2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review
Isaac Bober’s 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
MITSUBISHI IS RIGHT TO CROW about its Outlander PHEV (plug-in electric hybrid vehicle). It’s the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV can be driven for a maximum of 52 kilometres when in pure electric mode and returns an unbelievably low 1.9L/100km on the official fuel cycle – not that anyone driving normally will be able to achieve the same.
Besides this, the Outlander PHEV has all the benefits of the regular Outlander in that it offers room for a family of five and all of their stuff (the boot loses just 14 litres due to the underfloor-mounted batteries) and is all-wheel drive. That Mitsubishi is pricing the entry-level Outlander PHEV at less than $1000 more than the diesel-powered Outlander means it just might make a lot of dollars and sense (Outlander 2.2L T/D Aspire $46,490+ORC : Outlander PHEV $47,490+ORC).
We’ve dealt with the look of the new Outlander in our first drive of the petrol-model Outlander Aspire, so we’ll keep this short. It’s no secret that the Mitsubishi Outlander has, over its lifetime, been dealt its fair share of hits with the ugly stick – mainly the nose. But this new Outlander is a much prettier looking car.
The formerly bulging wheel arches have been smoothed out and the mesh grille on the previous generation model has been replaced by a flush-with-the-bonnet-edge horizontal twin-blade chrome offering. The headlights look more sophisticated in isolation, as does the whole front of the car, but on some angles the lights look a little too pinched making the rest of the car somehow seem a little too bulbous.
There’s a chrome skid plate at the front and rear, black edged wheel arches and fog lights with chrome bezels, as well as silver painted roof rails, and 10-spoke, 18-inch grey machine-faced alloys and LED tail lights round out the styling package.
ROOM & PRACTICALITY
The battery packs, as mentioned earlier, have reduced boot space by around 14 litres and they’ve also meant the Outlander PHEV is only available as a five-seater (rather than the standard seven-seats on offer in other Outlander models). That doesn’t actually reduce the practicality of the thing, because the third-row seating in conventional Outlanders is actually quite tight for legroom, and with 888 litres, with the 60:40 split-fold rear seats in place, the boot is generous and flat (with the rear seats folded down the boot space measures 1741mm long, 852mm high, and 974mm wide between the wheel arches).
While the boot loses out slightly, rear seat passengers get the same room as in a conventional Outlander, meaning there’s plenty of room for six-foot tall adults or children in child seats. And while the shoulder line is a little on the high side the windows carry just enough depth to keep the interior feeling light and airy.
So, there’s a decent amount of room inside and most family shoppers won’t miss the missing third row of seats. What they will appreciate is the practicality of the thing, at least as far as the drivetrain is concerned, and while we’ll go into greater detail in the Performance section, it’s worth mentioning that the Outlander PHEV offers the ability to drive short distances on electricity but ensures none of the range anxiety some people feel with all-electric cars thanks to the internal combustion engine.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Mitsubishi has worked hard to distance this new Outlander from its predecessors by making use of soft-touch plastics and a cleaner looking central instrument cluster. Dominated by the seven-inch MMC audio and sat-nav system with climate control functions below that, the interior is very clean with only the odd thing here and there (like the gear selector and power meter which replaces the tachometer in other Outlanders) to suggest you’re in something a little bit different (read: electric).
From behind the wheel, or sat in the back seats you’ll notice there’s plenty of head, shoulder and legroom, and that the second row seats can be tilted backwards and forwards means it’s simple enough to get comfortable. Two gripes with the back seats are, one) that they are quite flat in both the base and back, so longer journeys might see adults get a bit fidgety, and, two) it can be hard to get a child’s booster seat to sit flush with the seat, no matter how you adjust it. We had no such problems getting a smaller child seat to fit, though.
While the shoulder line is quite high in the Outlander PHEV, there’s still decent vision all around, with only the slabby rear three-quarter requiring a little more care and attention to see around when swapping lanes.
This is where things take a turn for the different. Under the bonnet is a detuned 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 87kW (at 4500rpm) and 186Nm of torque (at 4500rpm). The internal-combustion engine is joined by two electric motors, a 60kW/137Nm motor at the front, and a 60kW/195Nm motor at the back. This is enough oomph to get the Outlander PHEV from 0-100km/h in 11.0 seconds.
Fuel consumption on the combined cycle is a super-low 1.9L/100km, but our time with the Outlander, which saw us using the petrol engine to recharge the battery while driving, returned a much higher 7.5L/100km. However, should you live a little closer to work (my return journey is just over 200km) and recharge the battery overnight (you’ll need a 15amp outlet to charge the Outlander PHEV from a wall socket), then you’d drop that consumption average considerably. So, while the Outlander PHEV might not make sense for someone in my situation, it makes a lot more sense for shorter journeys when you can rely more heavily on the battery. It’s also worth noting that while the Outlander PHEV will take around five hours to recharge from a wall plug, the engine can recharge the battery to 80% capacity in around 40 minutes.
What you will notice, if you’ve exhausted the battery and are relying on the petrol engine, is how quiet the Oultander PHEV is. Sure, you expect that of an electric car, but Mitsubishi has done all sorts of things to the engine to keep it quiet, from, softer engine mounts, and balancer shafts, to redesigning both the induction and exhaust systems. The downside to that is while you almost can’t hear the engine, you can hear a touch of wind noise at highway speed, but that’s to be expected in a vehicle with the aerodynamic styling of a house brick.
From a standstill and when up and running, the Outlander PHEV, thanks to the electric motors and their virtually instantaneous torque, feels energetic and does a great job of masking the extra 280kg (total kerb weight: 1810kg) its carrying over a conventional Outlander.
The Outlander PHEV operates through three different modes: EV Mode; Series Hybrid Mode and Parallel Hybrid Mode. Basically, the mode chosen (automatically by the car’s computer brain) depends on how much charge is left in the battery or the type of driving it detects. But the default in all those modes is for the petrol engine to act as a generator to recharge the batteries while the electric motors do all the work. However, should the batteries be almost depleted, in Parallel Mode, the petrol engine will drive the front wheels while at the same time charging the batteries.
RIDE & HANDLING
Where the conventional Outlander is comfortable enough at around town speeds it tends to go to pieces as speed builds, rolling over through corners. You don’t get that sensation in the Outlander PHEV. The extra weight of the batteries and a 30mm lower centre of gravity keep the Outlander PHEV feeling more planted through corners (weight distribution is 55:45 front to rear).
Our test route incorporates a rubbish dirt road which is pock-marked and corrugated, and the Outlander PHEV handled it with aplomb, ensuring the worst of every bump and rut was soaked up. And while the handling is better than its conventional sibling, the steering in the Outlander PHEV is the same, meaning its completely feel free and doesn’t seem to weight up much as speed builds, but its direct and quick in its action, which kind of makes up for the lightness.
In my week with the Outlander PHEV, I drove it across dirt, highways and roadworks and loaded it up with two kids, and it handled it all fine. The interior feels sturdy enough and the fit and finish on all the bits and bobs inside the cabin seemed like they’d handle family life pretty well. It’s not quite in the same sturdy league as the interior of a Subaru, but it’s not far off.
PRICING & EQUIPMENT
Priced from $52,490(+ORC) with metallic and pearlescent paint costing $495, the Outlander PHEV Aspire we tested is a $5000 price premium over the diesel-powered Aspire ($46,890+ORC). But that’s not so bad when you consider you’re getting an electric drivetrain and batteries for that. But, poke around the spec sheet and the Outlander PHEV isn’t as competitive with conventional competitors, but maybe that’s not quite comparing apples with apples.
It gets things like a sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth with audio streaming, heated front seats, reversing camera, and an EV remote smartphone app that allows you to set various functions around vehicle charging. It also gets dual zone climate control with rear seat ducts and satellite navigation. Mitsubishi also offers capped price servicing for the Outlander PHEV, costing $360 for the first service and $470 each for the next three services (which are at 15,000km or 12 month intervals). Subaru has just announced a whole of life capped price servicing program – it’ll be interesting to see whether other makers follow suit.
Like the rest of the Outlander range the Outlander PHEV Aspire receives a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating. It also features seven airbags, adaptive cruise control and forward collision mitigation, hill start assist, traction and stability control and Mitsubishi’s S-AWC (which was originally designed for the Lancer Evo). All of the high-voltage components are tucked away inside the body frame keeping them safe in the event of a collision with an in-built system able to cut off the electricity to prevent occupants or rescuers from potential electric shock.