Cat Dow takes a tour of the Cotswolds to review the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV — the world’s first plug-In hybrid SUV.
Mitsubishi has hybridised its Outlander to boost the eco-credentials of its SUV behemoth. This plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version is, for the most part, a carbon copy of its diesel-powered cousin, but uses a petrol engine and two electric motors to offer better fuel economy. But is hybridising such an enormous vehicle a stroke of genius, or is it the equivalent of putting a band-aid on an axe wound?
The new Mitsubishi Outlander looks far less aggressive than its predecessor, thanks to curvier headlights, smaller rear lamps and a front grille that looks as if it’s less likely to swallow small children. It’s smoother-looking all round and, unsurprisingly, Mitsubishi reckons the new car is slipperier through the air, with a 7 per cent lower drag coefficient.
You’ll have to look closely to notice any differences between the plug-in hybrid car and the standard diesel model. The PHEV is 200kg heavier (a consequence of its extra electric gubbins), and sports unique front bumper and wheels. It also comes in a lovely shade of blue that conjures images of environmental friendlieness.
Practicality & Convenience
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is practical, versatile and easy to use on a day to day basis. The seats are upholstered in wipe-clean leather and the fixtures and fittings have a quality feel. The cup-holders are large but offer little support for small cups, particularly if you take a corner at speed.
In the back, there is loads of legroom for passengers, but the optional third row of back seats present in the Outlander isn’t available in the Outlander PHEV. This is most likely a consequence of the fact its batteries and charging cables reduce boot space by a not inconsierable 14 litres.
That said, there’s plenty of room for luggage — a full 1,022 litres to be precise. It’ll swallow up just about anything from huge weekly shops to bicycles.
Performance & Handling
The Outlander PHEV is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine, supported by a Twin Motor system, which consists of an 80bhp electric motor mounted on each of the axles. Total power is rated at 279bhp, which is enough for the Outlander to lug its weighty behind from a standstill to 62mph in ten seconds — faster than the diesel car. Don’t get too excited, though. In the real world the Outlander PHEV feels sluggish, particularly when starting off, though it carries its weight well once on the move.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is no ‘driver’s car’. It handles well enough for a vehicle of this size, though the suspension is a little on the stiff side. It grips the road well and feels like it wouldn’t shy away from tough terrain.
Economy & Environment
The Outlander PHEV has three different driving modes: pure electric, series hybrid and parallel hybrid. The first lets you drive on battery power alone for up to 30 miles and at up to 75mph, though this range drops noticeably the faster you push it. Recharging via a fast-charger will take the battery from empty to 80 per cent capacity around 20 minutes. Charging to full via a domestic charger takes in the region of five hours.
Series hybrid mode sends power from the engine to the battery, which in turn powers the electric motors, allowing you to charge the battery slowly as you drive, thus giving you enough charge to complete the final leg of your journey on batteries alone, should you so desire.
The third mode sends power directly from the engine to the front wheels, with the electric motors chipping in as necessary. Leave the car in its standard automatic drive setting and it’ll drive much like a normal car, selecting the most appropriate power source depending on the terrain or your driving style.
Mitsubishi claims a combined fuel average of 148mpg, though the chances of achieving this in the real world are slim. Those who drive short distances at relatively low speeds on a combination electric and petrol power stand the best chance of extracting maximum economy, while long motorway journeys that take both the petrol tank and the battery from full to empty in one go will yield poor economy — worse than the diesel car.
The average CO2 emissions of the Outlander PHEV is said to be 44g/km, down from 153g/km in the conventional Outlander. This statistic alone makes it a very attractive proposition for company car ownership.
Equipment and Value
The Outlander’s infotainment system is not as good as we would have expected in a £35,000 car, though prices start from £28,249. It’s difficult to navigate with too many menus to drill down into. It gets easier to use once you’re familiar with it, but even then, the responsiveness of the touchscreen lets it down.
On a more positive note, the sat-nav maps, provided by Navteq, offer accurate and clear instructions, complete with a countdown to junction display between the speedo and rev counter, which is actually an energy usage indicator.
Auto adaptive cruise control (AACC) comes as standard and allows you to set the cruise control for your maximum expected speed as well as the distance you wish to maintain between you and the car ahead. Trust it to automatically brake for you too and it’ll give you insight into the future of autonomous driving.
An accompanying mobile app lets you activate the vehicle’s climate control remotely, so you can pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin before you set off.
The latest Outlander scored an impressive five stars in Euro NCAP testing, so is incredibly safe. The elevated seat position gives a great forward view of the road, particularly at night, and on the motorway technology like Lane Departure Assist and Brake Assist alert the driver to move back into lane or anticipate braking. For those driving tired, these features can be life-saving.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is an unusual proposition on paper — hybridising vehicles of this size might seem like putting a band-aid on an axe would at first glance. That said, it definitely delivers the goods. It delivers the sort of fuel economy, low emissions and running costs that can put much smaller vehicles to shame — in most situations. It’s also incredibly practical, so if you’re after a large vehicle with plenty of interior space and a small environmental footprint there are few offerings that can compete.
It’s not particularly fun to drive, and you’ll find the diesel version far more efficient on the motorway, but if you regularly travel short distances with large loads, it’s certainly worth looking into.
|Price||£28,249 (with £5,000 government incentive)|
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