Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV long-term test: in holiday mode
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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV VRX
- Seamless blend of SUV and EV
- A decent open-road drive
- So many cupholders
- Still $13k more than VRX petrol
- No seven-seat option for PHEV
- So many modes could be confusing
Over the past few years, Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV has become a front-runner in the plug-in hybrid world. It’s a well-rounded SUV that could slot itself easily into any Kiwi family looking to making the electric switch.
I was lucky enough to be tossed the keys to DRIVEN’s long-term Outlander PHEV for my birthday weekend recently, so a mountain biking trip to Rotorua seemed like a natural choice. As well as seeing the bright lights of Rotovegas again, it would give me a good chance to test the Outlander’s performance on the open road.
For this new model, Mitsubishi has given it a bigger battery, but instead of adding oodles of range (just 1km extra), it powers a larger motor on the rear axle. It also gets a larger 2.5-litre petrol engine, which I found to be particularly helpful when it came to tackling the hills in hybrid mode. If you’re interested, you can read more about all the updates in part one of our Outlander PHEV series.
It’s no secret that any plug-hybrid’s pure-electric comfort zone is in town, and with a battery-only range of 55km, the Outlander is no different. To aid with making the most of your charge on the road, Mitsubishi has given drivers the power to choose when to use... power, by adding two handy buttons behind the gear selector. These are the Save Charge and EV buttons, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out what they might do. When Save Charge is selected, the Outlander will preserve the battery level, while EV does the opposite, and will have the SUV run only on electric power as long as it can.
We’re still yet to find out if manually switching between the two modes is more effective than letting the PHEV do everything itself, but editor Dean Evans will be able to answer in a future report from, as he tackles his Hamilton-Auckland commute.
For my trip I set off with a full charge, and let the Outlander’s hybrid system make all the decisions. After just a few minutes on the road, it became immediately clear that it was going to use all its battery power before it was forced to start the engine. With decent charge, it will remain in electric mode as default, unless the accelerator is being hammered. Once it figures that it’s in need of some extra power when the pedal is pressed, it will fire up the trusty 2.5-litre four-banger, the needle will swing out of the “Eco” half of the gauge, and the tachometer will wake up.
After the 55-odd kilometres of pure-electric driving has come to an end, the Outlander turns into a hybrid, and will occasionally switch off the petrol engine when it gains enough charge from the regenerative braking system. Hills become a petrol affair, and the engine can feel like it’s struggling sometimes without the electric assistance.
Despite this, the fuel economy on our 85km trip from Cambridge to Rotorua never strayed far from Mitsubishi’s claimed figure of 1.9l/100km, only rising to 2.2 near the end of the trip, which is impressive for an SUV of its size – bearing in mind that average includes more than 50km of not burning any fuel at all.
By the time we had arrived in the bustling metropolis of Rotorua, the charge meter was reading a flat zero. When plugged into a fast charger, I became aware of the magic behind the PHEV’s system, as the unit reported that there was still 22 per cent charge left in the battery. The PHEV’s system will only use around 70 per cent of the battery to run on electricity alone, and then will use the remaining 30 per cent alongside the petrol engine to run as a hybrid. Genius stuff really.
Aside from the nerdy economy stats, the Outlander functioned as any family-friendly SUV should during the trip. The abundance of cup holders across the first row was a highlight, and I found the steering wheel controls to be very straightforward. The infotainment system is quite basic, but has everything you need, and watching the “EV information” readout will be fascinating to anyone that enjoys some good data.
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV VRX
ENGINE: 2.4-litre petrol four with 13.8Wh lithium-ion battery and twin electric motors
POWER: 94kW/199Nm (petrol engine), 60kW/137Nm (front electric motor), 70kW/195Nm (rear)
GEARBOX: Continuously variable automatic, AWD
ECONOMY: 1.9l/100km (ADR), EV range 55km, 44g/km CO2