Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Clever Mitsubishi wraps advanced EV technology in New Zealand's favourite body style, the SUV, says Damien O’carroll.
The Mitsubishi Outlander is a vehicle that just keeps getting better, and the plug-in hybrid version is no different. In fact, it is probably the model that proves this fact more than any other in the range. While it could be said that the Outlander PHEV doesn’t do anything particularly revolutionary, what it does do is use common technology in a way that hadn’t been used – or rather combined – before. For the public, the real genius of the Outlander PHEV is that Mitsubishi also had the good sense to wrap it all up in that most popular and practical of body styles – the SUV. Kiwis love an SUV and we are also increasingly falling in love with hybrids and electric vehicles, so something like the Outlander PHEV is arguably the perfect car for our largely urban-dwelling, but adventurous lifestyles. When it first appeared the Outlander PHEV had a useful, but slightly stingy all-electric range frustratingly close to being perfect for a daily commute. But not quite. At its last update, however, Mitsubishi upgraded the Outlander PHEV to make it far more useful in a round-town gas-free running sense. Not only has the battery pack been beefed up to provide greater electric-only range, but Mitsubishi has also added a fastcharger CHADEMO plug, meaning that the Outlander can now use the ever-increasing number of fast charging stations popping up around the country, including the Chargenet “Electric Highway” network. The increase in battery power now means a usable, real-world range of more than 40km (Mitsubishi claims 52km, but it depends on how you drive), which makes it entirely possible for most people to use absolutely no petrol in daily usage. Mitsubishi says the battery can be charged at a fast charge station in around 20 minutes, but in the real world charging a plug-in hybrid overnight at home is where the real value lies. In effect it allows you to simply forget about what is propelling the Outlander and simply drive it like a normal car – with no range anxiety and still using hardly any petrol. The Outlander PHEV returns fuel economy similar to that of a much smaller SUV, which while still good, means that the Outlander PHEV is very much better suited to being a daily urban commuter with the ability to do bigger distances when needed, rather than doing them on a regular basis. While the top spec VRX is the hero of the Outlander PHEV range, this entry level XLS is arguably the better vehicle. For $7,000 less than the VRX, the XLS still comes fully loaded with safety and technology. Aside from all its fuel-saving cleverness, the Outlander PHEV’S strongest quality is its sheer versatility and practicality. Easy to drive and live with around town and out on the open road, but with all the space and usefulness of a decent sized SUV, it really is the ideal blend of SUV freedom and electric frugality and environmental responsibility.