Mitsubishi is now the queen of serene. But it wasn’t always
For boy racers and speed queens who came of age in the 90s, Mitsubishi was synonymous with one thing: wheel-smoking acceleration of such abrupt intensity that it was like strapping your innards to a firework. The model in question was the Lancer Evolution, known to all as the Evo. It was a bland-looking saloon, but it packed a phenomenal turbo-charged engine beneath the shell of its innocuous bonnet. What I loved about it was its belowthe-radar appeal. It had a coy “Who me?” innocence, which added to its subversion. You had to be in the know to appreciate its power. There were clues, of course: the huge rear wing, the gaping air intake and the infamous FQ variant – the “FQ” standing for “Frigging Quick.”
Mitsubishi has made a habit of springing the unexpected on us. I’m not sure many would guess that the bestselling plug-in hybrid vehicle in Europe and the best-selling plug-in (hybrid or full-electric) for the past three years in Britain is a Mitsubishi. Not a Nissan, not a Toyota, not a Renault, but a rather ordinary looking SUV called an Outlander PHEV (which stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). It doesn’t look futuristic. It does a very good job at being virtually anonymous. But the PHEV performs an astonishing conjuring trick. It can be driven by its naturally aspirated 2.4-litre petrol engine, or by its electric motors powered by batteries alone, or by a combination of the two. Its batteries can be charged on the move or the car can be plugged into the mains. It can cruise on electric power alone at up to 84mph – however, the range on pure electric is only 28 miles. That option has been designed for users who do short, daily, urban journeys. If your office commute is around 25 miles, you could in theory drive to work, recharge and drive home, without burning a single drop of petrol.
For longer journeys, you’ll need to use a combination. You don’t need to make these judgements yourself: the onboard computer is more than happy to choose which mode is most appropriate without being asked.
The car is an SUV, which is a super useful body style: it’s one we Britons can’t get enough of. There isn’t a carmaker today who isn’t rushing to get an SUV on to its books. The fact that you can now have a roomy fiveseater with a spacious boot that is also kinder to our planet means you will have so much reason to feel smug, you might even get sick of yourself.
The new Outlander looks pretty much the same as the old one – students of car design will spot the revised LED headlights. But this isn’t a car that has ever traded on its looks: customers like it as it is. Inside it’s comfortable and well laid out. It makes a virtue of practicality. To drive, it’s almost unsettlingly smooth. It couldn’t be more different to the smoke and fire of Mitsubishi’s Evo. If the Evo was a young person’s car, the Outlander is definitely one for the mature motorist – and as I drifted peacefully along the M4 en route to visit the grandparents for Sunday lunch, I couldn’t have felt happier driving one. ■