Cana­di­ans em­brace Mit­subishi’s plug-in hy­brid

South Shore Breaker - - Wheels - RICHARD RUS­SELL rus­sell@ad­vanced­driv­ing.com

The Mit­subishi Out­lander is an aver­age util­ity ve­hi­cle. It of­fers sim­i­lar space and fea­tures as sev­eral oth­ers in this mid-size class in a some­what dated style.

In terms of sales num­bers, it trails the crowd. But add the let­ters PHEV to the Out­lander name and you have a clear leader of the pack.

The Out­lander PHEV (plug-in hy­brid elec­tric ve­hi­cle) eas­ily out­sells all other plug-in hy­brids in Canada. That has helped Mit­subishi re­port six con­sec­u­tive months of record sales in 2018.

Cana­di­ans are not alone in em­brac­ing the Out­lander PHEV. It has been the best-sell­ing plugin hy­brid in Europe (where hy­brids are hot) for the past three years and is the best­selling cross­over with a plug, in the world.

Mit­subishi’s ex­per­tise in this tech­nol­ogy is likely the pri­mary rea­son the com­pany was pur­chased by Nis­san in 2016, mak­ing it a part­ner in the “Re­nault-nis­san-mit­subishi Al­liance.”

Re­nault had as­sumed con­trol of Nis­san in 1999. The Al­liance thus claims the best­seller ti­tle for both plug-in hy­brids (Out­lander PHEV) and pure elec­tric cars (Nis­san Leaf ).

The Out­lander is a mid-size, five-seat, all-wheel-drive util­ity ve­hi­cle, like many oth­ers. There are two trim lev­els: SE S-AWC and GT S-AWC, with tour­ing pack­age avail­able on the former. It is priced, built and equipped com­pet­i­tively and has a 100,000-kilo­me­tre war­ranty.

But let’s look at what sets the PHEV ver­sion apart and well ahead of the pack.

The Out­lander PHEV is pow­ered by a 2.0-litre four-cylin­der gaso­line en­gine, and a pair of big elec­tric mo­tors. It has a gen­er­a­tor and 12 kwh lithium-ion

bat­tery pack nes­tled be­neath the cen­tral tun­nel nor­mally used for a drive shaft.

Thanks to the abun­dance of torque pro­vided by the elec­tric mo­tors, it does not need the gears of a con­ven­tional or con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion to mul­ti­ple torque. In­stead, it uses a sin­gle speed di­rect drive trans­mis­sion.

The en­gine and one mo­tor drive the front wheels and the se­cond mo­tor pro­vides power to the rear wheels. Both mo­tors pro­duce 80 horse­power, but the one in the rear puts out more torque — 144 lb.-ft., com­pared to 101 up front.

The com­bined power of the en­gine and mo­tors is 197 horse­power. You can’t sim­ply add up the peak power of the en­gine and elec­tric mo­tors, be­cause the power peaks at dif­fer­ent points for each.

This lay­out gives the Out­lander all-wheel-drive. Mit­subishi calls it “su­per all wheel con­trol.”

The gaso­line en­gine’s main role is to power the big 70-kw gen­er­a­tor which pro­vides power for the bat­ter­ies and elec­tric mo­tors. The en­gine is also called on to pro­vide mo­ti­va­tion for the ve­hi­cle at higher speeds, un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion and when the bat­ter­ies are low. The two elec­tric mo­tors also are used to recharge the bat­ter­ies through re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing.

The Out­lander PHEV has a slick sys­tem of con­trol­ling the amount of en­ergy that can be har­vested while slow­ing. Pad­dles on the back of the steer­ing wheel let you se­lect from six lev­els of re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing. The base level (0) lets the ve­hi­cle coast for a very long time when you take your foot off the ac­cel­er­a­tor. At the other ex­treme, level 5 slows the ve­hi­cle very quickly in­deed.

The Out­lander PHEV will go up to 35 kilo­me­tre on a full charge with­out any help from the en­gine. A fully de­pleted the bat­tery pack can be recharged in eight hours from a 120-volt out­let, 3.5 hours from a 220-volt out­let and up to 80 per cent of ca­pac­ity in 25 min­utes from a level 3 fast charg­ing sta­tion. The bat­tery pack is in­cluded in the com­pany’s 10-year, 160,000 kilo­me­tre pow­er­train war­ranty.

There are three unique driv­ing modes, se­lected by a tog­gle on the cen­tre con­sole. The “de­fault mode” is EV, which uses elec­tric power only.

“Se­ries mode” uses elec­tric power for the ve­hi­cle and uses the gaso­line en­gine to drive the gen­er­a­tor and charge the bat­ter­ies.

“Par­al­lel mode” has the en­gine driv­ing the ve­hi­cle with the mo­tors com­ing into play on oc­ca­sion when ex­tra oomph is needed.

Ku­dos to the de­vel­op­ment team for ar­riv­ing at a setup that changes back and forth be­tween elec­tric and gaso­line use so seam­lessly. Also for pro­vid­ing a re­sis­tive el­e­ment like that in a stove or blow dryer, to heat the cab when the ig­ni­tion is off to save bat­tery power.

There are also three other modes re­lated to the charg­ing sys­tem. “EV pri­or­ity” uses elec­tric­ity as long as pos­si­ble. “Bat­tery charge” mode does ex­actly that, us­ing the en­gine and gen­er­a­tor to pro­vide an 80 per cent charge in 40-45 min­utes.

The third mode — “bat­tery save” — con­serves bat­tery power, un­til you wish to switch to EV pri­or­ity for silent city driv­ing or sneak­ing home late at night.

The Out­lander PHEV is no rocket ship, but it does move away from rest promptly and when ex­tra power is called for. You could con­ceiv­ably drive around a city or short com­mute all week long with­out ever us­ing a drop of gas. Or you can take it on a lengthy trip with no wor­ries about get­ting to the next plug.

In that sit­u­a­tion, you will keep an eye on the fuel gauge since the tank only holds 43 litres. It and cargo space are com­pro­mised by the need for a big bat­tery pack and the rear elec­tric mo­tor.

The PHEV weighs about 250 kilo­me­tres more than its con­ven­tional sib­ling. Ex­tra weight is a detri­ment to fuel mileage, but I wit­nessed an im­pres­sive 5.5 litres/100 kilo­me­tre. over a week of mixed driv­ing.

The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is sim­i­lar to a con­ven­tional ve­hi­cle whether or not you play with the var­i­ous modes. Put it in drive and off you go. At the end of the drive you might find it hard to put the trans­mis­sion in Park un­til you no­tice the but­ton hid­den by the lever it­self. But, don’t worry, Park is au­to­mat­i­cally en­gaged when you turn the ig­ni­tion off.

The Out­lander is a bit pricey com­pared to the com­pe­ti­tion at $43,000-$46,000, un­less you live in B.C. where you are el­i­gi­ble for a $2,500 re­bate. Que­bec will give you $4,000. The new On­tario gov­ern­ment has in­di­cated it will can­cel that prov­ince’s $9,555 re­bate, putting it in line with the re­main­ing prov­inces that have no re­bate pro­grams for elec­tric or plug-in elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

Next year Mit­subishi will bring us the up­dated ver­sion now on sale in Europe. The 2019 Out­lander PHEV will have a larger (2.4 litres) and more pow­er­ful gaso­line en­gine, a larger bat­tery pack (13.8 kwh) and ad­di­tional modes for the AWD sys­tem.

In the mean­time you can still get the best com­bi­na­tion of util­ity, ver­sa­til­ity, AWD and fuel-sav­ings avail­able in an af­ford­able util­ity ve­hi­cle.

The specs

• Model: 2018 Mit­subishi Out­lander PHEV SE

• En­gine: 2.0-litre, four-cylin­der, 117 horse­power, 137 lb.-ft. of torque, reg­u­lar fuel; plus twin elec­tric mo­tors, each with 80-horse­power, front has 101 lb.-ft. of torque and rear 144 lb.-ft. Com­bined out­put is 197 horse­power

• Trans­mis­sion: sin­gle speed di­rect drive, full time all-wheel drive.

• NRCAN rat­ing (litres/100km city/high­way): 9.4⁄ 9.0 (gaso­line), 3.4⁄ 3.2 (gas and elec­tric)

• Length: 4,695 mm

• Width: 1,800 mm

• Wheel­base: 2,670 mm

• Weight: 1,895 kg

• Price: $42,998 base

$42,998 as tested, plus freight.

Richard Rus­sell

The 2018 Mit­subishi Out­lander PHEV SE is pow­ered by its 2.0-litre, four- cylin­der en­gine and two elec­tric mo­tors.

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