000 de­spite its rather rudi­men­tary petrol-elec­tric sys­tem (which hasn’t ad­vanced much since).

There was amaze­ment when the first Toy­ota Prius came in at $40,000 one year later. That was a lot of money for a car the same size as a Corolla, but at least it was $10,000 cheaper than the tiny Honda two-door.

Fast for­ward to 2011, when the Holden Volt once again tested our faith in this new­fan­gled tech­nol­ogy.

The Volt can drive on bat­tery power for up to 80km be­fore its petrol en­gine comes in to stretch driv­ing range to 400km.

How­ever, $60,000 was a big ask for a four-seat sedan the same size as the Holden Cruze on which it’s based.

So imag­ine a fam­ily-sized SUV with leather seats, touch­screen nav­i­ga­tion, radar cruise con­trol, pre­mium sound sys­tem, the usual gad­gets you’d ex­pect on a $50,000 SUV — and plug-in as well as petrol power.

Mit­subishi is yet to con­firm price but Aus­tralians won’t have long to pon­der. The Out­lander PHEV is due in lo­cal show­rooms in April.

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