PHEV. It’s short, sharp, sounds like an ex AFL player but with vastly more substance. It stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. In layman’s terms, it’s an electrically powered car that you can plug in to your home power system to charge a battery inside the car. What it doesn’t tell you is that the petrol engine that’s also fitted can be used as a generator and that the brakes can be used to harvest the kinetic energy generated and recharge the battery on the go. A Wheel Thing trundles the Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV from the lower Blue Mountains to Temora, in the central west of NSW, via Bathurst, and home via Yass and Goulburn. It’s readily identifiable as a PHEV thanks to the three subtle (ahem) badges on the rear door and front flanks.Oh, there’s a Tesla style fast charge port so you achieve approximately 80 percent full charge from empty in just half an hour, as long as you have the appropriate equipment, including the transformer the PHEV comes with for the everyday single phase household which is best left overnight to really give the “tank” a full charge. Hence the Plug-in part of the name.Mitsubishi currently only have the Outlander as a hybrid vehicle and it’s a kinda cool one with three distinct hybrid modes, EV, Series, and Parallel modes. When the EV Mode is chosen you’re driving purely on battery power alone. You can also drive with the 2.0L petrol engine as a charging unit or as a paired situation where the petrol engine kicks in as required. Transmission is a single or fixed speed transaxle unit.
There’s a big silver EV button in the centre console or two buttons either side of the jet fighter Drive selector (no gears as such) marked Save or CHRG. Save turns off the electric option and runs purely on the petrol powerplant, the other is self explanatory.When fully charged, the battery indicator shows a range of around fifty kilometres. If you accelerate ssssllllooooowwwwllllyyyyy it will stay on battery only but give it a reasonable prod and the petrol engine cuts in. On battery it’s an eerie almost silence, with a barely audible whir as the PHEV wafts away. The petrol engine is isolated, muted, and there’s hardly a vibration in the body to alert you to it being engaged. The computer programing is seamless, as is the actual switching between modes, and the whole system is intuitive.Fuel consumption is still…..well, a concern. Mitsubishi’s refinement to the overall system now rate consumption as 1.7L of 91RON per 100 kilometres. That’s certainly achievable on virtually purely electric runs that cover no more than maybe fifteen kilometres or so. A Wheel Thing finished, after a week and well over 1000 kilometres, closer to 9.5L/100 kilometres. That’s from a 45L tank. Overall power is rated at 120 kW and that’s for the two electric motors fitted, one for the rear and one for the front wheels, which out put a total of 120 kW and 332 Nm. Mitsubishi says 6.5 hours for a full charge to the battery using the charger on a standard household supply.
The petrol engine is rated for a fairly measley 87 kW, but a better torque figure is usable at 186 Nm @ 4500 rpm. It’s also worth noting that you can effectively have the PHEV as an AWD or All Wheel Drive vehicle by the simple expedient of pushing a clearly marked 4WD button in the centre console.The drive west from the lower Blue Mountains sees the westbound highway rise by some five hundred metres vertically over a horizontal distance of perhaps eighty kilometres, before dropping drastically at the western edge to the Hartley Valley from Mt Victoria via one of the most picturesque yet narrow roads around. It’s here that you can tip the drive selector into B3 or B5, two different braking modes to harvest the kinetic energy, and add extra range back into the battery system. The brake pedal itself is slightly numb also but not so enough to isolate feedback to your foot when generating energy on a downhill run where the braking modes don’t slow the car enough.
There’s a couple of steepish climbs before entering Lithgow, the home of famed Australian runner Marjorie Jackson, before a reasonably flat run to Bathurst, and from here to the WW2 prison town of Cowra, where a number of Japanese prisoners staged a breakout. The roads were flat, surprisingly smooth, allowing the PHEV to build up speed slowly in order to not punch a hole in the range availability. The PHEV was also predisposed to understeer, not uncontrollable, but easier where safe to allow the nose to run wide and follow its own path. The steering itself was numb to the point of disconnection on centre, with an artificial feel to the travel either side.
On the more rough tarmac surfaces in the central west of NSW there was noticeable road noise from the 225/55/18 Toyo A25 rubber, which also didn’t look as if they’d fit the wheel well, with plenty of room between the lining and the rubber. The suspension itself is tuned somewhere between taut and not quite so taut, with initial give before firming up rapidly. Adding to the ride query is an overly short front suspension travel, a trait found in some other cars where riding over a school lane speed hump at exactly the legal speed has a crash thump that sounds as if the struts are about to pull out from the body mounts. It’s disconcerting and at odds with the mooted soft road ability the Outlander is marketed with. On the upside directional changes are dealt with well, on smooth roads, with a centre of gravity well below the driver’s seat meaning body roll is minimal.Economy here varied between 4.0L/100 km where the Charge tab was engaged, as once underway the drain on the system isn’t aware as much (naturally) as accelerating constantly. There’s a centre of dash display, as is standard in all Outlanders, in this case showing the range from purely battery and both battery and fuel. In Temora itself, the car was charged up overnight. The purpose of visiting Temora was to watch their Remembrance Day airshow, as Temora is a former working WW2 airforce base and home to aircraft such as a Gloster Meteor, Spitfire, Hudson, and more. The show itself was a quickish 3.5 hours but wrapped with the tarmac being opened for visitors being able to meet the pilots including Red Bull Air Race and former RAAF pilot, Matt Hall.An overnight charge has the battery in the PHEV topped up and Sunday’s return trip via the township of Harden (seriously), via Yass and along the monumentally boring Hume Highway past Goulburn. The roads here were again most straight and corners rated between 75 to 95 kmh meaning that most of them were well within the abilities of the drivetrain to gently ease off and gently accelerate up.
Straight line stability in the Outlander is wonderful, lateral stability not so, with both front and rear, time and again, skipping left and right on rutted and broken surfaces. There’s an instant feeling of uncertainty before either corner cocks a leg and then there’s the sideways movement. A quick lift of the right foot, the chassis regathers its thoughts, and it’s business as usual. In the greater scheme of things it’s a minor annoyance but shows that underneath it’s not quite as settled compared to some of its rivals.Final consumption figures are a long way from the claimed 1.7L/100 km which would be spot on for short distance, flat road, driving. But along the way you can enjoy the decently velour covered comfortable seats, the DAB equipped sound system, with plenty of punch and clarity. Being a largish SUV (call it 4.8 metres in length) means plenty of head (1030 mm), leg (1039 mm for the front), shoulder (1437 mm), and cargo space, with the five seater allowing 477 litres. There’s a parcel shelf that covers the spare and has a small locker for the charge cable. However the dash and overall cabin presence is dating and needs a makeover to bring it up to the perceived level of quality as seen in the Korean and European rivals. Outside it’s no different, apart from the badging, to the currently design ethos of Mitsubishi, with the broad and chromed “Shield” nose, curvaceous body that would shame some super models, and a rounded in profile but square from the rear…rear.You’ll not want for safety in the form of airbags, hill start assist, and the basic traction control systems, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and something called an Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System….what you don’t get is satnav, as the seven inch touchscreen interface has apps for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has GPS, but not a navigation facility.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing Mitsubishi didn’t list a price for the PHEV on their website, stating it was “Price on application”. Given the standard Outlander range starts at $27990 and goes up to $47990 for the Exceed version (also available as a PHEV) it’d be fair to say somewhere in the mid $30K bracket for the LS. It’s different in that you get a petrol power generator and a back up driver unit at that, with the main focus being that it’s a plug in unit and less reliant on the petrol engine. The fact that it’s a SUV is also different, with very, very few other companies offering anything similar and bear in mind the Outlander isn’t aimed at the luxury car market.
Unfortunately that shows up mostly in the interior, and on road the unsettled feeling it exhibits just a little too often. Measured up, on these two standards, against the Santa Fe, Sorento, Fortuner, and the Euros such as the Tiguan, its lagging. Where it scores the brownie points is in the drive tech, so click here: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for specific information and contact your local dealer for pricing.