The Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid SUV that gives Mitsubishi a real edge in this corner of the market. Jonathan Crouch reports on the revised version.
Ten Second Review
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a plug-in hybrid that can't fail to impress. It'll get over 32 miles on a full electric charge, which means that many commutes will cost pennies in energy charges. The 42g/km emissions figure also means free London congestion charge and a minuscule benefit in kind tax bill. Here, we look at the facelifted version.
Granted, this might sound a little harsh, but Mitsubishi doesn't tend to be the company you look to as a leader in exploiting profitable market niches. Yes, its Lancer Evo series of rally replicas was a case in point, but other than that, what have we had? There was the electric Mitsubishi MiEV which was hugely expensive and flopped as a result but after that you might be struggling. Instead, we've come to regard the Japanese company as a purveyor of solid, well-priced and reliable cars that are rarely exceptional in any key regard. The Mitsubishi Outlander always used to conform to that stereotype. If your neighbour bought one, you wouldn't invite your friends round to point and laugh, but you'd probably think it was a bit of an odd buy, given the choices available. The latest third generation Outlander has changed all that, standing on its own two feet in a tough section of the market. But then Mitsubishi went further and caught all of its illustrious rivals on the back foot by launching an Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid variant. Here, we're going to look at the latst improved version.
We liked the Outlander diesel when we tried it but the PHEV uses very different mechanicals. This plug-in hybrid features a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a pair of electric motors on each axle, giving all wheel drive and a combined power output in the region of 220bhp. This revised version is more sprightly when you bury the throttle, getting to 25mph from rest a full two seconds quicker than the original version, though Mitsubishi still quote a sprint to 62mph time of 11 seconds, which sounds strangely slow. Driven in full electric mode, you'll feel the huge torque of the motors and be able to cruise at motorway speeds on electric power alone, although not for too far. Refinement is very good, even without the sound of an engine to drown out wind and tyre noise. There's a very handy feature included where you can request the battery holds a particular level of charge and you can also use the petrol engine as a generator, to drive battery power back up to 70 per cent of its capacity. There's also a sophisticated five-level regenerative braking system that the driver can select using the wheel-mounted paddles or what you'd otherwise take to be the gear lever. A good deal of development budget has been spent on improving the Outlander's refinement and more sophisticated engine mounts, thicker glass and improved sound insulation materials have all been fitted. The electric power steering has clearly taken a lot of the development budget. The weight distribution for the Outlander PHEV is 55 per cent front and 45 per cent rear, so it's not too far from the diesel model in that regard.
Design and Build
These facelifted models feature a revised look, with 'Dynamic Shield' frontal treatment that includes LED daytime running lights, a 3D grille, restyled bumpers and mildly different tail treatment. The bumpers also add 40mm to the overall length, making this Outlander look a little lower and sleeker than its predecessor. Inside, updates to the cabin make the fascia look simpler and classier but otherwise, things are much as before. You won't think you're in an Audi Q5, but this Outlander offers plenty of soft-touch finishes and a clean, architectural fascia design. Moving back into the second row, there's reasonable space for two adults - or three at a squash, though taller folk may feel the need to recline back the adjustable backrests. There's no seven seat version offered, which probably won't come as a surprise, given the rearwards need to accommodate all those batteries. On that subject, there's a small increase in the vehicle's weight due to the floor-mounted battery pack, a paltry reduction of 14-litres in boot space and rear legroom is a touch more pinched due to the raised floor height. The 577-litre boot is still more than adequate for most requirements and the luggage bay is well shaped.
Market and Model
Prices for the PHEV hybrid look very competitive, starting at just under £30,000 after subtraction of a generous £5,000 government Plug-in Vehicle grant - so the same kind of money as you'd pay for a conventional Outlander GX3 diesel auto. That's for the entry-level GX3h version: there are also three other PHEV models, the GX3h+, the GX4h and the GX4hs, with prices ranging up to £36,000. Expect a decently high spec to come as standard across the range, especially with the PHEV model. Here, even the base GX3h variant gets climate control and cruise control, while the GX4h gets leather seats, a heated steering wheel, a DAB radio, self-levelling LED headlights and a 360-degree camera. The flagship GX4hs variant includes front and rear parking sensors and extra safety features.
Cost of Ownership
The 'official' combined fuel consumption figure of 156mpg merely serves to remind us that we have an urgent need for a new European fuel consumption test which more closely mirrors everyday driving conditions. Likewise, the 42g/km emissions figure the Outlander PHEV records won't be something you'll be managing day in, day out. As an exercise in taking advantage of a flawed testing procedure, it's remarkable. This plug-in hybrid can drive for over 32 miles on a full electric charge and can be fast charged to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. This means that for some drivers, they'll be able to pop the car on charge in the evening, do the commute and bring it home without using any petrol at all. Mitsubishi reckons that if you cover more than 100 miles between charges, the diesel is going to work out more cost-effective. Charge the Outlander PHEV more frequently and the numbers swing in its favour. Residual values ought to be strong, as the trade has quite taken to the Outlander and this plug-in hybrid is the first example of its type in the sector.
As long as you get on with the styling and don't have a pressing need to seat seven people, we've got nothing but good things to say about the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It's one of those rare vehicles that is massively better than you expect it to be. The calibration of the hybrid powertrain, the options it gives its driver and the sheer depth of engineering that's apparent in the way it's been built all point to a car that deserves all the acclaim it's now getting. Being first to market improves the chances of success - and so it's proved. Being first with a product so strong that it will have many rivals going back to the drawing board ought to guarantee success - and so it's also proved. This one deserves a big stage.