Since its introduction, the five-seat Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) has gone from new kid to the world’s best selling plug-in hybrid in very short order. It also sets the stage for 2020, when Mitsubishi wants 20 per cent of its sales to be either fully electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. A tall order perhaps, but based upon the first drive of the Outlander PHEV, it is an attainable goal. It is offered in two basic trims — SE S-AWC and GT S-AWC, with an available Touring package on the former.
The Outlander PHEV’s powertrain is comprised of a 2.0-litre gas engine, two electric motors and a generator. The gas engine develops 117 horsepower and 137 pound-feet of torque, and works with an electric motor that adds 80 horsepower and 101 lb.-ft. of torque. This combination drives the front wheels through a single-speed transmission. The second electric motor, pumping out 80 horsepower and 144-lb.-ft. of torque, drives the rear wheels through a single-speed box. This layout gives the Outlander all-weel-drive — Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC), as Mitsubishi calls it, that includes a lock mode for trying times. It proved to be a match for the mechanical system found in the regular Outlander, in spite of its obvious differences.
Now, Mitsubishi does not list a net system output, but it should around 200 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. The result is a run from rest to 100 km/h in about 10.5 seconds, and a 682-kilogram tow capability.
A 12 kWh lithium-ion battery, which sits in the central tunnel, supplies the electric side. From a full charge, it delivers 35 kilometres of electric-only driving — it, says Mitsubishi, beats the competition including the Volvo XC60 T8, which is rated at 27 kilometres. Using a 220-volt outlet, the Outlander takes 2.5 hours to fully recharge. The battery is also covered under Mitsubishi’s generous 10-year, 160,000-kilometre powertrain warranty.
The driver can also monitor the Outlander PHEV’s battery through a phone app. It shows state of charge, time to full charge, allows the cabin to be pre-conditioned, locates the Outlander by turning on the lights, and shows if any of the doors or the rear tailgate is ajar, among other things.
One of the keys to the manner in which the Outlander PHEV works is regenerative braking — with two electric motors harvesting otherwise waste energy it is proficient. The plus is found in steering wheel-mounded paddle shifters; they allow the driver to pick from six stages of regenerative braking. The base mode (B0) delivers very little “engine” braking, while level five (B5) amps it up to the point where the vehicle is slowed fairly quickly. That said, it is far from being a one pedal drive.
The system has three distinctly different drive modes. EV, which is the default mode, sees the Outlander PHEV cruise along using electrons alone. In Series mode the PHEV is driven electrically with the gas engine driving the generator to produce the electricity needed to support the battery. It comes into play when the battery nears depletion. Finally, Parallel mode sees the gas engine drive the Outlander PHEV with the electric motors chipping in when needed. Typically, it comes into play at speeds over 120 km/h, where it is more economical to use the gas engine than to generate electricity at these speeds. Likewise, if the driver gooses the gas pedal, it kicks in to bring shot of urgency to the acceleration.
What’s impressive is the manner in which the powertrain switches between its different operating modes — it is seamless and better than many of its peers because the different components are “rev-matched” to ease the transition.
There are also three driver-selectable modes. EV Priority uses the electric side until the battery charge is low. Battery Charge mode is exactly that — it can put an 80 per cent charge into the battery in 40 minutes. The third is Battery Save, which allows the driver to conserve the battery for a city run where it is more effective.
Dynamically, the Outlander PHEV mirrors its regular sibling in the manner in which it drives, with one notable exception — it is remarkably quiet, regardless of speed. Running up the Sea To Sky Highway, it reassuringly handled the twisty parts. Body roll was minimal, and the feel and feedback afforded by the steering was fast and precise. Conversely, about town the suspension then soaked up gnarly pavement in stride.
Performance-wise, the Outlander was also quick to react to a prod at the gas pedal, even when climbing a fairly steep grade. The foregoing is remarkable, given the 250-kilograms in additional mass the PHEV is carrying when compared to the V6-powered Outlander. Despite the added mass, the average fuel economy returned – on a run where the powertrain was not babied – did come as a pleasant surprise. At 5.1 L/100 kilometres, it’s frugal and then some. The upshot is there is very little to dislike.
As for compromises, there are remarkably few. The size of the gas tank shrinks — it measures 43-litres, compared to 60 in the regular, all-wheel-drive Outlander. In spite of the electric-only range, the PHEV enjoys it still shaves the combined driving range by over 100 km. The other difference is found in the trunk space — the PHEV’s floor is higher, and so the capacity drops from 968 litres to 861. Interestingly, the seat-down capacity is larger than the V6-powered seven-seater, at 2,209 litres. Neither of these nits should be enough to make a potential buyer think twice.
The cabin is pretty much mirrors the regular Outlander, with two exceptions. The centre console is different — the gear lever picks the gears and a button engages park. The other difference is the instrumentation; it shows what the powertrain is doing and what’s remaining in the battery and gas tank.
Base Outlander PHEVs, the SE S-AWC model, arrives with blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert; moving up to the fully loaded GT S-AWC trim adds forward collision avoidance with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, a multi-view camera and automatic high beams.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which is hitting dealers now, has a starting price of $42,998 for the SE S-AWC and tops out at $45,998 for the GT S-AWC. These prices are offset by provincial rebates — $2,500 in B.C., $4,000 in Quebec and $9,555 in Ontario.