The improved Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid SUV that gives Mitsubishi a real edge in this corner of the market. Jonathan Crouch reports on the revised version.
Ten Second Review
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid that can't fail to impress. It'll get over 33 miles on a full electric charge, which means that many commutes will cost pennies in energy charges. The 41g/km emissions figure also means free London congestion charge and a minuscule benefit in kind tax bill. Here, we look at the improved version.
Granted, this might sound a little harsh, but Mitsubishi doesn't tend to be the company you look to as a leader in exploiting profitable market niches. Yes, its Lancer Evo series of rally replicas was a case in point, but other than that, what have we had? There was the electric Mitsubishi MiEV which was hugely expensive and flopped as a result but after that you might be struggling. Instead, we've come to regard the Japanese company as a purveyor of solid, well-priced and reliable cars that are rarely exceptional in any key regard.
Once upon a time, the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV also conformed to that stereotype. If your neighbour bought one, you wouldn't invite your friends round to point and laugh, but you'd probably think it was a bit of an odd buy, given the choices available. The third generation Outlander model line changed all that, standing on its own two feet in a tough section of the market and including a PHEV plug-in hybrid variant that became a best seller in the Plug-in vehicle sector. Here, we're going to look at the latest improved version.
We liked the Outlander diesel when we tried it but the PHEV uses very different mechanicals. This plug-in hybrid features a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a pair of electric motors on each axle, giving all wheel drive and a combined power output in the region of 220bhp. This Crossover is surprisingly sprightly when you bury the throttle, getting to 25mph from rest a full two seconds quicker than earlier versions, though Mitsubishi still quote a sprint to 62mph time of 11 seconds, which sounds strangely slow. Driven in full electric mode, you'll feel the huge torque of the motors and be able to cruise at motorway speeds on electric power alone, although not for too far. Refinement is very good, even without the sound of an engine to drown out wind and tyre noise.
There's a very handy feature included where you can request the battery holds a particular level of charge and you can also use the petrol engine as a generator, to drive battery power back up to 70 per cent of its capacity. There's also a sophisticated five-level regenerative braking system that the driver can select using the wheel-mounted paddles or what you'd otherwise take to be the gear lever.
A good deal of development budget has been spent on improving the Outlander's refinement and more sophisticated engine mounts, thicker glass and improved sound insulation materials have all been fitted. The electric power steering has clearly taken a lot of the development budget. The weight distribution for the Outlander PHEV is 55 per cent front and 45 per cent rear, so it's not too far from the diesel model in that regard.
Design and Build
The current models feature a smart look, with 'Dynamic Shield' frontal treatment that includes LED daytime running lights and a 3D grille. Inside, you won't mistake the cabin for that of a premium brand model but it's simply laid out and quite classy in its own way, with plenty of soft-touch finishes and a clean, architectural fascia design.
Moving back into the second row, there's reasonable space for two adults - or three at a squash, though taller folk may feel the need to recline back the adjustable backrests. There's no seven seat version offered, which probably won't come as a surprise, given the rearwards need to accommodate all those batteries. These sit in a floor-mounted battery pack that necessitate a reduction of 14-litres in boot space and rear legroom is a touch more pinched due to the raised floor height. The 577-litre boot is still more than adequate for most requirements and the luggage bay is well shaped.
Market and Model
Prices for the PHEV Plug-in hybrid look very competitive, starting at around £32,000 after subtraction of a £2,500 government Plug-in Vehicle grant. That's about the same as you'd pay for the priciest diesel variant. That's for the entry-level 'Kotu' version: there are also five other PHEV models, the Juro, the '4h', the '4hs', the '5h' and the '5hs', with prices ranging up to £43,500.
Expect a decently high spec to come as standard across the range. Even the base 'Kotu' variant gets 18-inch alloy wheels, climate control and cruise control. We'd look at the mid-range 'Juro' derivative, which features an Electronic Parking Brake with Brake Auto Hold, a special 'EV Priority Mode', a Smartphone Link Display Audio with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a DAB tuner and a reversing camera. Top variants get niceties like leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a DAB radio, self-levelling LED headlights and a 360-degree camera. The flagship '5hs' variant includes extra camera-driven safety features.
Cost of Ownership
The 'official' combined fuel consumption figure of 166mpg merely serves to remind us that we have an urgent need for a new European fuel consumption test which more closely mirrors everyday driving conditions. Likewise, the 41g/km emissions figure the Outlander PHEV records won't be something you'll be managing day in, day out. As an exercise in taking advantage of a flawed testing procedure, it's remarkable.
This plug-in hybrid can now drive for over 33 miles on a full electric charge and can be fast charged to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. This means that for some drivers, they'll be able to pop the car on charge in the evening, do the commute and bring it home without using any petrol at all. Mitsubishi reckons that if you cover more than 100 miles between charges, the diesel is going to work out more cost-effective. Charge the Outlander PHEV more frequently and the numbers swing in its favour. Residual values ought to be strong, as the trade has quite taken to the Outlander and this plug-in hybrid was the first example of its type in the sector.
As long as you get on with the styling and don't have a pressing need to seat seven people, we've got nothing but good things to say about the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It's one of those rare vehicles that is massively better than you expect it to be. The calibration of the hybrid powertrain, the options it gives its driver and the sheer depth of engineering that's apparent in the way it's been built all point to a car that deserves all the acclaim it's now getting.
Being first to market improves the chances of success - and so it's proved. Being first with a product so strong that it will have many rivals going back to the drawing board ought to guarantee success - and so it's also proved. This one deserves a big stage.