it’s time to see how it really performs in real-life longer driving conditions following a very brief test drive at the UK Media launch in April this year.
The Outlander PHEV is a 4×4, five door, five seater plug-in hybrid electric vehicle with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, one driving the front wheels the other the rear wheels. Mitsubishi says it is the only plug-in hybrid on sale in the UK that does not carry a price premium for its hybrid technology.
Customers can choose between the classic 2.2-litre diesel Outlander GX3 auto or the new PHEV hybrid version for the same price of £28,249, after the Government’s £5,000 Plug-In Car Grant has been applied.
There are two other Outlander PHEV variants, the GX4h priced at £32,899 and the GX4hs at £34,999 after the Government grant has been applied. These versions are just £1,000 more than their diesel equivalents due to the added specification – not the PHEV equipment says Mitsubishi, but extra specification. My test model was the top of the range GX4hs version.
On paper the Outlander PHEV looks a winner because of its huge savings in taxation. There is no road licence costs for all UK owners, no London Congestion Charge for the capital’s residents or commuters and here comes the big one – only 5% to pay in Benefit-in-Kind tax charges for company car drivers and that could equate to a £13,000 personal tax saving over three years. No wonder company car drivers and fleet operators are the main buyers of this vehicle. A 2.2-litre DI-D turbodiesel Outlander will cost £130 a year in road tax and 23 or 24% in company car tax depending on the model chosen.
There are potential savings in fuel costs possible for all Outlander PHEV drivers as well because of the official EU Combined Cycle 148mpg figure. This of course is totally unrealistic in real-life due to the limited mileage covered on the laboratory testing rolling-road equipment which sees a disproportionate amount of use in battery power mode. It is not the vehicle manufacturers fault hybrid fuel economy figures are not realistic – it is the testing system that was designed for petrol and diesel models and this is due to be changed. From the outset Mitsubishi have gone out of their way to advise potential customers that if their main use is long motorway mileage then a diesel Outlander will offer more mpg in those conditions but of course for company car drivers the low personal tax overrides everything else.
Hybrids work best in stop-start conditions where the plug-in 240V mains charging function and on-board electric power capture is done through regenerative braking and so more use can be made of the Outlander’s 32.5 miles driving range using just the electric motors. Another bonus is, unlike pure electric cars, with the Outlander PHEV there is no range anxiety, when the battery power runs out the petrol engine chimes in to power the vehicle and it will also charge the batteries again and of course it also has the usual charging facility for home or public charging points use.
But to get to the crux of the matter, what exactly did my week long test driving return in fuel consumption? Not a short simple answer I’m afraid but it was all done in the ECO setting. For motorway or rural driving on A/B roads the figure was 36mpg when the 2.0-litre petrol engine was the main form of propulsions with limited electric motor input except for acceleration boost. In reality that figure in itself is pretty good for a petrol engine in this size of SUV vehicle with its standard automatic transmission. Once commuting in town, in traffic with the battery pack fully charged from the mains and then topped up during driving electric and with some use of the petrol engine this increased to 91mpg. Without a cumulative mpg computer readout – it’s only done on a daily basis; my overall average was around 60mpg. Not anywhere near close to the official figure but totally acceptable because of the huge VED road and BIK personal tax savings and of course the low pollution output from CO2 emissions.
The technology is relatively easy to use in real-life. Switch on, move the gear select lever to drive, press the accelerator and away you silently glide. From then on the car chooses the most efficient mode to suit the driving conditions. But the driver can ‘play’ with the rate of battery regeneration during deceleration to optimise the harvesting of electric power to the battery pack and an added bonus is the stronger the harvesting force the less brake wear takes place. It is important that owners realise to get the best fuel economy from this vehicle the plug-in electric facility has to be used.
With its 2.0-litre, four cylinder variable valve timing direct injection petrol engine and front and rear electric motors the Outlander PHEV has three drive modes. EV is an all-Electric Mode in which the front and rear motors drive the vehicle using only electricity from the 80 cell lithium-ion under floor battery pack. In the Series Hybrid Mode the petrol engine operates as a generator supplying power to the electric motors. When the vehicle reaches high speeds the Parallel Hybrid Mode switches in with the petrol engine providing most of the driving power, assisted by the electric motors as required. A petrol engine was chosen because it gives less particulate emissions than a diesel and doesn’t incur the higher 3% Benefit-in-Kind company car tax loading a diesel unit receives in the UK and other countries.
During deceleration, the electric motors function as generators to charge the battery pack. The regenerative braking can be increased when the brake pedal is pressed. The strength of regenerative braking is also adjustable using the selector which has three strength settings and the paddle selectors on the steering wheel offers five strength settings. The battery pack can also be charged directly from the home/business mains 240-volt electricity supply. A high speed charger can usually be supplied free by British Gas subject to a survey and the average price of a full charge would be around £1.50. The batteries can also be charged to 80% capacity in just 30 minutes by simply letting the petrol engine idle. The charging process can also be remotely controlled, together with in-car pre-heat or pre-cool functions, through a free-to-download iOS or Android app.
The Outlander PHEV retains its traditional 4WD capabilities. The system allows the front wheels to be driven by one electric motor and (or) the petrol engine and the rear wheels by the second electric motor. There is no prop-shaft required running from the front to the rear resulting in less fuel consuming friction and drag. This new system combines front and rear wheel drive control and left and right wheel braking control to maximise handling and stability. Two selectable driving modes are provided; Normal Mode for ordinary conditions and Lock Mode for enhanced all-terrain performance.
Ride comfort is firm and impacts from potholes felt due to the heavier duty coil springs needed to compensate for the weight of the batteries. With the extra weight of the battery pack positioned under the floor in the middle of the vehicle the Outlander PHEV feels more ‘planted’ on the road that diesel versions with a good balance front to rear sharpening up cornering performance with reduced body roll.
Most diesel powered Outlander versions have seven seats but due to the space taken up by the rear motor the PHEV version has seating for five passengers plus a large 463-litre boot with all the rear seats in use and around 1,022 litres with the rear row folded down. The Outlander PHEV has a braked towing capacity of 1,500kg which is 500kg less than the 2.2-litre turbodiesel models.
All this technical wizardry at competitive prices doesn’t mean that other areas of specification have been skimped upon. Even the entry level GX3h has 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, dual zone air conditioning, electric windows, electric folding and heated door mirrors, leather covered steering wheel and Blue tooth connectivity. The GX4h additions include sat-nav with a 7-inch touchscreen, wide beam HID headlights, heated and power operated front seats, leather upholstery and a reversing camera. The top-of-the-range GX4hs additions include adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation system and lane departure warning. All versions have a Euro NCAP 5-star safety rating. The vehicle even has an Acoustic Alert System which warns pedestrians of its presence when running in the silent EV mode.
Other important figures for the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the 3-year/unlimited mileage warranty for the vehicle itself with the electric/hybrid components having a 5-year/ 100,000 mile warranty. As with all Mitsubishi models, the Outlander PHEV has a pan-European roadside assistance package valid for 3-years. The service interval for the new Outlander PHEV is 12,500 miles/12 months (whichever occurs first) and Mitsubishi’s service plan covering the first three scheduled services is available for £500.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a tempting proposition just on tax savings alone and the fact that it has become their best selling passenger car this year proves that. Ignore the official mpg figure and just enjoy the technology and feel smug about paying less tax to the UK Government – a nice Christmas present.
MILESTONES: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) GX4hs, 5-door 4×4. Price: £34,999 after the £5,000 Government grant. Power source/drivetrain: 2.0-litre, direct injection 4-cylinder petrol engine, 119bhp, 140lb ft of torque petrol engine output plus two electric motors giving a combined 67bhp and 245lb ft of torque, automatic transmission with 4WD on demand traction. Performance: 106mph, 0-62mph 11.0-seconds, 148mpg official EU Combined Cycle figure but on test the overall average was 60mpg, CO2 is 44g/km, VED road tax £0. London Congestion Charge £0, BIK company car tax 5%. Insurance group rating: 24. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,655mm, W 1,800mm, H 1,680mm, ground clearance 190mm, 5-seats, boot/load space 463 to 1,022-litres. Braked towing weight: 1,500kg. Warranty: 3-years/unlimited mileage, hybrid components 5-years/100,000 miles. For: A very impressive vehicle with huge sales potential driven by saving on fuel and tax costs, attractive pricing, seamless power delivery between petrol and electric modes, retains off road 4×4 capability and useful towing ability. Against: Firm ride, variable driving conditions and the length of journey will greatly affect the real-life fuel consumption more than with a conventional diesel powered 4×4, some cheap-feel plastic trim, fiddly multimedia/sat-nav operation. Miles Better News agency