We drove the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: driving into another world…

MPsel2Mitsubishi chose a proper outlandish name for this car: the PHEV version indeed takes you into unseen territory. We never experienced so far hybrid driving with such utter smoothness and refinement, and thus this Mitsubishi proved for us to be a very special and endearing car in present day traffic.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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The PHEV version of the Outlander has indeed what it takes: not less than two electrical engines, mounted fore and aft, each developing 60 kW or 82 HP, but with different torque characteristics.

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The one in front develops 137 Nm, the rear one 195 Nm. They offer together plenty of torque and power to get you nimbly through town, and despite its impressive weight of not less than 1,8 tons, the Outlander PHEV feels and is very agile indeed. It is even sufficiently fast, with a top speed on “pure” E power of not less than 120 km/h. It is meant to be driven on battery power in urban areas, and it feels indeed quite at home doing so. The range on full batteries is – according to the manufacturer – 54 kilometers, so no worries there.

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Besides, it’s a hybrid, which our test car explicitly showed on its license plate. This means you can always either keep the batteries on a constant charge level or actually (re)charge them up to 80 pct while driving.

Indeed, the efficient two litre 16 valve MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system) petrol engine drives both the generator and the car if you wish. Just push the proper button on the centre console, and there you go. (see photo above)

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On top of that, you have two paddles on each side of the steering wheel column, which lets you choose the level of regenerative power of the generator when decelerating.

The two liter engine has plenty of zest to move the Outlander with spirit. It develops 89 kW or 121 HP at 4500 rpm, with torque being 190 Nm. As said, the variable valve timing produces the best of both words in terms of engine power flow. It is smooth, almost inaudible, with a very pleasing sound when it is pulling hard.

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Then comes the transmission. It’s a CVT automatic, for the engine to drive the front wheels, with otherwise constant 1 speed gears for the electric motors to drive each axle respectively, resulting in a perfect 4WD, which can be electronically controlled in traction for better cornering stability.

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Of course you can choose ECO mode, leave the batteries to deplete themselves in urban driving, and consume almost to just nothing in urban traffic. Drive sedately at constant speeds, and also the batteries will do most of the work, and consumption is then also very low indeed.

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Drive it with more spirit, let the batteries keep their original charge or even charge them further up, and you are left with a 1,8 ton 4WD with a hard working, if quite efficient, petrol engine. This means then fuel consumption is just as good – or bad – as any petrol engined heavier SUV. Don’t forget you have also heavy battery load to slug around… This means that in these conditions, a diesel engined Outlander will prove better.

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Charging at home or office is the answer. Of course, electricity is not so cheap either, and also the ecological footprint is not neutral. Charging the batteries at home will cost between 5 and 6,5 hours. At a quick carge point, 25 minutes are enough to charge the batteries up to 80 pct.

In the combined cycle, where battery power is used in conjunction with the engine, 1,7 liter/100 km is quoted by the manufacturer. CO2 emissions are then 41 g/km.

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What remains however is the smoothness in driving, delivering a truly “zen” experience is almost all circumstances, certainly in dense traffic.

To further enhance quietness, Mitsubishi has also made a series of technical changes to front suspension struts, front cross member, rear suspension spring rates, rear motor mounts and other areas as well as adding thicker glass, more sound deadening, and increasing body rigidity with the aim of reducing noise, vibration, and harshness compared with earlier versions of the PHEV.

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The PHEV will accelerate smoothly and beautifully in merely 11 seconds, and top speed is 170 km/h. More than enough for most of us, and the charm lies in the effortless way this is achieved.

Taking the Outlander through its paces proves its surefooted qualities, and last but least there is the advantage of the 4WD, with a 4WD Lock button at your disposal to simulate electronically a differential lock between front and rear wheels for those very slippery conditions. There is Super All Wheel Control, which we described in our previous test of the Outlander.

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A host of driving aids is at your disposal, like Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Mitigation System…

Comfort

The seating position in the Outlander is high up, but not altogether unpleasant, and there is room. Lots of it. Boot space is anything between 486 and 1625 liter for instance. We told you already about the lavish (optional) equipment in the earlier test, and again in this quiet PHEV we were delighted with the formidable Rockford Fosgate Premium sound system.

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Conclusion

One of the smoothest Hybrids around, very versatile, roomy, and a 4WD contender too. A car for all purposes indeed. Drive it sedately, using E power in town, and you will hardly hit the fuel station for a visit, but alas use the home power socket more often. Environmentally responsible in urban areas surely…and future oriented too.

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Mitsubishi is constantly further improving it in mechanical perfection and restfulness, making this PHEV Outlander your daily “zen” moment behind the wheel. This is maybe the biggest compliment we can make for this car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel