Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV is their first attempt at producing a plug-in electric SUV, a car that intends to blend environmentally friendly low emission driving, family friendly practicality and (some) off-road ability. The model tested was the most expensive and luxurious of the two PHEV versions, the Aspire.
What we like:
- Effortless and low emission electrical motoring
- Various charging options and driving modes
- Rear legroom
- All-wheel drive ability
Not so much:
- Short electric range
- Noisy and often thirsty petrol engine
- Requires a 15V socket for the charging cable
- Awkward “joystick” gear lever and paddle combination
- Ride can be harsh
- Questionable build quality
Price and Equipment
The Outlander Aspire shares the same plug-in hybrid system and Twin Motor 4WD system that is comprised of two electric motors -one front and one rear, along with a 2.0 petrol engine for added grunt and charging assistance as fitted to the standard Outlander PHEV. But the more expensive model adds the following goodies: leather trim with heated and electric front seats, adaptive cruise control, a crash avoidance system, an electric sunroof and tailgate as well as chrome garnishing on the door handles and around the windows. A smartphone app which can control the car’s charging cycle and air-conditioning timing.
The Outlander PHEV Aspire retails for $52,490, a $5,000 premium over the standard Outlander PHEV.
The Aspire’s cabin does away with any form of fake wood, chrome or any other form of pseudo-prestige décor. Rather, the black (if slightly under bolstered) leather seats are complimented by piano black and textured silver trim on the doors and the passenger side of the dashboard.
The overall effect is modern, contemporary and is well suited to the large screen which dominates the centre of the dash and displays everything from the various workings of the complex hybrid system to the satellite navigation and entertainment system functions. One flaw of this system is that the satellite navigation will only function if the vehicle is stationary- a safety feature to reduce driver distraction perhaps, but it also prevents passengers altering guidance, which can be frustrating.
Unique to PHEV models is what Mitsubishi calls a “joystick” which is used in place of a traditional gear lever-tap up and right for reverse and down and right for drive. Left is to activate two of the car’s six regenerative charging functions. The Park function is operated by as separate button behind the joystick which is ergonomically awkward.
Strangely, however, the joystick can only access two of the six regenerative charging modes-for the full gamut one must revert to paddles behind the steering wheel, which would be traditionally used sporty gearshifts in normal Outlander models. The arrangement is simple enough to use, but we feel it is an example of cost cutting on Mitsubishi’s part, and a bespoke knob or dial would be more suitable.
A simpler and smaller display between the power gauge (this replaces the tachometer) and speedo provides information on energy use and illustrates the movement of power throughout the drivetrain.
One area the Outlander PHEV shines is interior packaging-there is ample leg and shoulder room and even reasonable load space. Storage spaces are equally generous. However, the additional electrical hardware eliminates the third row of seats fitted to conventional Aspire models.
Although modern and commodious, the interior doesn’t distinguish the Aspire as a premium model and somewhat belies the almost $60,000 asking price.
Engine and Transmission
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV models are powered by 87kW 2.0 litre MIVEC petrol engine that powers the car in conjunction with the two electric motors-front and rear which derive power from the rear mounted battery pack. A single gear transmission helps to coordinate the driveline’s workings.
In EV mode, the Outlander hums along almost silently, with instantaneous and effortless torque from the two electric motors. On full charge, we found the battery pack was good for around 33 kilometres which can be charged from the supplied 15V cord or one of the car’s six regenerative charging modes: 0-2 see modest amounts of kinetic energy and levels three to five gradually upping the charging ante. We felt level five slowed the vehicle too quickly.
The Charge button is a clever feature- it allows the driver to charge the battery using petrol power-whether it be when stationary or on the move- and the device can charge the battery pack from empty to 80 per cent in 40 minutes. Mitsubishi says the engine consumes three litres of fuel to reach full charge.
A Save button is at one’s disposal should they not want to erode the battery’s capacity.
The petrol engine is always on standby to assist its electric colleague by kicking in under hard acceleration, or when quickly overtaking. When the battery has been exhausted, the petrol motor powers the front wheels.
Unfortunately, the engine can be coarse and noisy and at times feels like it is underequipped for the task at hand. It can also be thirsty when charging the battery and powering the wheels. In some cases, we saw average fuel consumption exceed 10.5 litres per 100 kilometres. A full tank of petrol has a range of a range of around 380 to 400 kilometres, which does eliminate the clichéd electric car “range anxiety.”
Ride and Handling
The Outlander PHEV has a number of roles to fill: serve as a practical SUV, offer as low emissions as possible and provide some light off-road ability courtesy of its all-wheel drive system. And overall, it fulfils all briefs satisfactorily.
Handling is by no means sporty, but is surefooted. This was highlighted when driving through torrential rain up a mountain pass on the way to some snow fields on the outskirts of Melbourne. Due to a road diversion, we were unable to assess the Outlander’s off-road capabilities.
The steering feel can be a little unusual, especially when negotiating tight parking spaces-it feels light initially, but then develops a deadened feel when approaching full lock. Ride comfort can become brittle over harsh roads, sending reverberations through the cabin.
Safety and Servicing
Crash avoidance technology and adaptive cruise control along with ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, active stability control and active tractional control help to keep the Outlander PHEV out of trouble. If the inevitable does occur, a strong body shell and dual front, side, curtain and the driver is protected by a knee airbag. As with all Outlander models, PHEV versions are awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The rear camera not only assists with parking, but assists in avoiding obstacles behind the car.
Like all Mitsubishis, a capped priced servicing program applies to the Outlander PHEV and the pricing structure is as a follows:
|15,000 kilometres/12 months||$360|
|30,000 kilometres /24 months||$470|
|45,000 kilometres / 36 months||$470|
|60,000 kilometres / 48 months||$470|
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire Specs
Make and model: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire
Engine type: 2.0 litre, four cylinder petrol engine with MIVEC technology
Power: 87kW @ 4,500rpm
Torque: 186Nm @ 4,500rpm
Electric Motor: Twin Motor 4WD, Synchronous motor / permanent magnet with one electric motor in the front and one in the rear.
Total Electric Motor Power combined: 120kW
Total maximum torque: 332Nm (combined motors)
Battery Type: Lithium-ion
Battery Capacity: 12kWh / 40Ah
Battery Voltage: 300 V
Charging: (AC 220-240V/15A)†: 5.0 Hours
Transmission: Front fixed gear multi-mode transaxle and Fixed gear transaxle (rear)
Fuel consumption: 1.9l/100km combined cycle
Dimensions: 4655mm long, 1810mm wide, 1680mm high and 2670mm wheelbase
Suspension: Front: Macpherson strut with coil spring & stabiliser Rear: Multi link Steering: Rack and pinion
Country of Origin: Japan