Off-Roading In Mitsubishi’s New Plug-In Hybid Outlander
Let’s just come right out at the beginning, and admit we had a ball with the Outlander PHEV.
We went into this test a bit blind, we don’t get to drive many hybrids, possibly because there haven’t been many available here. So, we didn’t have expectations really, more anticipation.
That anticipation was built on by Bay Mitsubishi’s Carol Riddell, who gave us probably the most enthusiastic vehicle introduction of any test car we’ve ever had. That level of enthusiasm is pretty infectious and may have just inspired us a little to take the Outlander a bit further than we expected to.
The Hybrid Outlander has been in New Zealand since 2015, and shares the facelift/upgrades the rest of the range has just undergone. It maybe shows its age a little in some minor defaults, but it is by no means dated. Ours was the top line VRX, so it was a seriously nice place to be.
Conversely, some of the tech is real tech. How about CVT, with torque sensing AWD, with adjustable settings, and a full lockup proper 4WD setting. That even works in all electric mode!
Moving off the line in a low traction surface, with electric 4WD is a throttle control experience like no other.
At the same time 2.4 litres of IC Engine and an electric motor at each end provides instant get up and go when momentum is indeed your friend!
Work this out!! Normal petrol engine puts out 94kw, rear electric motor 70 kw, front electric motor 60kw. And you can use them all at once: that’s 224kw.
Mitsi calls it “Twin-motor 4WD with optional Petrol Engine Engagement. (Parallel Hybrid Mode / Series Hybrid Mode/ EV Mode)”.
Then there is the 4WD! “Super all Wheel Control (S-AWC) with 4WD Driving Modes (Normal/ Snow/ Lock).
Oh, and then there is the 6 stage “Regenerative Braking Mode – Gear Lever and Paddle Shift Activated.”
Tekkie or what??
So, in plain English, what does all this mean?
Now I’m pretty sure that most people that own PHEVs didn’t head into Mitsubishi looking to buy one for the fun value.
They were probably looking more at economy, low emissions, quietness, maybe even easy to use, and they got all that. But they also got fun!!
Mitsi talk about the regenerative braking putting power back into your battery going downhill. How about using the 6 Stage paddle shift braking control like a normal paddle downshift in a high-performance auto, as you approach a tight corner, or city intersection. Fun!
Select the energy flow mode in the 8-inch touch screen display centre, to see what is powering what, where. Live as you accelerate, brake, cruise. A bit distracting, but fun.
That screen integrates with your cell phone to do all the normal things:- calls, messages, music, maps, etc. As well as the energy flow party trick, it can also tell your cell phone when the best time is to activate the climate control to warm up, or cool down, the interior. So, it’s just the right temperature as you open the door.
All this, naturally, comes with compromise. The PHEV is only a 5-seater. The battery and rear motor take up some of the space the third row of seats would need. But then, without that third row, you get more cargo space.
With the extra motors and the battery, the PHEV is a bit heavier than the standard Outlander, but that weight is down low, and mostly over the rear wheels, which doesn’t do the weight distribution and centre of gravity any harm at all. Especially when not loaded.
Again, not the reason anyone has thought about buying one, but possibly the reason they went ahead and did, is the way it goes on the open road.
With all those electric kilowatts, the extra weight isn’t really noticeable in the real world of overtaking and keeping up a reasonable cruising speed. It corners flat, and balanced, and really takes a bit of provoking to start to feel uncomfortable.
Coming up the Waikato side of the Kaimais was again, fun.
Economical, not so much. Battery charge vanished very quickly. Having said that, regeneration mode coming down the other side and no braking, recovered almost 50% of the range we had squandered.
Then we took it off-road!
Down the neighbours’ farm track, (thanks John & Sue) across a couple of paddocks, through the orchard, not quite to the river – it was getting a bit scratchy by then.
Admittedly it was pretty dry and dusty (sorry Carol) but the electric 4WD performance took it a lot further than we thought it would, as I said before, the PHEVs ability to carefully ease away on the grass became a lesson in the throttle control – and fun!
The PHEV is so quiet in electric mode, driving cross country in almost dead silence and leather-trimmed luxury is, um, just a little surreal. Mitsubishi have added an external pedestrian alert to the car’s sound system to warn them of the car’s approach.
The Outlander Hybrid has been around long enough and has had written about its abilities in its city and commuter environments that we didn’t feel we could add much to that.
In a similar vein to our thoughts about the Outlander Sport just recently, it’s a real pity most owners will only really experience one side of the PHEVs personality.
It’s not quite Jekyll and Hyde but it sure is town and country. If you buy one, just remember to take it out and have fun with it as often as you can!