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The new Outlander PHEV of Mitsubishi

1/28/2015 1:38:06 AM
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Mitsubishi will claim the hybrid high-ground later in the year when it introduces the new Outlander PHEV to its range. It’s a plug-in hybrid with pretty impressive credentials yet it comes with a price tag that won’t render it a showroom wallflower. It will start at $59,990 when it goes on sale in April, making it $15k cheaper than the conceptually similar GM Volt, and though it’s around $10k more than the Prius, it easily bests it in terms of its EV performance and range. And being an AWD SUV, it’s more versatile too. Moreover, it doesn’t look, ahem, outlandish.

The Mitsi PHEV is a plug-in hybrid

The Mitsi PHEV is a plug-in hybrid, as mentioned, meaning it’s an intermediate step between regular hybrids as we know them, and pure EVs. It’s designed to maximize its EV potential before calling on its petrol-fired engine to either boost performance or extend the range once the current stops flowing. The Outlander PHEV has a 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack (Nissan Leaf 24kWh, Prius plug-in, which is not offered here, 4.4kWh) and from a fully charged state it can deliver an approximate EV range of 52km (Leaf 120km, Prius plug-in 22km) and can power the Outlander along at up to 120km/h. But it also has a 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet which can act as a generator to deliver more electricity to the battery (in Series Hybrid Mode) and it can power the front wheels as well (Parallel Mode) to boost performance further. It may sound complex, but essentially you just drive the Outlander as you would a conventional model and the Power Drive Unit contraption determines which components do what and when.

The Outlander PHEV has a 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack

The PHEV has two electric motors, one on the front and one driving the rear wheels, giving AWD capability. The generator supplies 70kW of charging power and once the battery is depleted by 70 per cent, the engine will kick in to drive the generator which replenishes the battery pack. This is centrally located under the floor so it doesn’t impact on passenger space and helps plant the PHEV on road. Mitsubishi says the vehicle is around 260kg heavier than the conventional VRX petrol Outlander, and 160kg heavier than the diesel.

There’s no combined overall output figure for the PHEV, but Mitsubishi says it is the best performing Outlander model to date. As for economy, it’s officially rated at 1.9L/100km and 44g/km, for an overall range of 800km from the 45-litre fuel tank. Your overall average will vary depending on where you do your primary driving. Use it for commuting in traffic to and from work, top up the battery at night, and this will net much lower numbers than if you head out on a long distance cruise. Out in the wilds, the figure rises to something in the vicinity of 8.0L/100km as the petrol engine is activated more often and worked harder. According to ECCA, a full battery recharge using off-peak rates will cost $1.41. The Outlander can be charged via the mains using a normal plug, with a full charge taking about 6.5 hours.

The Outlander PHEV has a 12kWh lithium-ion battery pack

This is a much better proposition than the $59,990 iMiEV (pure EV) Mitsubishi formerly sold (they moved 35), given PHEV has no range anxiety attached to its ownership. It may be a technical piece of kit, but it doesn’t overwhelm the driver. It has a Prius-like gear selector but otherwise you just get in and drive the thing. Light throttle is best to maximize EV mode, for when you move beyond about half throttle, the petrol engine will chime in. Without a gearbox as such the PHEV has a silken power delivery, and it’s quiet on the go as well, even when the engine is firing in Series Mode. The Outlander PHEV has paddles but these don’t control gearshifts. Instead, they increase the amount of regenerative braking force the electric motors provide. It’s the equivalent of downshifting in a conventional Outlander to generate some engine braking, and it works well.

The Outlander PHEV has paddles but these don't control gearshifts

Sure, there’s a price premium with the PHEV but we consider it acceptable in view of the technology offered. The rear motor installation robs the Outlander PHEV of a seven-seat configuration and impacts on luggage space when compared with the five-seat Outlander. There’s no spare wheel either and while there’s no official tow rating as yet, it’s expected to be less than for the standard model.

It will be offered in two grades, XLS at $59,990 and VRX at $66,990. Currently the most expensive Outlander is the diesel VRX at $56,990. So there’s not much of a price premium for a vehicle that offers an impressive mix of environmental and real world performance.

Specs

         Price: $56,990

         Engine: inline 4, multi point F/INJ, 2.4L

         Torque: 220Nm @ 4200rpm

         Power: 124kW @ 6000rpm

         Transmission: Continuous variable

         Drive type: All wheel drive

         Weight: 1495 kb

         CO2: 174g/km

 
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