The last time we looked at Mitsubishi’s latest Outlander model, we were moderately impressed by its clean and lean credentials. It wasn’t a bad drive, either. Now, you can enjoy the Outlander as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle – or PHEV. Geoff Ashcroft reports.
Clever technology sees the Outlander PHEV equipped with a petrol engine and electric motors.
It can function as a pure electric vehicle, having had its drive battery topped up over a five-hour period using an extension lead and a 13-amp plug. This gives a range of up to 32.5 miles per charge, says the maker. Fast charging is also available.
In addition, PHEV can be used in series hybrid mode where the petrol engine works as a generator, and supplies electricity directly to the electric motors for each axle.
And then there is parallel hybrid mode. At high speeds, the petrol engine takes over the direct supply of power to the wheels, with assistance from the electric motors as required.
Power distribution is fully automatic, though the driver can choose from charge/save modes by pressing buttons on the centre console, to manipulate engine and electrical power through a built-in generator.
Bystanders will gawp in amusement as the petrol engine bursts into life with a frenzy of revs to meet electrical demand, leaving them thinking you’ve lost co-ordination of clutch and throttle.
During deceleration, the electric wheel motors become generators, and harvest electrical energy, which can be put back into the drive battery. So you’ll feel like a Formula One driver, albeit with a huge power deficit.
Gearshift paddles on the steering wheel are a carry-over from the non-PHEV’s automatic gearbox, and are used to set the level of electric motor retardation. The ‘+’ and ‘-’ markings though, are counter-intuitive, and pulling the ‘-’ paddle gives more retarding force; choosing ‘+’ gives less braking force.
With up to five settings, this can become quite a powerful braking force that rarely needs you to touch the brakes. But while you might save on discs and pad wear, those following you won’t see any brake lights.
With near-zero emissions and the ability to enjoy up to 148mpg, could this be 4x4 utopia?
Not really. Performance is tardy and this version of the Outlander feels numb and heavy.
If you really want headline fuel efficiency, you’ll need to consider the journeys you’ll take. A couple of long runs started with enthusiasm, but once the electric charge ran out, its petrol all the way. And with a 45-litre fuel tank, expect to make frequent stops. You might even get on first name terms with Messers Shell and BP.
My EV statistics dropped from 100 per cent to 31 per cent usage. And my mpg figure fell with it, cascading from a dizzying 91mpg, to a disappointing 31mpg. So you’ll probably be better off with the diesel version, if longer journeys are essential.
There is no denying that this latest Outlander is a clever bit of kit. For business users, the eligibility for a Government Plug-In Car grant of up to £5,000 and its 100 per cent write-down allowance will be attractive on paper.
But for those who enjoy driving, a few kick-backs are unlikely to shift the balance of power – the Outlander PHEV appears to be little more than a box-ticker for those who really don’t enjoy driving, but find themselves with no other option.
And now it’s available as a two-seat, commercial vehicle.