2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Review – Australian Drive
Alex Rae’s 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: A more refined machine than the previous model but it lacks the sharper handling found in non-EV competitors… It is however one of the only options in the PHEV SUV market.
2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Price From $50,490+ORC Warranty five years, unlimited kilometres Safety five star ANCAP Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric motors Power 87kW at 4500rpm Torque 186Nm at 4500rpm Transmission one-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4695mm (L); 1810mm (W); 1710mm (H) Bootspace 463 litres Spare space saver Ground Clearance 190mm (unladen) Turning Circle 10.6m Fuel Tank 45 litres Thirst 1.7L/100km (combined)
LAUNCHED IN 2014, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV was the world’s first SUV plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and has been a global success for Mitsubishi Motors. The Outlander PHEV is the world’s best selling PHEV SUV, having sold 120,000 units worldwide, but unfortunately sales of the Outlander PHEV in Australia haven’t been so positive and just 1650 cars have sold since its introduction here.
As an SUV with practical proportions inside it provides a good option for families and some fleet buyers but, at a price almost approaching double that of the Kia Sportage or Mazda CX-5, it sits alone as an eco warrior without much in the way of competition – unless you look at the substantially more expensive (and luxurious) BMW xDrive 40e.
The initial PHEV from Mitsubishi didn’t transition petrol power to electric smoothly and there were some NVH issues, but Mitsubishi claims it has fixed that now and perhaps this will help shift more units. It should, because as a real-world plug-in petrol-electric hybrid this thing really does stand above the pack.
We attended the launch of the updated model in Adelaide and the surrounding hills to put it to the test.
What is it?
The Outlander PHEV runs a conventional 2.0-litre four-cylinder with the addition of two electric motors in the front and rear connected to a 1-speed fixed gear transmission. It’s not quite that simple, of course, and rather than have the electric system as a supporting act it’s actually the detuned petrol engine (89kW/190Nm) which plays second fiddle in the car which Mitsubishi claims is electric at heart.
The quoted range from the 12kWh lithium battery system is 54km on a single charge and the MY17 update brings an EV mode button, missing in the previous model, which allows the petrol engine to be completely disabled for fume free motoring – at least until the battery is depleted. The ADR tested combined fuel cycle range is 1.7L/100km, down from 1.9/100km previously, but that figure rapidly increases once the batteries are flat.
Once the battery does run out of juice a ‘charge mode’ can be selected to lean on the petrol engine for power and charging the battery or, alternatively, a ‘save mode’ can be engaged before the battery is depleted that balances use of the petrol and electric motors.
Charging can be done via a normal 10 amp 240 volt house plug or a DC quick charge port which is compatible with the quick charger network in Australia. The former will take 6.5 hours to charge while the later just 25 minutes to 80 per cent capacity.
The petrol motor itself powers only the front wheels and to engage 4WD requires the front electric motor (60kW/137Nm) and rear electric motor (60kW/195Nm) to be active. A ‘twin motor 4WD’ button engages this mode automatically and, as Mitsubishi claims, balances torque to each wheel in similar fashion to the active yaw control system developed for the competent-on-gravel Lancer Evolution. Mitsubishi were keen to flaunt this technology so we put is to the test on our mixed surface route.
The PHEV operating system automatically chooses the right combination of petrol and/or electric motor power and performs plenty of little tricks such as switching to the petrol engine near freeway speeds (we later found this completely necessary to save battery).
For model spec we get two grades, LS $50,490 (+ORCs) and Exceed $55,490 (+ORCs), and the main difference between the models is that the Exceed gets a raft of safety features which aren’t available on the LS, including: lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and 3D bird’s eye camera.
All models get the same 18-inch alloys, LED lights, chrome exterior bits, leather appointed trim, dual zone climate control and 7-inch infotainment. The Exceed gets a little more leather inside, heated front seats, sunroof and power tailgate too.
Whats the inside like?
Both the LS and Exceed Outlander PHEV receive a well appointed interior which is the same design as the general Outlander range. The most telling difference between the LS and Exceed is that the latter gets full leather seats while the LS has suede and leather appointed seats, but both look good.
The front seats sit reasonably high and a comfortable seating position can be obtained from the electrically adjustable seats and manually adjustable tilt-and-reach steering wheel. The seat lacks enough height adjustment to find a completely satisfactory seating position for tall drivers, however.
The leather flows up from the seat to the door cards and bits of the dash. It’s broken up with black wood trim and gloss black accents. It’s generally a pretty classy space but some blank button cards and a slightly clunky infotainment implementation detract a little from the premium feel. The gear shifter is also a notable curiosity – why is it that EV cars must have fanciful gearshifts which don’t really look good (I don’t mind the look of it – Ed).
The infotainment is clear and crisp, and it features support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which connects flawlessly. There’s also connectivity to an ‘EV Remote’ app for Android and Apple which allows for changes to charging schedule, activating climate control remotely and monitoring the car. The infotainment does not, however, feature satellite navigation in either model, relying instead on map connectivity from a smartphone.
Mod-cons include two USB inputs for charging and infotainment connectivity and automatic up-and-down window for driver only.
In the back there’s enough space for two adults or three kids to sit comfortable, and the seat has manually adjusting recline. The driveline hump remains in the middle – despite the lack of a drive shaft – and there’s no air vents for rear passengers.
The boot remains a good depth for an SUV at almost 1 metre deep but the PHEV does shrink in volume (slightly) from 477 to 463 litres. The PHEV model also misses out on having 7 seats.
What’s it like on the road?
The drive loop started in the city and the 2017 Outlander PHEV is quieter on the road than the previous model thanks to added sound insulation, thicker windows and an active damper which essentially helps to minimise vibrations. The ride also benefits from this and, overall, NVH is good.
Powered solely by the electric motor the Outlander PHEV feels similar to a petrol-powered SUV but without engine noise and vibration from the front. Driving a car powered solely by the whir of electric motors is becoming less eerie as we see more entrants into the space and for pedestrians the Outlander PHEV emits an alert sound at up to 36km/h.
Economy after 30-kilometres of city and urban driving was 0.0L/100km and it’s conceivable that if used for daily commuting the PHEV could be a zero emissions car (most commutes are less than 25km a day), for the most part (54km range, remember).
It is for longer trips with family that an SUV begins to make more sense, but at freeway speeds the electric motor isn’t efficient. The petrol motor is required at this point and trying to insist on using the electric motor only via the EV mode rapidly depleted the battery. Acceleration up to 100km/h, and beyond, isn’t quick and the Outlander PHEV lacks the response of non-EV models, but then racing the clock isn’t really the point of this vehicle.
It’s not a complete slouch, though, and through a stretch of gravel roads with some momentum the active yaw and active all-wheel drive system worked well and felt predictable. Kudos to some of the technology developed from the Pajero and Lancer Evolution, then, although the steering feel isn’t great and insisted it continually return a few degrees back from where it was pointed.
What’s most important however is that the overall driving experience wasn’t really much different to other SUVs, despite being a little less powerful, and the transition from petrol to electric systems was unnoticeable.
What about safety features?
The Outlander has scored a 5 star ANCAP (tested 2014). The LS model misses out on the safety features of the Exceed which include: lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and 3D bird’s eye camera.
Why would you buy one?
At over $50,000 plus on-roads the Outlander isn’t cheap compared to non-EV SUVs spec-for-spec but, the Outlander PHEV is one of the only SUV PHEV cars for sale in Australia and is certainly the cheapest. And if the government were to get behind an incentive it could, and should, start to pop-up on more buyer’s lists.
If looking for an EV car, the Outlander offers a mature and refined PHEV vehicle which has proved to have (so far) good resale in the used car market. It’s also backed by Mitsubishi’s above-average five years, unlimited kilometre warranty.