OUTLANDER DOWN TO THE WIRE

North Coast Times - - DRIVE WAY - Bill McKin­non

THE plug-in hy­brid is be­com­ing a big seller in Europe, where the lo­cals are en­cour­aged to go green via high fuel prices, tax and reg­is­tra­tion con­ces­sions on low-emis­sion ve­hi­cles and, in some ci­ties, re­stricted ac­cess for con­ven­tion­ally pow­ered cars, es­pe­cially diesels, which EU reg­u­la­tors seem pretty keen to leg­is­late out of ex­is­tence.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz each have plug-in hy­brids avail­able here, in­clud­ing the Mercedes C350e and BMW’s new 530e iPer­for­mance, and more are on the way. At the af­ford­able end, though, the only plug-in avail­able here is Mit­subishi’s Outlander PHEV, at $50,490 in LS spec­i­fi­ca­tion or $55,490 for the Ex­ceed, which we're in to­day.

So what's a plug-in hy­brid? Ex­actly what it says on the box.

It uses a hy­brid driv­e­train with a petrol en­gine, an elec­tric mo­tor (or two, in the Outlander) and a bat­tery pack to store elec­tric­ity.

As you drive along, it au­to­mat­i­cally de­ploys the en­gine, the bat­tery or both to sup­ply power, while also gen­er­at­ing enough elec­tric­ity to keep the bat­tery charged.

The plug-in bit refers to the fact that you can also charge the bat­tery from a 10-amp house­hold power point, or a spe­cialised fast charger, and run on elec­tric­ity alone for quite a dis­tance: up to about 50km in the Outlander.

So a plug-in gives you the best of both worlds: min­i­mal-emis­sions mo­tor­ing (es­pe­cially if you buy re­new­able-sourced elec­tric­ity from the grid, or gen­er­ate your own via so­lar) and low run­ning costs of a pure elec­tric car, plus the ev­ery­day con­ve­nience and long-dis­tance ca­pa­bil­ity of a hy­brid.

The Outlander PHEV has a 2.0-litre petrol en­gine and an elec­tric mo­tor at each end. There's no gear­box or pro­pel­ler shaft, it's all driven by wire.

In other re­spects, the PHEV dif­fers lit­tle from the petrol and turbo diesel Out­landers. It's been given the same tweaks for 2017, in­clud­ing the oblig­a­tory new in­fo­tain­ment with dig­i­tal ra­dio, Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto com­pat­i­bil­ity, works­burger driver as­sist safety tech pack­age (on Ex­ceed only) in­clud­ing radar cruise and blind- spot mon­i­tor­ing, plus im­proved ride, han­dling, re­fine­ment, ef­fi­ciency and per­for­mance.

As with any hy­brid, Outlander is de­signed to shine in the city. The more feral the traf­fic, the more ef­fi­ciently its hy­brid gear works be­cause you can use bat­tery power nearly all the time.

Our test car did 50km on the bat­tery alone, us­ing the re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing func­tion (ad­justable via steer­ing wheel pad­dles) to max­imise its range. In Nor­mal mode, run­ning as a se­ries hy­brid on elec­tric­ity with the en­gine kick­ing in from time to time to keep the bat­tery charged, it used only a cou­ple of litres per 100km.

One of the big­ger mid-size SUVs around, the Outlander has a spa­cious, ver­sa­tile cabin and huge boot. Ride com­fort is fine, while fea­tures such as sur­round and bird'seye view cam­eras, power tail­gate and hill holder are use­ful.

If you're go­ing to leave town on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, a turbo-diesel is more ef­fi­cient over long dis­tances.

It's no sports wagon but the PHEV car­ries its weight low, so it's rea­son­ably flat and well-man­nered on cor­ners and han­dling is se­cure. It's com­fort­able and quiet.

Ver­dict: The Outlander PHEV is a fas­ci­nat­ing, el­e­gant piece of ma­chin­ery that com­bines the fos­sil fuel-free ca­pa­bil­ity of a pure elec­tric car with the ev­ery­day prac­ti­cal­ity and range of a typ­i­cal mid-size SUV.

Mit­subishi's high­spec Outlander PHEV.

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