Resistance is futile: Mitsubishi recognised this years ago when it became the first automobile maker to ‘electrify’ the sports utility vehicle (SUV), taking the hybrid road with the Outlander on its journey to an alternative power source.

The Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) hit the road in 2017 running on electrical power with the back-up of a petrol engine used to charge the battery or add extra performance to the vehicle.

The thinking behind this, says Mitsubishi, is that the Outlander PHEV gives owners driving that most family cars encounter in the school drop-off or daily commute, which often involve stop / go traffic, conditions in which the internal combustion engine is least efficient.

Late in 2020 the two-model mid-size SUV was given a drivetrain upgrade with the addition of a Sport mode. For MY21 has added a third variant blessed with a Bilstein premium suspension package tuned to enhance the driving experience.

Also, with the introduction of two-directional chargers in 2021, the Outlander PHEV will be the first SUV to be able to store electric power and return it to the home or grid.

The technically sophisticated SUV now comes in three highly specified variants – Outlander PHEV ES selling from $47,990, plus on-road costs, Outlander PHEV GSR, $52,490, and or top Outlander PHEV Exceed, $56,490.

All Outlanders are covered by Mitsubishi’s ten-year 200,000 kilometre warranty and capped price servicing when all scheduled services are done through the authorised Mitsubishi Motors Dealer Network. Some customers, such as government, taxis, rentals and selected national business, are excluded.

The Starlight White test vehicle took the popular road to SUV exterior design with contrasting black mica roof, rails, rear spoiler, plus front and rear bumper skid plates and rear-view mirrors.

Not to be left out of the contrasting colour scheme were a black chrome plated radiator grille, front bumper air ducts and tailgate garnish. Highlights of a different nature up front were LED auto levelling headlamps and front foglamps.

The modern look was emphasised by 18-inch black machined two-tone alloy wheels.

Styling included (you guessed it) black accents, in the form of shift knob and steering wheel, roof lining, a-pillar trim, silver stitched armrest and door trim. A four-way power seat with micro-suede facings and synthetic leather bolsters offered the drive a deal of comfort.

Rear occupants also were well looked after with above average head room for adults and ample leg room with the front seats accommodating.

With the rear seat backs folded, cargo space extends to 1741 mm in length, a completely flat 463 litres of luggage room. A power tailgate makes for easy access.

An under-floor compartment provided space for the charging cable and other small items.

The conventional Outlander’s multi-information system is augmented with a PHEV-dedicated menu which provides access to functions and displays for electric vehicle usage.

This includes a 7-inch display screen with a navigation system that includes a charging station search, charging cost, scheduled charging and air cooling and remaining cruising area display.

A PHEV Driving Information Display incorporates an energy flow display, energy monitoring and ECO system information.

A Mitsubishi eight-speaker sound system is included.

Petrol power comes from the tried-and-tested 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, while twin electric motors – 60 kW, front; 70 kW, rear – contribute to combined maximum power of 157 kW (parallel hybrid mode) and combined maximum torque of 332 Nm (all modes).

Drive battery capacity is 13.8 kWh, giving the vehicle a claimed potential electric driving range of up to 54 km.

Approximately seven hours charge time: type 1; 3 hours, type 2; 25 min, DC fast charger.)

All Outlander PHEV occupants are protected by Mitsubishi’s Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution bodywork and seven airbags, including front driver and passenger, side and side curtain positions.

The entry-level ES model has cruise control, lane departure warning, and auto high beam on top of forward collision mitigation, autonomous braking, plus rear parking sensors and reverse camera.

The Outlander adds with blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and front parking sensors.

Outlander PHEV GSR has Bilstein suspension. Together with a low centre of gravity, thanks to the underfloor drive battery, delivers a high standard of handling and ride comfort not normally found in an SUV.

Together with responsive steering, this gives the GSR model the ability to take being thrown around fast bends and tight corners with a level of driver confidence unheard of in a similar vehicle.

Add to this, the upgraded safety systems and the ability to go beyond the 54 kilometre electric motor range with the petrol engine kicking in, the latest Outlander PHEV offers minimum anxiety on most on-road (and soft road) travel.

The PHEV makes the best use of petrol and electricity by delivering power in three modes – EV Drive Mode, Series and Parallel Modes – that operate without any intervention from the driver.

EV mode is all electric driving, using only electric power from the drive battery. Carbon dioxide emissions and petrol consumption are zero up to 120 km/h.

In Series Mode, the petrol engine is used to recharge the battery which supplies the electric motors to drive the wheels. The system switches to Series mode when the battery charge falls below a predetermined level or more performance is required, such as during overtaking or on a steep climb.

The switch to Parallel Mode occurs when the vehicle reaches highway speeds, or extra power is required. In Parallel Mode, the petrol engine provides drive to the front wheels with help from the electric motors.

The electric motors also manage Outlander’s dynamic stability, the integrated S-AWC system ensuring it has the same levels of roadholding as a conventional four-wheel drive.

The electric motors act as generators during deceleration. They recharge the drive battery when the driver releases the accelerator or when the brake pedal is applied.

The degree of energy recovered can be controlled using the gear lever or paddle shifts on the steering wheel. The driver can increase energy uptake by moving the lever from ‘D’ to ‘B’ where two levels – B3 or B5 – are available. Alternatively, by using the steering wheel paddles, the driver can adjust the level of regenerative braking to any of the six levels, from B0 to B5.

Consumption figures obtained on test were: 6.1 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres and six kilometres per kWh on a mix of city and motorway driving.

If superior ride and handling are requirements, the Bilstein advantage Outlander PHEV GSR is the SUV for you. However, patience could pay off by waiting for the all-new Outlander due for release later this year.

Outlander PHEV ES AWD: $47,990
Outlander PHEV GSR AWD: $52,490
Outlander PHEV Exceed AWD: $56,490
Prestige paint $550
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mitsubishi dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GSR 2.5-litre four-cylinder MIVEC petrol, E-motor/ICE single speed S-AWC SUV)

Capacity: 2.488 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Combined maximum power: 157 kW (Parallel hybrid mode)
Combined maximum torque: 332 Nm (All modes)
Petrol engine maximum power: 94 kW @ 4500 rpm
Petrol engine maximum torque: 199 Nm 4500 rpm
Maximum power: front motor 60 kW, rear motor 70 kW
Maximum torque: front motor 137 Nm, rear motor 195 Nm
Fuel Type: Petrol 91 RON
Drive battery capacity: 13.8 kWh, potential electric driving range up to 54 km (approx. 7 hours charge time, type 1; 3 hours, type 2; 25 min, DC fast charger

DRIVELINE: twin electric motors, AWD

Length: 5075 mm
Wheelbase: 2930 mm
Width: 1969 mm
Height: 1747 mm
Turning Circle: 11.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1924 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 74 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Ten years / 200,000 kilometres (with conditions)

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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