Road Test: Outlander out in front
Latest Mitsubishi SUV combines economy with smooth styling
This is crazy. I’ve returned from a regular 40km trip that my thirsty V6 4WD needs 14 litres per 100km to complete, but the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has used only 0.6 — hardly more than fumes. I feel like whacking the readout in case it’s stuck.
But it’s not so surprising a result because, on a full charge, the plug-in hybrid can do more than 50km without disturbing the 91-octane in its fuel tank, unless the two-litre petrol engine kicks in for an odd bit of assistance.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV gains a set of energy-saving LED headlamps, daytime running lamps and tail lights, and rather attractive 18-inch machine finished alloys, hugged by Toyo A24 225/55s on the test vehicle. Photo/Phil Hanson.
On longer runs the engine inevitably has to take over the task of providing drive, or at least the lion’s share, while recharging the batteries. Economy deteriorates to six or seven litres per 100km, introducing a discordant note because the medium-sized five-seat SUV is probably better suited to longer trips than urban hops.
Driven has already chronicled the short-range frugality, but it’s still a novelty to experience it firsthand in the revised 2016 model.
Those revisions are not biggies, certainly nothing like longer range on electric power alone. Different nose styling is the most obvious. The good looking sports utility also gains a set of energy-saving LED headlamps, daytime running lamps and tail lights, and rather attractive 18-inch machine-finished alloys, hugged by Toyo A24 225/55s on the test vehicle.
Braking is improved by the addition of two-pot front callipers. A mis-acceleration prevention system disables the throttle if the driver accidentally hits the gas rather than the brake while manoeuvring forwards or backwards.
An iOS and Android app for the VRX provides remote-control options for plug-in recharging for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Picture/Phil Hanson.
Rear shocks, 20 per cent bigger, stiffen the body without upsetting ride and comfort, both of which are good.
Mitsubishi says it found 37 ways to lessen the noise, vibration and harshness, including thicker door glass and further damping of the underfloor lithium-ion battery pack.
Outlander remains out in front
OUTLANDER PHEV HAS BECOME THE COUNTRY’S TOPSELLING HYBRID,
AND BY A CONSIDERABLE MARGIN.
Interior changes include front seat heating in both the XLS and top VRX and soft-feel leather seats in the VRX. Cameras on the VRX provide visual monitoring on the dashboard screen of what, or who, is nearby in any of four directions, or all at once. This bird’s eye panorama can be useful in tight spaces.
Two new colours are Ruby Black and Rose Red. Driven had the quite classy black one which, in sunlight, reveals ruby-like flecks.
The XLS costs $59,990 and the VRX $7000 more. By way of comparison, the top diesel Outlander VRX lists at $56,990, so saving fuel and planet still comes at added cost.
Outlander PHEV has become the country’s topselling hybrid, and by a considerable margin. Not only does it offer that pinch-me-I’m-dreaming short range mileage, but it’s a practical load carrier and, in its genre, well priced for what you get, despite that premium.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV XLS costs $59,990 and the VRX, $7000 more. Picture/Phil Hanson.
More than 60,000 Outlander PHEVs are on the road worldwide and, as this was written, 274 have found buyers here, mainly around Auckland. That number is far ahead of its closest rival, the Nissan Leaf, on 67.
The Outlander is even well ahead of combined sales of all its rivals, says Mitsubishi. In addition to Leaf, it considers rivals to be the Holden Volt, BMW i series and hybrid versions of the Audi A3 and Porsche’s Cayenne.
There was, however, one thing niggling in the background; the Mitsi is an all-wheel-drive SUV, so what’s it like off-road? True, it lacks low-range gearing and doesn’t have much ground clearance, but surely it must be good for off-road adventures?
On paper, a couple of things are going for it, notably great torque available from the electric motors right off the line, an important bonus in some off-road situations. That visual monitoring of the outside could be good in tight spots, too.
And, unlike some SUVs, the driver can lock the Outlander PHEV in all-wheel-drive; the computer does not always know what’s best.
After finding terrain that didn’t challenge the approach and departure angles or low clearance, the Outlander largely lived up to its promises. The instant full-on torque was superb on a rocky part of the track where conventional vehicles often need careful and frequent use of the accelerator pedal to get torque into the “sweet” band. “Serious” 4WDs should one day have a power train like this.
The panoramic-view camera system was less successful, simply because it’s usually better to be watching the track, rather than trying to share attention with a screen. However, the view to the side is useful to make sure bodyworks clears a rock or other potential creators of an appointment with a panelbeater.
Off-roading also seems to quickly chew through electricity, so don’t expect to get too far in a cocoon of environmental purity.
Most owners will prefer to stay on the tarmac, but it’s nice to know the versatile plug-in is up to the job if a tempting trail beckons.