Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV first drive

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV





The best sales people advising on taxation matters and customers in the UK for the plug-in hybrid electric Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 4×4 appears to be tax advisors and accountants.

The Outlander PHEV is the UK’s best selling alternatively fuelled vehicle, it is the best selling plug-in hybrid and it has overtaken sales of every other pure electric powered model as well.

Because of the Outlander PHEV’s ultra low CO2 emissions of 44g/km with an official fuel consumption of 148mpg the huge sales success of approximately a 1,000 units a month since its launch a year ago have been mainly to company car users because of the low 5% CO2 rated Benefit-in-Kind tax. 

Other benefits because of the low emissions include no VED road tax, the vehicles are exempt from the London Congestion Charge, they are eligible for the Government’s £5,000 plug-in car grant and companies can offset 100% of the purchase cost against profits in the first year of ownership. 

Until recently the Outlander PHEV range was available with GX3h, GX4h and GX4hs levels of specification and all use the plug-in electric hybrid drivetrain which consists of a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors. These were priced from £28,304 to £35,054 including the Government grant. 

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Now because of the company car sales success Mitsubishi have introduced two new higher specification versions specifically to appeal to senior directors and executives. The new versions use the same electric/petrol hybrid system and are known as GX5h and GX5hs. They are priced at £37,899 and £39,999 respectively including the Government plug-in grant.

Whereas the original Outlander PHEV models have a Benefit-in-Kind tax cost starting at just £27 a month for 20% or £55 for 40% tax payers, the new models still only incur a tax cost of £75 for the highest tax payers and half that for the lower level. To put those costs into perspective these new top of the range models cost only a little more than the base spec Mini three-door hatchback which is £33 or £66 per month or a Ford Fiesta three door at £31 or £63 a month.

However these low CO2 vehicles come with a future wealth warning. Even before the General Election result, the Government in their last Budget announced there will be regular increases in Benefit-in-Kind tax even for ultra low emission vehicles such as the Outlander PHEV. From next April onwards even sub 50g/km vehicles will see tax rates rise to reach 16% by the 2019/20 tax year.

Road Tax, which is also based on CO2 emissions, is also forecast to increase to offset the lost tax revenue as there are now many lower emission vehicles being sold that are either tax free or low in tax costs.

The new Outlander PHEV GX5h
The interior upgrades in specification for the new Outlander PHEV GX5h and GX5hs include high quality Nappa leather seats, matching leather inserts for the dashboard, door panels and console in a choice of beige red or grey colours, an acoustically optimised seven speaker 420w premium Alpine Hi-Fi system, floor level front and rear mood lighting and puddle lights, front and rear heated seats and twin rear USB charging ports. The exterior gains integrated side steps, a rear spoiler, an Outlander bonnet badge and LED fog and driving lights with chrome surrounds. 

The difference spec level between the GX5h and the GX5hs is the latter gets lane departure warning, forward collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control. Such items as electric windows and door mirrors, sat-nav, computer, touchscreen, reversing camera, alloy wheels and Bluetooth are included from lower spec versions. The upgrades will be welcomed by business executives but there is still some cheap feeling plastic trim on show and I’m not convinced the side steps are a good idea. They are too narrow to use as steps, they lower the ground clearance for a 4×4 off-roader, I think they make the side view look too bulky and they look an ‘add-on’ which of course they are. 

The benefits of lower CO2 emissions I have dealt with but the other core issue with plug-in hybrids is the real-life fuel efficiency. Under the EU New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) test carried out on a rolling road, manufacturers can only quote these official figures. The real-life ones will never match the test results but blame the test not the manufactures. Each NEDC test session covers just seven miles, lasts 20 minutes and the vehicle is tested only briefly at 75mph. In the case of the Outlander PHEV the official figures are 148.7mpg with CO2 emissions of just 44g/km. In real life of course the fuel consumption will be much different. In fact if the vehicle can be used for journeys of around 30 miles and can be charged from the mains electricity prior to a journey, then the mpg figure will be even better. If however as most drivers will discover in real life fuel economy is less. To get close to the maximum fuel economy the plug-in electric charge function must be used. 

Fully charged my test driving initially returned 93mpg, and that was with the electric motors and petrol engine automatically working together. Once the battery power had run out, on petrol power only the figure was 35.3mpg. But overall during my week long test the average was 52.7mpg which is still good for a large 4×4 but of course not anything like the official figure. High mileage users are advised by Mitsubishi to continue to opt for a 2.2-litre diesel powered Outlander which is honest advice. It is the official low CO2 figure resulting in low personal Benefit-in-Kind tax that has attracted thousands of company car users to the Outlander PHEV. 

I have covered the hybrid aspects of the Outlander PHEV before. 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 be charged directly from the home/business mains 240-volt electricity supply. 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. 

Another important figure for the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the 5-year/62,500 mileage warranty for the vehicle itself and the electric/hybrid components. As with all Mitsubishi models, the Outlander PHEV has a pan-European roadside assistance package valid for 3-years and 12-years anti-corrosion perforation warranty. 

Whilst business execs are currently the mainstay of Outlander PHEV sales, retail customers put off by the initial high purchase price, but are attracted by the free VED road tax and no London Congestion Charge, could be catered for by Mitsubishi’s new used-vehicle sales programme. Their dealers are offering ex-demonstration vehicles through a Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) plan. A GX4h model costs £299 per month over three years. 

MILESTONES: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) GX5h, auto, 5-door 4×4 SUV. Price: £37,899 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 52.7mpg, CO2 is 44g/km, VED road tax £0. London Congestion Charge £0, BIK company car tax 5%. Insurance group rating: 27E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,655mm, W 1,800mm, H 1,680mm, 5-seats, boot/load space 463 to 1,022-litres. Braked towing weight: 1,500kg. Warranty: 5-years/62,500 miles. For: A very tax efficient vehicle with high proven sales potential, improved leather upholstery, interior trim and specification, 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 interior plastic trim.  Miles Better News Agency

Written by