Matt Saunders
3 December 2012

What is it?

A different kind of plug-in hybrid: this is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which Autocar has been given a world-exclusive first drive in.

Why different? We’ll let the man from Mitsubishi explain. “If the next generation of battery-powered cars is ever going to become truly mainstream, it’s vital that they become ordinary,” he said. “The handful of plug-in hybrids that we’ve seen thus far have been showcase cars; four-wheeled statements of technological advancement for their manufacturers, and of environmental awareness for their drivers, rather than practical, usable family machines for everyone.

“Ours is different,” he insisted, before handing us the keys to a near-finished prototype. Just as we were, you’re probably inclined to dismiss all that as marketing waffle, but the car itself does actually live up to the billing.

What is it like?

The Outlander PHEV is coming to Europe by the middle of next year and will become the market’s first all-wheel drive range-extended EV. But it’s more significant, says Mitsubishi, because it’s just another Outlander. Not a dedicated low-emissions model like the Prius, or an avant-garde poster boy like the Chevrolet Volt. It's just one more version of the new-generation mid-sized crossover SUV, planned from the outset, that could drastically reduce your fuel bills without any real compromise on maximum range, comfort, practicality or all-weather dependability.

Well, there is one compromise: it only comes with five seats. But that apart, both inwardly and outwardly, the Outlander PHEV looks very much like the rest of the model range. The keen of eye may spot an LED running light here, a chrome trim there or a special alloy wheel, and on the inside, there are different instruments, a special gear selector and some special leather – but that’s it. The PHEV has the same 591-litre boot as the rest of the range, and the same roomy, functional cabin.

It’s driven primarily by two 80bhp electric motors, one for each axle. They’re exactly the same as the ones you’ll find in an i-Miev EV, and draw power, via two independent current inverters, from a 12kWh lithium ion battery under the floor. The rear motor produces a peak 144lb ft of torque from zero rpm, the front one up to 101lb ft. And the power they produce is good for up to 34 miles of battery range, after a four-hour charge from a 240v, 15amp mains supply.

Drive on after that electric range is used up and the back-up 2.0-litre petrol engine fires into life. Initially it only operates in ‘series’ mode, running the 70kW current generator to keep the traction motors supplied with juice, and the battery ticking over at about 30 per cent charge. But ask for maximum acceleration, which feels fairly brisk, and the car goes into ‘parallel’ hybrid mode; the engine begins to drive the front wheels directly, while also still providing power for the battery and motors.

Maximum ‘extended’ range is claimed at a very respectable 547 miles. Like an Ampera, there’s a button to force the powertrain to hold battery charge at any given level. But unlike the Vauxhall, there’s another one to use petrol power to charge back up to 70 per cent on the battery – for towing, climbing or simply to save up your zero-emissions running for later in your journey.

The circumstances of our test in the PHEV didn’t allow us to fully examine its electric range, or to get a feel for how European cars will ride and handle – our test car had the Japanese-spec chassis settings. But the car did have good mechanical refinement; it’s typically quiet in EV mode and when the combustion engine starts, it seems well insulated and distant.

Pedal response is consistent, with none of the mushiness at the top of the brake pedal you can find in some hybrids, and outright performance is very flexible: relaxing most of the time; strong enough under full power.

The test car rode very smoothly, with little noise from the suspension. Body control was a little lax, allowing plenty of lateral roll, and the power steering system could be made more predictable. But all that’s due to be improved upon for European models.

Should I buy one?

With 1.8 tonnes to lug around and a 2.0-litre engine doing the range extension, it remains to be seen how economical the Outlander will be under combustion power. We’d expect no better than 35mpg. For high-mileage UK buyers, the cheaper 2.2-litre ‘Clean Diesel’ will be the more economical car in the real world, and probably the better bet even after CO2 taxes are considered.

Nevertheless, for those whom it suits – who do as many short-range trips as anything, can charge at home, and who want a 4x4 that’ll count for less on their monthly company car tax bill - the PHEV should really appeal. Rated to tow 1.6 tonnes and entirely suited to family life, it brings everyday, any-occasion usability to the low-emission market. And that’s very welcome indeed.


Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV


Price: tbc; 0-62mph: tbc; Top speed: 106mph; Economy: 172mpg (JC08 cycle); CO2: 49g/km; Kerb weight: 1810kg; Engine type, cc: 4cyls, 2000cc, petrol motor/generator with 2x80bhp electric motors; Installation: Petrol engine, 1xAC motor front, 1xAC motor rear, 4WD; Power: circa 220bhp (tbc); Torque: circa 320lb ft (tbc); Gearbox: Direct drive (AC motors), with gear train transmission for ICE engine (Parallel Hybrid mode only); Fuel tank: na; Boot: 591/na litres; Wheels: 8Jx18in/alloy; Tyres: 225/55 R18

Join the debate

Comments
9

Around £35,000, I guess after ...

1 year 20 weeks ago

Very interesting development. Perhaps the Autocar intentionally left out a hint of the price for this Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid - call it range-extender if you will. Perhaps around £35,000. My guesstimate taking into account the bloated prices of Toyota's Prius plug in and GM's Volt and Ampera range-extenders - after the £5,000 government grant.  

Take hint major car-makers and bring the fuel-bill stumped Britons a practical and affordable family car.

 

Hybrid is the way forward!

No sense

1 year 20 weeks ago

Lugging a heavy "back up" petrol engine around in an electric car makes no sense whatsoever - there are 100 reasons not to do this and almost no good reasons to try. Increasingly desperate attempts to lower the weight of twenty first century cars are being derailed by this blind alley of engineering solutions. This idea will die out and in 20 years time (if not before) we'll all laugh at it.

 

Aussie Rob - a view from down under

At the begining of the

1 year 20 weeks ago

At the begining of the report, it was commented that this vehicle was "different" from other hybrids.

Aside from the conventional body it appears to be little different from other plug in hybrids such as the Volt.

Ultimately, it still has the same compromises (boot space, weight and not much cleaner than a decent new generation petrol / diesel), as it's competitors, all wrapped up in a conventional body.  

I still think this sort of hybrid system is the future for motoring but this car doesn't really move anything along.

I have to wonder how much of this "glowing" report was biased buy the exclusive drive.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Is this possibly the only new

1 year 20 weeks ago

Is this possibly the only new car that makes it predecessor look more modern and fresh? With this, and the Nissan Micra, the predecessors were good looking cars, but now they look like Chinese knock offs of the original!

I'd have to agree

1 year 20 weeks ago

As a current Mitsubishi driver I have to agree with paul896.  I can find nothing in their current range that I want.  This Outlander looks pretty ordinary.

Sounds interesting to me

1 year 20 weeks ago

I think this car is aimed pretty squarely at people like me. I have a 10 mile round trip to the station and back every day during the week (which I could do electrically and recharge every night). At weekends I either stay local (electric) or go on a long trip (petrol), often towing or loaded to the top with dog and luggage etc. As an economy 7 electricity user this would probably save £100 in fuel per month over my Nissan X Trail.

The problem is that this wouldn't ofset the high purchase price, but ut does make more sense than a Lexus....

Wrong direction

1 year 20 weeks ago

Surely one of the interesting potentials of EV is the fact the different mechanical requirements have completely changed design possibilities.

The other limiter has been the requirements of the occupants based on the need to perform physical tasks ie look out windows and operate standard controls.  The potential for this has also moved on with cameras, screens, drive by wire and poduction ready self drive cars in touching distance.

I'm interested to see what a car should look like with these new design opportunities.  Certainly with self drive cars you would want to be able to sleep comfortably!

 

 

Battery Thermal Management?

1 year 20 weeks ago

Matt, great artical, thanks!  These are the first pics I've seen of the boot space.  Did you get any information on what type of battery thermal management will be employed?  Will it be active or passive? Liquid or air?  This seems like a critical detail that has yet to be released.  If you have any insight PLEASE let us know!

Sale has been started in

1 year 14 weeks ago

Sale has been started in Holland for delivery in july!

For a company with 52% tax rate  the netto price is only 15 %, so the price to pay is 54000 euro for the instyle plus, the government pays back 85%, netto only 8100 euro!

We will drive about 80% of the time electric which is a lot cheaper than gasoline.

 

Kobus67

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Mitsubishi Outlander

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