Having never driven anything either fully powered by or partially powered by an electric engine before I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up the keys to the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the PHEV stands for Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.
The PHEV is the worlds first Plug in Hybrid SUV, but unlike other plug in hybrid vehicles the PHEV has a function where it can charge the battery to 80% with a press of a button using the PHEV’s petrol engine as a generator.
From the outside there really isn’t much to distinguish it from your regular Outlander that is apart from the plug in hybrid vehicle badges.
The front end is a more modern take on the Mitsubishi family face seen on most of their cars these days, big wide mouth grille at the bottom flanked by flog lights thinish chrome grille between the head lights, clear lensed LED tail lights at the back oh and it rides on one of the most attractive set of factory alloys I’ve seen.
Stepping inside and you notice that this isn’t your run of the mill Outlander while the instrument panel is similar to your regular Outlander you notice straight away the rev tacho has been replaced by a gauge that instead of showing you engine rev’s shows you functions to do with the battery.
Between the gauges is a high definition 4.2 inch colour LCD that can display vehicle functions such as battery level, the drive mode your in, PHEV system energy flow and a few more ensuring you are fully informed of what the PHEV’s systems are doing.
The leather bound steering wheel comfortable to hold has has buttons to operate the audio system, voice recognition system and the adaptive cruise control.
The centre stack is home to the Mitsubishi’s Multi Communications Sytem or (MMCS), with a high definition 7 inch touch screen meaning that the display is easy to see in any light. The system comes complete with a navigation system that is simple to use, it also has speed limit information on major roads.
The audio system is easy to use has full bluetooth connectivity which only takes a few seconds to connect your phone to there is a button on the steering wheel for the voice recognition which worked ok but I didn’t really use it a lot. This audio system has decent sound but I encountered the same problem I get with every Mitsubishi car with this system in that it keeps disconnecting my USB card with all my music on it.
The MMCS also has various screen which you can access which give you all the information for fuel economy and lets you know the charge level of the battery, you can also access a screen which gives you your short and long term economy figures which I found really useful it also showed during a trip down the blue mountains the regenerative brakes generated 1.7kwH of power which went back into the battery.
Under bonnet the PHEV features both electric and petrol driven power plants, the 2.0L MVEC 4cyl engine develops 87kw and 186Nm of torque, the electric engine has a max output of 60kW and 137Nm of torque the PHEV also has an electric motor that can be used to drive the rear wheels which is rated the same as the motor at the front.
Now I could go on and on and on about how the electric power plant works and I’ve actually rewritten this 3 times because it was actually too long.
SO to keep things short I’m going to paraphrase Mitsubishi, the PHEV has 3 drive modes:
EV Drive Mode: where drive is by the front and rear electric motors, EV Drive mode is an all-electric mode in which the front and rear motors drive the vehicle using only electric power from the drive battery this has the benefit of producing Zero CO2 emissions and petrol consumption up to a maximum of 120km/h
Series Hybrid Mode: Engine generator assists electric motors, the electric motors power the vehicle using engine-generated electric power to supplement the energy provided by the drive battery. The system switches to this mode when the remaining battery charge falls below a predetermined level or more performance is required, such as accelerating to pass a vehicle or climbing steep inclines.
Parallel Hybrid Mode: Motors assist engine drive, the PHEV switches to Parallel mode when the vehicle reaches higher speeds with assistance from the electric motors when extra power is required for overtaking manoeuvres or steep inclines. In this mode the high-efficiency petrol engine provides direct drive to the front wheels, assisted by the electric motors.
One thing that freaked me out about this car is how whisper quiet it is when running in electric you hear a small hum from the electric motors and that’s it, it really kind of reminded me of an electric train but much quieter. The PHEV has decent performance in all drive modes although because it has a single speed fixed ratio reduction
gear layout the petrol does seem to make a bit of noise when it engages and your going up say steep hill or when you put your down to over take.
Fuel economy is rated at an extremely low 1.9L/100km and I can say I honest say that a few times during that week I actually beat that getting down as low as 1.7L/100km in battery mode, however the car is quite heavy so when your motoring around and you are using the petrol engine the fuel economy from the petrol engine is not stella at times. Don’t get me wrong this car is extremely fuel efficient and in fact it really impressed me with it’s fuel economy all I’m saying is that under certain conditions the fuel economy does vary a lot. On the freeway I had saw figures of 7.3L/100km from the petrol engine.
The PHEV is to 280kg heavier then the regular Outlander, so on the road it feels like a semi loaded Outlander, it does however ride pretty good I drove it to Lithgow and back and it was a comfortable ride. The PHEV does a good job of soaking up the bumps and there is no bash or crashiness. There is touch a of lean at freeway speeds in some corners but no more then other car in its class that I’ve driven. Steering is light making it easy to park but it’s not as sharp as other cars I’ve driven.
Because its got some decent ground clearance and Mitsubishi’s wonderful 4wd underneath it and given its ride height you can take it off road, you can’t go mental but I did some light 4wding with it down some muddy tracks and it seemed to go pretty good. I would have done a lot more in it but while it has decent enough ground clearance I doesn’t have enough to go to wild. I drove it down quite a lot of dirt roads and logging track and the PHEV handled them great.
Safety wise as you would exspect the PHEV is loaded with them including front, side, curtain and driver knee airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Active Stability Control (ASC), Active Traction Control (ATC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Power brake booster with emergency brake assist system and Reverse parking sensors the PHEV scores full marks for also having a reverse camera.
After a week in the PHEV I was rather impressed it rides well, has plenty of features and is packed full of safety features. The Hybrid electric drive system gives you the possibility of not having to go anywhere near a petrol station at all. The down side to it though is that it needs a 15A outlet to be installed in your garage as it wont charge from a normal power point like most other hybrids. While that means only an outlay of a couple of hundred dollars to have an electrician to install one, it does mean that if you don’t own you your own home it might be something it not willing to do. Electric charging stations aren’t plentiful either so you really need to search for one which is very trying believe me I tried, although the self charging does negate this at some level.
The other thing is price the PHEV several thousand dollars more then the even the diesel model so I have doubts whether you would recoup the added cost, I know for my family which doesn’t do a lot of KM per week could definately not recoup them. But the bonus is that there is a possibility that you won’t have to go near a petrol station ever or as often as you do now.
All in all the Outlander PHEV is a decent safety family car and is full of great technology and congratulate Mitsubishi for putting this technology into an SUV to check Mitsubishi’s PHEV and the rest of the Outlander range check out their website http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com.au