For those who think the switch from ‘dirty’ fossil fuels to ‘clean’ electric power is too
severe. Flat battery; no go; range anxiety? Happily, there is a halfway house – hybrid
Petrol / electric hybrid vehicles have been around for years – think Toyota Prius and
Honda Insight – the former still on the streets, leading the way, especially in the fleet world
such as that of taxis.
In these vehicles an internal combustion engine is used to charge a battery, which feeds
an electric motor, partially powering the car. Still a source of pollution. What if the engine
could be by-passed and the battery charged externally?
Enter the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, in which petrol and battery power are used in
tandem to drive the vehicle at optimum reduced emissions until the battery is out of juice
and internal combustion automatically takes over completely. Range relief!
The first sports utility vehicle to take advantage of the combined powertrain, the Mitsubishi
Outlander PHEV, which made its way Down Under a decade ago, has sold more than
300,000 units, making it the most popular plug-in in the world.
The latest generation comes in four variants – ES five-seater, aspire five-seat, Exceed 5+2
seater and Exceed Tourer 5+2-seater. Prices start at $54,590 and top out at $68,490, plus
on-road costs. On test was the Outlander PHEV Aspire 5 seat at $60,990.
Compared with the outgoing model, the new Outlander is longer, wider, taller, heavier and
boasts a longer wheelbase. Muscular flared fenders match its broad shoulders.
Sharp daytime running lights cap off an LED headlamp cluster designed to provide greater
visibility over long distances, while extended horizontal rear LED lights with T-shaped ends
highlight the Outlander PHEV’s distinctive shoulders.
Machined 20-inch alloy wheels bolster the Aspire’s impressive stance.
The cabin presented a relaxed, quiet, even when the petrol motor was in action, the only
intrusion was road noise on non-too-smooth bitumen or concrete. The seats, however,
were on the firm side.
Leg and shoulder space was generous, thanks to the absence of a third row of seating,
which also contributed to plenty of room in the boot – 485 litres with seat backs up and up
to 1478 litres with second row backs folded.
Loading was made easy by a power liftback and flat removable floor, under which was
located various tools and charging leads, but no spare tyre, full size or otherwise. Thereby
hangs a tale (see Driving section below).
All plug-in Outlanders feature a 9-inch touchscreen displaying menu and maps clearly and
moving between modes is simple, while the Aspire grade has a 12.3-inch digital
information set-up showing powertrain info and speed, plus other configurable info.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
All grades are powered by an upgraded 2.4 litre four-cylinder engine, combined with a pair
of electric motors on front and rear axles, delivering 185 kW and 450 Nm to all four
The Outlander PHEV shares the five-star ANCAP safety grade won by its petrol-only
sibling earlier this year. Active safety includes autonomous emergency braking (forward
and reverse), lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign
recognition, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and surround view camera.
Passive safety is covered by eight airbags, including in the front centre position. With the
lack of engine noise the car lets out a muffled bell ringing sound to alert unwary
You meet a better class of cabbie at public charging stations; I’m talking about the Uber
driver ‘of a certain age’ and his Tesla Model 3. With a lazy half hour to spare during a busy
schedule we chatted while the test Outlander PHEV was on fast charge.
Forty minutes later, the Outlander battery 80 per cent juiced (70-odd kilometres range on
the clock), with $4.09 paid, we parted ways. During a spread of driving tasks, the test car
came up on average with energy consumption of just over 20.0 kWh per 100 kilometres,
against a maker’s claim of 19.2 kWh / 100km.
The petrol engine chips in only if you load up the acceleration or the vehicle tops 135
km/h. It also helps charge the battery, as does braking through kinetic energy conversion.
Mitsubishi claims, on dual fuel, the PHEV uses 1.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
With the battery flat, the engine automatically shoulders the load, recording on test, fuel
consumption of around 5 litres per 100 kilometres. The system’s performance can be
tracked visually through an animated diagram on the instrument panel.
Home charging from a 240V outlet, the maker claims 9.5 hours from zero to 100 per cent,
or 6.5 hours from a domestic wall box. Alternatively, charging to 80 per cent can be done
from the on-board generator in one-and-a-half hours.
Driving to conditions are catered for by up to seven modes – I stuck mostly to Normal
during the test – available through a wheel on the centre console, while four power modes
– Normal, EV, Save and Charge – can be accessed by means of an adjacent button.
Also close by is a button that calls into action regenerative braking strong enough to allow
one-pedal driving, good enough to bring the car almost to a complete stop. Six softer
stages of braking can be operated using steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
A head-up display on the windscreen covers speed and legal speed limits. Tow rating is
1600 kg braked and 750 kg unbraked.
Now for the unscheduled incident mentioned above, which could have ended in tears. It
didn’t, thanks to the Mitsubishi 24-Hour Roadside Assistance Service. The Outlander
picked up a flat tyre and was immediately pulled over.
Inspection of the nearside rear tyre showed a shiny new Phillips-head screw nestling in the
tread. Under the boot floor was a puncture repair kit (tyre sealant, plus compressor).
Missing were any instructions on how to use them. The owner’s handbook had gone
A phone call had the roadside assistance swinging into action. The young ‘assister’ said
he had tried the tyre sealing stuff and found it to be, at best, wanting and suggested a tow
to the local tyre workshop.
The advice taken, the offending fastener was removed and the hole plugged. No sweat,
the whole exercise cost $35.
Despite the initial cost of ownership, with petrol prices rapidly heading north, any vehicle
that eases the wallet wound is worth looking into.
The Outlander Aspire plug-in hybrid covers all petrol / electric bases without the anxiety of
its meagre 80-plus kilometre limited EV range. The industry-leading warranty is the icing
on the cake.
AT A GLANCE
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES 5 seat: $54,590
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Aspire 5 seat: $60,990
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Exceed 5+2 seat: $65,990
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Exceed Tourer 5+2 seat: $68,490
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your
local Mitsubishi dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Outlander 2.4L PHEV Aspire 4-cylinder petrol, plug-in hybrid, two
electric motors, 20.0 kWh battery, single-speed automatic, AWD)
Capacity: 2.360 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders inline
Combined Maximum Power: 185 kW
Combined Maximum Torque: 450 Nm
EV driving range: 84 km
Fuel Type: Regular unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 1.5 L/100km
Petrol only cycle: 5.0 L/100km
CO2 emissions 116 g/k/m
DRIVELINE: Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4710 mm
Wheelbase: 2706 mm
Width: 1862 mm
Height: 1745 mm
Turning Circle: 11.0 metres
Kerb mass: 2180 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 56 litres
Ten years / 200,000 kilometres