2015 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV drive

outlanderfrontIt’s no secret that I’m a fan of electric cars, having driven, and been impressed by the Holden/Chevy Volt and the BMW i3. I’m even a fan of the Toyota Prius, although I haven’t gotten around to driving the latest one. That’s why I took up the opportunity to drive what is the best selling plug in hybrid in Europe. Now a plug in hybrid is exactly what it says on the side, a hybrid vehicle that you can plug into the electrical supply.

This is the second generation Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and while the drive train remains pretty much the same as the original, the car has the 2016 Outlander’s new nose, complete with LED headlights, plus a newly refined interior that adds leather in the top of the range VRX and seat heating in both entry level and top level models. Mitsubishi also claims 37 different measures, including thicker door glass, and thicker door trims to improve the NVH of the vehicle.

phev power
Full recharge takes around five hours on normal household 220V supply

On the outside the vehicle has a facelift similar to that of the new Outlander, with a ‘shield’ front face including daytime running lights, new 18 inch wheels and a new rear bumper design including LED tail lights. Inside, the driver and front passenger seats get more side bolstering. There are also plenty of other small interior changes intended to make the PHEV feel more comfortable and upmarket.

As before, the car is powered by two 60kW electric motors, one for each axle, with a 2.0 litre petrol engine to provide extra power when performance is needed or the battery charge is low.

The Outlander PHEV starts at NZ$59,990 for the entry level XLS (NZ$3,000 higher than the top spec standard Outlander) and jumps to NZ$66,990 for the top spec VRX.

While Mitsubishi claims a range of 50km on battery only, the reality is somewhat lower, depending on the way you drive. I generally got about 35km driving briskly in town, which is still enough for most daily commutes. And then you have the 2.0 litre engine, which adds another potential 400km or so, making the vehicle a good choice for an overall family/business car.

On the handling front the rear shock absorbers have been made 20 percent larger, while the electric power steering system has been recalibrated for better steering feel.

Certainly the PHEV is a satisfying vehicle to drive. The standard 2.0 litre Outlander with CVT gearbox whines away at high rpm when you ask for performance (as virtually all CVT gearboxes do), but while in electric mode the PHEV merely surges forwards on a wave of silent torque. It’s not really all that fast, but it does feel fast thanks to the maximum torque which, as it is produced by an electric motor, is produced from the moment the motor start turning. The low height of the battery pack also gives the vehicle a low centre of gravity, which aids in handling.

The only problem with the car is that once the battery back is exhausted and the engine turns on it becomes just as noisy as a standard Outlander and the CVT gearbox still allows the engine to rev right up to the redline and stay there while you accelerate.

A conventional automatic would be far better for the car, but CVTs do promise better fuel economy than a

phev button
buttons to conserve or charge battery behind gear lever

standard automatic.

A couple of the most interesting parts of the car though are two switches near the gear lever. One allows you to save the electric pwer in the battery and run on engine alone, so that if you are commuting to an area where zero emissions are required you can save the electric power until then, or you can get the engine to recharge the battery independent of the power socket.

It’s no wonder that the Outlander PHEV is so popular. While it’s not quite as brilliant as the BMW i3 it also costs far less, and adds plenty of extra space over the small BMW, and even the granddaddy of hybrids the Toyota Prius. It really is the convenience of the Outlander PHEV that makes the difference. It’s just that easy to live with.