Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Bill Buys

THE two Out­landers looked alike, but that was about all.

One was the plug-in hy­brid elec­tric PHEV, the other the topof- the- range lux­ury As­pire, with con­ven­tional petrol power.

We drove the PHEV for a fort­night - and it didn't cost a cent in fuel.

The first pro­duc­tion plug-in hy­brid elec­tric SUV in the world, it re­ally is a break­through, one ide­ally suited to folk who mainly travel 50 to 70km a day. But it will also han­dle long trips, and of­froad con­di­tions.

It has strong torque and runs eerily quiet on elec­tric power, and will do about 70km be­fore its bat­tery is de­pleted. But then its 2.0litre petrol mo­tor kicks in, recharg­ing the bat­tery as you drive. Or you can press a con­sole but­ton to fire up the petrol mo­tor any­time be­fore the bat­tery is drained.

And if you have a 15 amp power socket at home, use that to charge the bat­tery overnight. We didn't have one, but never needed it any­way.

There are three driv­ing modes: all elec­tric (and emis­sion-free) on the twin 60kW elec­tric mo­tors, Se­ries Hy­brid, which uses the 87kW petrol en­gine as a gen­er­a­tor for the elec­tric mo­tors and Par­al­lel Hy­brid, which em­ploys the petrol en­gine to drive the car while at the same time charg­ing up the bat­tery.

Brak­ing and coast­ing also re­gen­er­ate the bat­tery. To­tal range is close on 900km. For the rest, it's an Out­lander, Mit­subishi's popular mid-sized SUV with five seats, all the safety, com­fort and en­ter­tain­ment things of the mo­ment, and all-wheel drive.

We got used to it in no time and ended up very im­pressed with its torque, si­lence and econ­omy.

Makes a lot of sense, and costs from $47,490.

Then we hopped into an As­pire, and were dis­ap­pointed with what ini­tially felt like poor per­for­mance. Of course, the 2.4litre petrol mo­tor with its 124kW/220Nm had lots of oomph, but we'd been spoilt by the PHEV's shove-in-the-back torque.

At $52,490, the As­pire is the glam model, with pre­mium ap­point­ments, lots of pi­ano-black trim inside, soft- touch ma­te­ri­als and an in­te­rior that can take seven peo­ple and their lug­gage.

What's more, the mo­tor is ul­tra ef­fi­cient, with an av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion of 7.4litres/100km.

The aero­dy­namic SUV has heated leather seats, a hot­shot audio sys­tem, seven-inch touch-screen and it rides on smart 18-inch al­loy wheels.

An op­tion pack added Adap­tive Cruise Con­trol, which keeps the car a safe dis­tance from the one in front, plus sev­eral other good­ies and a glass sun­roof. Also, the sec­ond and third row seats fold to al­low a va­ri­ety of seat­ing or cargo con­fig­u­ra­tions.

And at night, the head­lights give su­perb reach and spread.

A class act in ei­ther elec­tric or petrol form - it comes in diesel too.

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