I’ve been running the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV since July, and am still getting to grips with it. In fact there are enough settings, dials and complex controls to rival a high-powered telescope.
You see, this is much more than just a straightforward plug-in hybrid. There are numerous settings you can use to get the most out of the different driving functions – from pure EV to saving electric power when on a motorway.
One thing you notice as soon as you climb aboard is what look like steering wheel shift paddles. But these aren’t to change gear, like the paddles in the Range Rover we also run on our fleet. Instead, they’re for the regenerative braking.
As with orthodox hybrids such as the Toyota Prius or electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi gets regenerative braking to help top up the battery. But this set-up differs from rivals’ by offering five levels of retardation. So if you’re going down a steep hill and braking a lot, level five will help to recoup more energy. If you’re just driving along the motorway, level three is fine to top up the battery with some gentle coasting.
Then there’s the clever ‘Save’ function. I spend most of my time in the PHEV commuting through London, taking advantage of its 28-mile electric range. But on the occasions I have to drive to an airport or visit friends in Peterborough, Cambs, it feels pointless using up that power on the motorway. So I press the ‘Save’ button, and the car runs on the petrol engine, leaving 14 miles of battery power untouched for when I’m in a built up, slow-moving environment.
While the clever tech is impressing, the Mitsubishi’s less sophisticated kit is irritating me. The sat-nav feels like an aftermarket solution, and no matter how often I use it, I can’t master some controls or how to change some settings.
Still, so far the Outlander is proving spacious and comfortable. The ride can be a little harsh, and it rolls a bit in tight corners – possibly down to the weight of the batteries – but the controls are light and its dimensions aren’t overbearing.
The biggest disappointment so far? Fuel economy once the electric range has run out seems poor and I’ve been filling up much more than I expected to. Even so, I don’t need to peer into a telescope to see that these plug-in machines have a very bright future.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: report 1
Mileage: 5,926 miles
Real-world economy: 52.4mpg
Attempts to find the perfect way to power cars have taken us from traditional petrol and diesel, through to electric cars and hydrogen fuel cells.
All of these solutions come with their compromises, though. I think plug-in hybrid could be the answer, and over the next six months I’ll be finding out if the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the ideal solution for commutes and longer trips.
Firstly, I needed to pick up the eco-off-roader from Hummingbird Motors in Finchley, north London, and receive a crash course in the basic instructions to get me going. Dealer principal Larry Wood has been involved with Mitsubishis since the seventies, and was on hand to give me a quick tour around the car.
The Outlander is powered by a combination of a 2.0-litre engine and two electric motors. Fully charged, it’ll go for 32 miles on battery power alone. Once these run out, the petrol engine is used as a generator to continue powering the motors, rather than the wheels.
That means it has power leads for charging, along with the usual fuel tank. With no off-street parking at home, I’m hoping that charging up in our office car park will allow me to make it home and back the next morning in EV mode – it’s only an 18-mile round trip, after all.
What also makes the Outlander unique is its size. This isn’t a small, lightweight crossover – it’s a full-blown off-roader that can be switched to four-wheel-drive mode if necessary.
That’s not the only clever tech on offer, however. There are numerous settings on the sat-nav screen that help tell me just how efficiently I’m driving and how far I’m travelling in pure electric mode.
Another key element is that, unlike some hybrid models, the batteries don’t eat into boot capacity, which stands at 436 litres. I’m hoping the space will be comfortable for my dog Jarvis, plus provide plenty of room for trips to the tip.
I’ve since done only a few commutes from our central London offices to my flat in north London, but the Outlander has already impressed, with the exception of the firm ride. I particularly like the way it glides along in near-silence, helping to soothe the stresses of my drive. On this evidence, Mitsubishi has got closer than most to delivering the ideal powerplant for our times.
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