Hybrid technology has fast become part of the automotive landscape. First seen in Toyota’s Prius, it hasn’t taken long to trickle down into mainstream passenger cars and SUVs. However, a new form of hybrid tech, the plug-in hybrid version, has taken more time. A front-runner for SUV PHEVs has been Mitsubishi with their Outlander.The Range: In 2021 they offer three; the ES, GSR, and Exceed. We spent a week with the sporting tuned (by Bilstein, no less) GSR Hybrid. It’s priced at $56,490 drive-away, and has a pair of electric motors for front and rear wheel drive simultaneously via a single ratio transmission. Main power is from the standard 2.4L petrol engine with 94kW and 199Nm. That’s on 91RON unleaded.The electric motors offer 60kW (front) and 70kW (rear), and are charged via one of two ports on the rear right quarter. The petrol tank is good for 45L and the economy is rated as 1.9L/100km on 91RON unleaded. Although Mitsubishi’s system constantly updates as you drive, in the Hybrid there are sub-menus to check charge rates, battery usage, and fuel over given times. Our final figure would be somewhere around the 5.5L/100km mark if we read the graph correctly. That’s on our usual 70/30 urban to highway runs.The battery is rated at 12kWh and has an on-board charger rate of 3.7kW. Using a standard home system it’s somewhere between 6.5 to 7 hours to “fill”. The plugs are Type 1 and CHAdeMO. Drive is engaged via a simple lever with an electronic Park function. There is also an adjustable Brake mode to recover more kinetic energy if possible. This works best on longer downhill runs.
At full charge, the PHEV offers up 55 to 55 kilometres as an estimated electric only range. For Australia, a range of 100 kilometres would be better. As an example, from the lower reaches of the Blue Mountains to Sydney is something between 70 to 80 kilometres…A charge gauge in the driver’s display shows how much is being harvested, as does a dial in the main touchscreen sub-menu. When running low, a button on the left side of the console next to the drive lever offers save or charge. This engages the petrol engine and makes it a generator for the batteries.Drive to each corner is via a single speed transmission, with drive modes such as Sport, Snow, Mud, plus battery save and charge modes. Stability on road comes from Mitsubishi’s much vaunted S-AWC (Super All Wheel Control) and Active Yaw Control. Sport lifts the overall performance and adds some serious extra squirt to the already rapid acceleration.
The GSR nameplate, once synonymous with the Lancer, adorns the powered tailgate. The current body shape is due for a hefty facelift (pictures at end) and release later in 2021 with a heavily reworked nose, and squared off rear with bumper lines lifted from the Pajero Sport.
As it stands there are the integrated eyebrow running lights in the headlights, wrapped in the chrome strips that boomerang forward then back towards the wheelarches. The current profile is largely uncharged for some years, with a sloped rear window line and broad spanning rear lights.The Drive: Bilstein provide the shock absorbers for the MacPherson strut and coil front, multi-link and stabiliser bar rear. 225/55/18 wheels and tyres from Toyo unpin the body. They offer decent grip, but even with the dual axle drive there was some minor slippage on damp roads.
We say damp as we drove it during the “rain bomb” that hit most of Australia’s southern eastern coast. When driven during the not-so-heavy patches, and on roads that had drained most of the surface water away, driving confidence was high. It was on corners and downhill runs when more circumspect driving was required. What was noticeable was the fantastic tune of the suspension and the damping of the Bilsteins.Although the ride could be described as hard, given the GSR nomenclature, it was on the side of comfort with swift response smoothing out freeway dips and rises without feeling as if it jolted at each end of the travel. Smaller bumps jarred but again only for a moment as the Bilsteins disappeared those impacts rapidly.
Freeway driving had the rapid response telling the driver each square inch of road surface quality without any loss of comfort.
However, one one somewhat soggy and rutted gravel-style track, we heard uncharacteristic groans from the front strut tower caps. The suspension felt as if the stiffness of the setup was overwhelming the caps. As a result, speed had to be dropped to essentially a crawl in order to feel that travel was safe and not damaging the towers.
The Interior: Inside it’s water-resistant micro-suede cloth seat and leather bolsters. They’re as supportive as they come, and electrically powered for the driver. They’re heated up front too, unusual but welcomed for cloth pews and they’re quick to generate heat. There is only heating, though, and the switches are rocker for low or high.
The 8.0 inch touchscreen houses plenty of information and for the PHEV there are sub-menus aplenty to access information on how the hybrid system is working. There is also a punchy eight speaker audio system with DAB plus Bluetooth streaming and the smartphone apps.
The interior however does show its age with no smartphone charge pad, an item sure to be included with the update…we hope.
Dashboard design for the Outlander is classic Mitsubishi; open and broad, well spaced for buttons, soft touch materials, and an organic flowing design. The steering wheel feels on the large side compared to other marques however turn to turn lock is made easier in context. Head, leg and shoulder room for the five seater is huge with 1,030mm and 1,039mm head and leg up front.It’s a five seater due to the battery’s location and wiring for the charge port. Second row passengers have a pair of USB charge ports, and there is one plus a 12V up front. Cup and bottle holders number four apiece in total.
The powered tailgate is light and seems to prefer being opened by hand however the gentle push of the drop button does the trick in closing it. Fold the second row seats and 1,602L of capacity is available to you. There is also a 12V socket in the rear along with cup holders for seven seat non-hybrid Outlanders.
The Safety: Adaptive Cruise Control with sensor distance changing holds hands with the Forward Collision Mitigation system. This has pedestrian detection but not cyclist. This means the organic safety component needs to be scouting forward. Lane Departure and Blind Spot Warning systems are in place.
Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also standard. Auto functions for high beam and wipers are standard, as is a rear view camera. Sensors front and rear are standard. Seven airbags include a driver’s kneebag.
The Rest: Warranty for the battery is eight years or 160,000km. Warranty details can be found here. Capped price servicing varies between the PHEV and non-hybrids. More on the 15,000k or 12 monthly service can be found here.
At The End Of The Drive. We have driven a few Outlander PHEVs over the last three to four years. Our first run was in late 2017, and it was given a solid workout. Driven from the eastern fringes of the Blue Mountains to the central western town of Temora, a historic R.A.A.F base and now a museum, the Outlander PHEV showcased how these sorts of hybrid vehicles work nicely. It’s noticeable that in real terms only minor changes have been made since outside and in.
With a new Outlander on the way, buyers of the current model won’t be disappointed. As a range, it offers good pricing, good performance, and good value. Comfort in the GSR is high and the only niggles were the out of the ordinary complaints from the front end.
As a driver’s car, it meets that goal, and as a package for showcasing hybrid tech, it does an admirable job. Check out the 2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV range here.