Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

No drinking the Kool-Aid; it’s a better plug-in SUV

BARRY PARK

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THERE’S an energy drink ad on TV with the tagline, ‘The massive hit that improves you a bit.’ And while the MY17 updates for Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV are not exactly massive, initial impressions on local roads are that they do improve it.

Behind a visage that brings the plug-in hybrid Outlander in line with the rest of the range is a largely carry-over drivetrain.

However the shift from electric to engine-assisted go has been reworked and refined to remove the previous angry flare of revs and surging progress, replacing it with a smoother transition.

The 87kW 2.0-litre petrol engine can drive the front wheels, act as a generator to recharge the battery, or sit silently while the pair of electric motors do all the work.

Two new buttons on either side of the gear selector, near the ‘EV’ button that engages pure electric mode, add more control over how the driver uses the mix of petrol and electrons. ‘CHRG’ sees the engine recharge the battery while ‘SAVE’ conserves battery charge.

A pure electric range of up to 54km is available.

In an bid to improve ride and handling the dampers have been retuned, a stiffer anti-roll bar fitted to the rear, and improved underbody bracing added. Our rural tarmac and dirt-road run suggested body control and ride comfort have improved, while the electro-mechanical steering continues to deliver decent weight and feel.

The brakes adopt two-pot front calipers and a larger master cylinder which, combined with driver-adjustable regenerative braking, brings better pedal feel.

More sound deadening and thicker rear glass has made the PHEV a quieter coarse-chip cruiser, and new engine mounts transmit less vibration.

Carried-over compromise includes the fact the PHEV is only a five-seater, and that the 463-litre boot is smaller than petrol versions because it houses the 40Ah lithium-ion battery (but no spare.) The PHEV is also rated to tow 1500kg braked, 500kg less than combustion-only versions.

Kerb weight is up 50kg compared to the old PHEV, but tweaks to the hybrid system sees fuel consumption fall 0.2L/100km to 1.7L/100km.

Yet the PHEV version, which has accounted for less than two percent of Outlander sales to date, seems destined to remain a niche player. Nine out of 10 PHEV sales are of the now $50,490 (up $3000) base version that gets cloth seats rather than the $5K-pricier Exceed’s heated leather, and misses out on the sunroof, powertailgate and much of the driver-assist tech, too.

But if you can cop the price hit, the MY17 Outlander PHEV update has improved it more than a bit.

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Charging ahead

Mitsubishi has future-proofed fast-charge to 80 percent in 25 minutes, for when such charge stations become common. Mitsubishi Oz is also developing an accessory 240v external power pack. Via an inverter, the car's Li-ion battery would be capable of powering appliances via the familiar domestic two-pin socket. the PHEV to accept a DC

PLUS & MINUS

More expensive than its predecessor; premium for safety tech Quieter cabin; smoother integration of petrol/electric power Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Exceed 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v + two electric motors 87kW @ 4500rpm + 120kW motors combined 186Nm @ 4500rpm + 332Nm motors combined Single ratio 1860kg 9.0sec (estimated) 1.7L/100km $55,490 Now