Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV VRX long-term test: our EV-SUV is A-OK
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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV VRX
- Seamless blend of EV and SUV
- Much better to drive than previous 2.0
- Can fast-charge in 25 minutes
- Still $13k more than VRX petrol
- No seven-seat option for PHEV
- All-new model on the way
Meet our new long-term test vehicle: the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV VRX.
Know what you’re thinking: isn’t there an all-new Outlander on the way? Yes, there is. But it’s not here yet and we reckon this is an ideal time to take a long, hard look at what’s been the most influential Electric Vehicle (EV) in the New Zealand new-car market over the past decade.
“Most influential” might be a bold claim, but think about it. The Outlander is the vehicle that introduced more Kiwis to the concept of EVs than any other, and did it very early: it was launched way back in 2013 and is easily NZ’s biggest-selling plug-in new-vehicle in a cumulative sense since then.
More to the point, the execution was and still is impressive. While other mainstream brands still struggle to combine an EV powertrain with practicality and affordability, the Outlander remains unique in the market: a sub-$60k EV-SUV with generous cabin space, good technology and even some off-road ability from its AWD powertrain (Mitsubishi has even rallied it to prove the point).
The Outlander is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), which means it combines a conventional petrol engine with a battery pack and two electric motors (one front, one rear). Recharge the battery by plugging it in and you get up to 55km of pure-electric driving. When that runs out, it becomes a petrol-electric hybrid.
It’s a clever package. But another reason we’re so keen to run this model long term is that Mitsubishi has made changes to the latest iteration to make it a more satisfying thing to live with, rather than just a good eco-choice.
In late-2019 the petrol engine grew from 2.0 to 2.5 litres, for better hybrid performance in a wider range of driving scenarios (the previous 2.0 did get a bit breathless on the open road).
The main battery was increased by 15 per cent – not necessarily to improve EV range (it only went up by 1km!), but to help power a larger rear electric motor. It also gained a new Sport mode, with a big blue button so you don’t miss it.
According to Mitsubishi, all of that improves the driving experience without damaging the Outlander PHEV’s eco-credentials. The main aim was to enhance low-to-mid range acceleration; with Sport mode engaged, the car also uses its regenerative braking system to offer maximum throttle-off deceleration, although you can also still adjust that using the steering wheel mounted paddles.
It’s very early days for our Outlander PHEV, but we’re already impressed by the generous EV range – and the ability to fast-charge it on public DC stations using a CHAdeMO plug (same as a Nissan Leaf), which is a rarity for PHEVs. It means you can “fill” the battery in just 25 minutes if you’re taking a break near a DC station (or have a free one around the corner, as we do at the DRIVEN office). Otherwise, it’s an easy overnight charge at home using a domestic three-pin plug.
Our PHEV is the top-spec VRX, which adds $6500 to the price of the XLS (something of an EV-bargain at $52,490) but also brings luxuries like leather seats and power tailgate. We’ve also scored the only bright colour in the range that’s not a variant of grey or white: Red Diamond.
We picked up the Mitsubishi with just 1000km on the clock, but we’ve got a lot planned for it in the coming months – including a fair bit of long-distance commuting and weekend travel, to make sure we take it well out of the PHEV comfort zone.
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV VRX
ENGINE: 2.4-litre petrol four with 13.8kWh 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