2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Smooth operator



  • 박재승 (james@koreatimes.net) --
  • 31 Jul 2018

By James Park


   The Mitsubishi Outlander is one of many smallish mid-size crossover utility vehicles vying for customers’ attention in Canada.

   It is somewhat stylish, relatively roomy, still offers V6 option and boasts of a pretty sophisticated all-wheel-drive system. All in all the Outlander is a competent vehicle that can hold its own. Can it compete with the likes of Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V – segment leaders – in the overall sales? Not even close.

 

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However, Mitsubishi – now part of the Renault-Nissan alliance – has an ace up its sleeve. Aim your eyeballs at the new-for-North America Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) and you’ll see there’s nothing like this in its segment.

   According to Mitsubishi, the Outlander PHEV is the best-selling hybrid utility vehicle in the world. When did this happen? Well, the Outlander PHEV actually debuted about five years ago everywhere but in North America and it is especially popular with the tree-hugging European consumers.

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   The vehicle impresses with high-tech running gear comprised of naturally aspirated two-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors, each responsible for front and back wheels.

   The gas engine generates maximum 117 horsepower and 137 lb-ft of torque. Each electric motor is also good for 80 horses. However, calculation for the total output becomes convoluted, because all three seldom work at the same time. For this reason, Mitsubishi is reluctant to give out the official power rating.

   Suffice to say, the Outlander PHEV never seems to lack power and engine and motors work smoothly in harmony. The transition of power delivery from gasoline to electric is so transparent, the driver hardly notices.

   In Canada, a CUV without all-wheel-drive could share the fate of a veggie burger stand at the Calgary Stampede. It’s not going to get much attention.

   The Outlander PHEV not only gets an AWD system, it is also one of the smartest in the business. Dubbed ‘Super All-Wheel Control’ by its manufacturer, the system utilizes electric motors at each axle to deliver power not only from front to back as needed but from side to side as well, giving the vehicle an effective torque-vectoring capability.

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Call me a relic, but this writer still believes all automatic shift-levers should follow the traditional PRNDL pattern. Anything that departs from this wisdom is looked upon with disdain. The Outlander PHEV fails in this regard.

   Push the ignition switch and the instrument panel lights up and says the car is ready to go. No engine sound seeps in to disturb the cocoon of silence.

   At this point, the car’s default mode is electric. Engage Drive and the car rolls away with bit of electric whine. When the 12 kWh lithium-ion pack is fully charged, the Outlander PHEV can travel 35 km on battery alone. Connected to a DC fast-charger, Mitsubishi claims 80% capacity will be reached in just 30 minutes.

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The computer automatically shifts between electric and gas modes as needed. The driver can also take on an active role by pressing buttons for EV priority, Save or Charge. The Charge mode asks the engine to be the prime deliverer of power and charge the battery pack at the same time. The Save mode maintains the present battery capacity.

   Similar to other hybrids and electrics, the battery is also charged by regenerative braking. Unique to the Outlander PHEV is the paddle-shifter that selects the level of re-gen braking from 0 to 5. But even in the maximum setting, you need to press the brake pedal to come to a complete stop. So called ‘one-pedal’ driving is not possible with this vehicle.

   Still, the fuel-economy achieved is phenomenal for a mid-size CUV. Of course, using electric alone will go a long way. Parking lot of the condo complex where this writer resides does not provide electric outlets and therefore ‘plugging in’ was hard to do. But even with this limitation, the test-vehicle achieved about 6 litres per 100 km for the week. This is better than the last motorcycle I had.

   Thanks to the battery pack that resides under the vehicle, the Outlander PHEV’s interior volume is not sacrificed. The gas tank, however, is smaller than the regular Outlander. The battery pack also lowers the center of gravity somewhat and the vehicle’s handling is quite good.

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For the Outlander PHEV, the base SE starts from $42,998, $45,998 for the SE Touring and $49,998 for the GT. Yes, the Ontario’s new Conservative government is ending the plug-in and electric vehicle subsidy, but the cars already in stock will probably be not affected. The plug-in and electric vehicles are still eligible for the ‘green’ plates and they can occupy the HOV lanes, regardless of the number of passengers.  

   This writer’s GT test-vehicle also benefits from plethora of safety equipments as blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, front collision mitigation, back-up camera and so on.

   The heated leather seats with red stitching look sufficiently luxurious and feel comfortable. The thick leather-wrapped steering wheel has some heft to it and all the switches and buttons are within easy reach and intuitive to use. The exterior styling, especially from the front still gets attention but is starting to show its age.  

   Mitsubishi is the only manufacturer offering 10-year (160,000 km) warranty in Canada and this includes the batteries. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)

 

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT

Price: $49,998

Engine: 2.0 litre four + 2 electric motors

Power: N/A

Transmission: CVT

Drive: AWD

Fuel: 5~7 litres per 100km

Best: fuel economy, sophisticated hybrid system

Worst: pricey, dated styling

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