Recharge for nation’s best selling plug-in
NOW this week’s test car has a definite unique selling point that makes it stand out from the crowd… a claimed 156mpg.
Because it is the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) which has a two-litre conventional petrol engine and two powerful electric motors.
And that means the best of both worlds, good 4x4 performance and great fuel economy, especially considering it is a fair-sized SUV.
So how does it work? The PHEV automatically switches between electric, series hybrid and parallel hybrid modes. In electric only setting the car can do up to 32 miles on a full charge – at speeds of up to 72mph.
When the battery power falls below a certain level ‘series hybrid’ kicks in, where the petrol engine acts as a generator, charging up the battery while the electric motors still do all the work. In ‘parallel hybrid’ both the electric motors and petrol engine work together to give maximum performance for higher speed driving.
The car can also recover electricity via regenerative braking, storing kinetic energy as it slows down and this can be used automatically or by the driver via ‘paddle shift’ style controls on the steering wheel, something I found a bit addictive!
So that’s the technical stuff out of the way, but what is the car like behind the wheel? Well very normal considering its exotic powertrain and it is quicker to 60mph than the normal diesel-engine version when all motors work at once. But you find yourself adopting a totally new way of driving, constantly watching the dashboard flow diagram to see what is going on with electric or petrol drive.
And those exceptional mileage claims are not too off the planet as I averaged over 100mpg on one 14-mile A-roads and motorway journey into M.E.N HQ at Chadderton without trying too hard when I let the car switch itself between electric and petrol powerplants but remained in the ‘Eco’ setting.
Since its introduction to the UK almost two years ago the Outlander PHEV had become a big hit for Mitsubishi – selling more here than in Japan and outselling all other electric and hybrid vehicles in the UK.
Part of that success is because it is currently the only PHEV SUV on offer and to keep their car ahead Mitsubishi have brought in a series of improvements for 2016, including a redesigned front with new LED daytime running lights, grille and bumper and similar revisions at the back.
The dashboard has also had a makeover to make controls simpler to use and give a classier look. Even on the most basic GX3h (GX3h+, GX4h and GX4hs models are also available), equipment is impressive, with climate control and cruise control across the range.
The GX4h gets leather seats, a heated steering wheel, DAB radio, self-levelling LED headlights and a 360 degree camera system, while the GX4hs adds front and rear parking sensors and additional safety features.
For 2016, the PHEV’s acceleration from rest has been improved and the car does now feel more lively. Performance figures are 0-62 in a respectable 11 seconds (although it appears to be faster) and top speed is 106mph.
Our test model, the near top-of-the-range GX4h auto, also had the power tailgate and very comfy soft leather seats in its quality interior.
For 2016, Mitsubishi have also reworked the suspension, strengthening the front and rear subframes, while the spring and damper rates have been uprated all round. The result is an improved ride on road with reduced body roll.
Unlike some electric vehicles the Outlander PHEV can be charged at home overnight with Mitsubishi claiming this costs just £1.20. However, I could not seem to get the claimed 32 mile range, getting 25 at best, although Mitsubishi say that depends on how you have driven the car prior to charging as it ‘remembers’ how economical you are with the right foot.
Good points are that very useful, if a bit slow, power tailgate, the elevated driving position, those lovely, soft leather power, heated and cooled seats, a clear and easy to use touchscreen system and loads of room front and rear plus good loadspace.
On the negative side there is little to criticise – except that plugging the car in every night becomes a bit of a chore and if you do run out of electricity the mpg figures plunge well below the diesel version, which is around £7,000 cheaper depending on the model. Oh yes, and the cruise control is surprisingly not adaptive.
Outlander PHEV prices are from £31,749 to £42,999 after the government £2,500 plug-in car grant.
●● The Outlander PHEV 2016