First drive: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV launch review
Greg Hill gets behind the wheel of the updated Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
The appeal, environmental values, and model choice of electric vehicles – including hybrids – has grown rapidly in recent times. We’ve seen massive improvements in the technology, packaging and availability, and EVs in their various configurations are now among the most talked-about vehicles in the automotive world.
There are three main types of EVs in Australia. As well as full battery-electric vehicles which rely on external charging, there are two types of petrol-electric set-ups: plug-in hybrids, where the battery can be recharged via mains power and supplemented in part by the vehicle while driving, and stand-alone hybrids which rely on the petrol engine and regenerative braking to keep the battery charged.
Mitsubishi has gone down the plug-in path with the Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), with a petrol engine and two electric motors – one at the front wheels and the other at the rear. The second electric motor at the rear gives the PHEV four-wheel-drive capabilities.
The Outlander PHEV was the first plug-in hybrid available in Australia when it went on sale in 2014 and has continued to evolve with upgrades along the way. The biggest changes for the 2020 model are a larger 2.4-litre petrol engine, improved battery capacity and increased generator output, while the power output of the electric motor driving the rear wheels is up. Interior upgrades also add to comfort and functionality.
What do you get for the price?
Naturally, there is a price to pay for the advanced technology that comes with hybrid technology over equivalent petrol models. The 2020 PHEV starts from $46,990 plus approximately $4000 on-road costs for the ES variant. Next up is the ES + ADAS pack which adds another $1000, while the top-of-the-line Exceed is $55,990 (driveaway). (More: Australia's best cars for 2019 revealed)
How safe is it?
The Outlander has a five-star ANCAP rating, which was achieved in 2014 and carries over to the new PHEV. All variants are now equipped with autonomous emergency braking but, unfortunately, the full suite of safety features is not standard across the range. The level of driver-assist and active safety features increases as you move up the model scale, with the top-grade Exceed well kitted out, including Mitsubishi’s excellent ‘Unintended Acceleration Mitigation System’ which stops you from accidentally accelerating into a wall.
What’s it like inside?
The practical family-friendly cabin size and versatile use of space is unchanged but redesigned rear seats and the addition of driver’s seat power-adjustable lumber support across the range improves comfort. Switches around the centre console have been repositioned for easier use while a new eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility enhances the all-important infotainment system.
What’s under the bonnet?
The 2.4-litre petrol engine is the same unit Mitsubishi employs in several other models, but with modifications to suit the hybrid application. Maximum power is 94KW at 4500rpm with 199Nm of torque at 4500rpm, up from 87kW and 186Nm produced by the previous 2.0-litre engine.
Is it efficient?
Official ADR fuel consumption is an impressive 1.9L/100km with CO2 of only 45g/km. In real-world use, however, the consumption of petrol and electricity (battery power) varies significantly depending on the type of use.
Under ideal conditions Mitsubishi claims the Outlander has a fully charged range of 54 kilometres on electric only, which means it’s capable of taking the average commuter to and from work on purely electric power. Hard acceleration and high-speed driving will run down the battery faster and significantly more petrol will be consumed. Little or no charging is supplied by the regenerative braking system on a highway run, so the battery storage is quickly depleted, leaving the engine to work a lot harder and resulting in higher petrol consumption.
How does it drive?
Depending on the driving conditions, the PHEV’s smart electronics can automatically switch between modes – operating on pure electric power, using the petrol engine to generate power for the battery, or driving the front wheels via both electric and petrol power, with the electric motor driving the rear wheels. The major advantage over a pure EV is that the PHEV can also be driven on the petrol engine only when the battery power is depleted, so there is no range anxiety on a long drive.
While there’s not a massive jump in the petrol engine’s output, the larger-capacity unit doesn’t work as hard to maintain the pace. Operating in combination with the electric motors, the upgraded PHEV is smoother, quieter and has a stronger, more responsive feel. The electric motors provide the excellent low-speed response driveability that we’ve experienced in other electric vehicles and the transition between modes is seamless.
Should I buy one?
The 2020 model improvements make the Outlander PHEV a more attractive proposition, both in terms of comfort and on-road ability. For city use, the upgrade helps driveability, along with low running costs and environmental benefits. As a touring vehicle the argument isn’t quite as strong, although it eliminates the range anxiety associated with pure EVs.