It’s eas­ier be­ing green

At last — eco con­scious mo­tor­ing in a fam­ily-friendly use­ful pack­age

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

TECH­NOL­OGY

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.

DE­SIGN

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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