It’s easier being green
At last — eco conscious motoring in a family-friendly useful package
MASS appeal is the motivation for a petrol-electric SUV. Mitsubishi is following a simple rationale with the Outlander PHEV: SUVs sell, as do hybrids, so it makes sense to combine the two.
Having driven the mid-sized soft-roader, it does. If the daily commute is around 50km the trip will probably be done in electric-only mode. Go beyond the battery range and the petrol engine will seamlessly engage to recharge the electric reservoir.
So logical is the plug-in Outlander that it makes you wonder why other carmakers didn’t identify the gap earlier.
The pitch is diesel-bettering fuel use and officially the Outlander PHEV does that easily. The electrically assisted official fuel consumption is 1.9 litres/100km. Highway use climbs to 5.8L/100km.
Buying into those numbers will cost $47,490 for the base PHEV, climbing to $52,490 for the PHEV Aspire. The comparable petrol Outlanders are $36,490 and $43,890 respectively; the diesel equivalents cost $39,490 and $46,790. It has to be noted the hybrid variants have a slightly higher level of standard gear.
Both vehicles ride on 18-inch alloys, have satnav, highintensity discharge headlamps, satnav, a reversing camera and keyless start. The PHEV Aspire adds a powered tailgate, sunroof, adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation and wi-fi based remote monitoring of the car.
A full-time, all-wheel-drive system underpins the Outlander and that’s what makes it uniquely attractive. The electrification doesn’t detract from the soft-roader’s utility — the plug-in hybrid can tow up to 1500kg and loses just 14 litres of luggage space as a result of the underfloor battery and motors. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is normally used to charge the battery and provide power for the electric motor on each axle. Under hard acceleration the engine will also help rotate the front wheels.
A remodelled front bumper, machine-faced alloys and the blue-hued PHEV badges are the only exterior changes over a conventional Outlander. That means it isn’t a look-at-me SUV, preferring to hide its hi-tech drivetrain under a relatively unremarkable body.
The PHEV version does ride 30mm lower thanks to the battery pack but the biggest impact comes in terms of rearrow seating which now sits 45mm higher to fit the electric motor under the rear axle.
The interior boasts a seveninch touchscreen that displays pages of charts and diagrams of power flows and energy usage. It is a highlight in an otherwise unremarkable cabin.
A regular Outlander is a fivestar car and EuroNCAP rates the PHEV in the same top bracket, having tested the hybrid SUV separately because of the 200kg of extra weight.
The biggest criticism the European safety body could level at the vehicle was a marginal rating for protection of the driver’s lower leg in the frontal crash test. Outlanders are fitted with seven airbags and the expected assortment of abbreviated safety software.
Hybrids are by nature a compromise but the Outlander PHEV gives less ground than most. More than 800 litres of cargo space and a complex dual-power drivetrain that’s easy to operate give Mitsubishi its first serious contender in the electrified-drive market (please don’t mention the i-MiEV).
The extra weight is felt over bumps where the PHEV’s ride is too firm over the initial hit despite sitting on revised suspension. The weight sits low so cornering isn’t affected.
It drives more like a conventional car than an EV, especially off the line where it takes a second to work up to speed. The upside is there’s little
change to the driving experience for traditional SUV buyers.
The 12 kWh battery will go close to its claimed 52km range in city driving. Go past that and the petrol engine recharges the battery. It can vaguely be heard — noise suppression was a priority in the PHEV.
The steering doesn’t offer a lot of feedback but it isn’t meant to be a sports car, particularly in this guise.
The Outlander PHEV is the most compelling hybrid argument on sale in Australia.
Carsguide would struggle to justify the premium over a diesel-powered version. However, for those out there with a more ecological approach it makes sense as it is a big vehicle with a small appetite for increasing the owner’s environmental footprint.