Gen­er­ally elec­tric

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

AUS­TRALIA’S best sell­ing plug-in hy­brid, Mit­subishi’s Out­lander, has gained a new look, more safety tech, fast charg­ing and marginally bet­ter petrol-free driv­ing range.

It also has a higher price: each model is $3000 more than its pre­de­ces­sor. The LS is $50,490 plus on-road costs and the flag­ship Ex­ceed is $55,490.

It’s still not avail­able as a seven-seater be­cause the hy­brid con­troller mod­ule and rear elec­tric mo­tor take up the space.

The new model gains Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, dig­i­tal ra­dio, LED head­lights, elec­tric park brake and what’s called a “Chademo” fastcharger con­nec­tor that can top up 80 per cent of the bat­tery’s ca­pac­ity in just 25 min­utes.

In ad­di­tion to seven airbags and a rear view cam­era, the Ex­ceed gains au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing with pedestrian de­tec­tion, radar cruise con­trol, lane change assistance, rear-cross traf­fic alert and a 360-de­gree cam­era. Smart­phone app ca­pa­bil­ity lets you switch on the air­con be­fore you get in or set the recharge time via your phone.

Claimed elec­tric driv­ing range has in­creased from 52km to 54km — in the real world, the range is re­spectable at 30km34km. The petrol en­gine ex­tends the range to about 500km.

Elec­tric mo­tors front and rear pro­pel the Out­lander when mov­ing from rest and cruis­ing at sub­ur­ban speeds.

Typ­i­cally, the petrol en­gine kicks in on the free­way, driv­ing the front wheels via a sin­gle ra­tio, direct drive axle. It can also charge the lithium-ion bat­tery to 80 per cent ca­pac­ity in just 40 min­utes, on the move or when parked and us­ing about 3L of fuel in the process.

Aver­age fuel con­sump­tion, ac­cord­ing to lab­o­ra­tory tests, has been trimmed from 1.9L/100km to 1.7L/100km. But real world thirst varies greatly — anec­do­tally, from 6L-8L mix­ing petrol and elec­tric and 9L-11L on free­way run­ning.

Charg­ing the PHEV from flat via a reg­u­lar 10-amp house­hold power point takes about 6.5 hours, or five hours from a 15-amp out­let.

ON THE ROAD

The Out­lander PHEV starts and runs silently and, with its hi-tech whirr, it sounds as if you’re driv­ing some­thing from The Jet­sons. The elec­tric mo­tors have am­ple power and, with prac­tice, it’s pos­si­ble to use them most of the time.

As be­fore, paddle shifters are used for minute ad­just­ment of the re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing. In­ge­niously, Mit­subishi has elim­i­nated the too-sharp brake pedal feel that is a hy­brid trait.

Ex­ten­sive changes you can’t see (such as new sus­pen­sion and more sound dead­en­ing, in­clud­ing thicker glass) make driv­ing much more pleas­ant.

Tip­ping the scales at 1860kg, it weighs about 300kg more than a petrol model and 200kg more than a diesel, and the mass is felt when it changes di­rec­tion. The soft sus­pen­sion can feel wal­lowy at times.

There is no dig­i­tal speedo and the cabin, al­though roomy, is start­ing to look dated.

VER­DICT

The base Out­lander is un­der $30,000, the top-of-the-range model is $10,000 less than the PHEV Ex­ceed and the sav­ings will buy a lot of petrol. Fast charg­ing, smart­phone tricks and im­proved re­fine­ment and comfort make the up­date worth a sec­ond look — if you can jus­tify the price.

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