What is it?

Everybody who drives this car whinges about its electric only range.

Frankly, they’re missing the point.

Sure, fully charged, the Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) can go around 50km before the power runs out and the petrol engine kicks in.

But that 50km is more than enough for the those who live in and around the city, to get in and out of the big smoke, without adding their own share of smoke.

With the Outlander PHEV, Mitsubishi is really having a bet each way.

There’s no penalty when the battery runs out either, the PHEV simply reverts to being a normal car again — well, almost.

The petrol engine doesn’t actually drive the wheels, it powers a generator that in turn sends power to the electric motors.

There’s two of them — one for each axle.

At other times, the engine and electric motors work together to deliver maximum motivation.

The technology is impressive, but the car itself less so.

In standard form, as an affordable family runabout, with a 2.0 or 2.4-litre petrol engine, plus the option of seven seats, the Outlander shines.

As a hybrid, it feels over priced.

What’s it cost?

Prices start from $45,990 for the ES, $47,490 for the ES with the ADAS safety pack or $53,900 for the top of the line Exceed with all the fruit.

All are powered by the same fuel saving hybrid powertrain, with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors that produce a combined output of 120kW and 332Nm of torque.

The ADAS pack adds Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Auto High Beam (AHB) and an auto dimming rear view mirror.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 1.7L/100km.

Standard kit includes leather and dual zone climate air conditioning, now with rear air outlets, 18-inch alloys, LED lights, adaptive cruise control, a nice looking 7.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — but alas no satnav.

Exceed adds a 360 degree Multi Around Monitor, Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).

What you save on fuel however could easily be covered by the cost of a cheaper, non-hybrid version.

For example, the Exceed with a petrol engine is only $42,290, a saving of almost $12,000 — which makes the hybrid option a very expensive option indeed.

What’s it go like?

Hmmm.

First up driving one of these things is a bit of a commitment.

You need access to off road parking for the purposes of charging, and this process takes a quoted 6.5 hours using the supplied cable which lives in the boot.

The cable by the way is about 3.5 metres in length, so you need a power point that is close at hand, because it has to be plugged directly into the socket — you can’t use an extension lead.

The options are putting in a home charging station at a cost of a few grand or paying a visit to one of the growing number of fast charge outlets that are springing up around the city.

Here you can grab an 80 per cent charge in as little as 25 minutes (mind you that represents only 40km).

You need to be well organised too, if you have more than one car in the driveway, because the PHEV needs to go to the head of the queue for power access.

That said the PHEV offers adequate if uninspiring performance.

Like other models from the company, the trip computer has a mind of its own, so it’s difficult to really keep track of fuel consumption.

Suffice to say it was showing 5.1L/100km when we returned the car, but this may have only been for a single trip.

There’s three drive modes: pure electric, series hybrid with the petrol engine powering the generator and parallel hybrid when the petrol engine combines with the electric motors to provide maximum motivation.

All this happens seamlessly and automatically.

The electric motors are always in play one way or another, which means it operates in all-wheel drive, all of the time, with just the one gear that is modulated by the hybrid system.

You can also tell the system to charge the batteries, via a switch in the centre console, but it takes a toll on the driving range, especially with a smallish 45-litre petrol tank.

Generally, the driver feels very isolated from what is happening downstairs and the steering wheel doesn’t give much feedback either.

Acceleration in electric only mode is deceptive and probably faster than it feels.

All in all it seems like an extraordinarily complex way of achieving questionable performance, but like many next generation vehicles it is a work in progress.

What we like?

  • The concept
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Kinder to the environment

What we don’t like?

  • Too expensive
  • Only a five-seater
  • No satnav
  • Exceed struggles to live up to its luxury badge
  • Charging requires a lot of mucking around

The bottom line?

The idea is sound. A little extra range wouldn’t hurt. The drive experience in any of the modes is unremarkable, but for the average driver will be fine.

CHECKOUT: Eclipse has its Cross to bear

CHECKOUT: ASX: once more with feeling

 

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, priced from $45,990
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Safety - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Thirst - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Practicality - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Comfort - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Value - 7/10
7.4/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.