You’re looking at the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, or to stretch out its name in full, the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. It is the world’s first SUV that fuses EV technologies with 4WD capabilities coming soon to Fraser Valley Mitsubishi.
The Outlander PHEV moves this on to a whole new level. During recent VCA (Vehicle Certification Agency) testing the Outlander PHEV achieved up to 148 mpg. This is over double what you might expect from a conventionally powered small car – not a full size family SUV with an advanced 4WD system.
The underlying concept is easy to understand. One could think that the Outlander PHEV is the love child of the i-MiEV and the Lancer Evolution – in that the SUV takes on the characteristics of an EV, with the four-wheel drive system of Mitsubishi’s once-hottest car.
The Outlander PHEV looks like any other current-gen Outlander, save for a few adjustments. But, because we don’t get to see the Outlander often, I’ll run the list down for you. The front upper/middle grille and rear combination LED lamps with clear lenses are specially-designed, while the bumpers and lower body are sprayed in body colour. The machine-polished 18-inch wheels are aluminum, made exclusively for the PHEV, with the exception of the base E trim that seems to be the stripped-out spec.
The five-seater is powered by a combination of a 2.0 litre MIVEC Generator petrol unit offering 94 hp and a Twin Motor 4WD system comprising two independent 60 kW electric motors driving both front and rear wheels. The vehicle has a cruising range in excess of 880 km.
What’s the Canada Outlander PHEV like to drive? In a word, silent. The PHEV is much quieter than the regular diesel Outlander, no matter which operating mode it’s in – petrol engine and electric motors working together, or as a pure EV.
That’s partially to do with enhanced sound deadening, but also because the hybrid powertrain favours running on electricity only. The petrol engine is used mostly as an electricity generator – much like that in the Vauxhall Ampera – and is audible when it starts up, but it’s never loud or rough.
At the Canadian Outlander PHEV’s heart is a large-capacity battery and a pair of electric motors – one on each axle to provide four-wheel drive – that generate a combined 161bhp, and when you add in the engine it’s a total of 204bhp.
When the battery charge drops below a certain level, the petrol engine kicks in to generate electricity. Mitsubishi calls this Series mode, which will work up to 70mph. After that, a clutch engages to connect the engine directly to the front wheels, providing drive while recharging the battery at the same time, hence the 43bhp boost in maximum power.
Top speed is limited to 106mph and even with both power sources driving the front wheels, the PHEV never feels all that brisk. The power is delivered in quite a smooth fashion, though. You can also use a mode that fires up the engine to charge the battery for later use, while shift paddles on the steering wheel increase the force of the regenerative braking, which charges the battery faster.
With a full battery and fuel tank, the Outlander PHEV for Canada can manage a claimed 560 miles without stopping. Charging takes about five hours from a domestic socket, or an 80 per cent charge can be achieved in 30 minutes from a fast charger. Of course, the fuel tank can be topped up for instant mobility, too.
In addition to providing an all-electric range that traditional hybrids can only dream of, the electric motors also theoretically give the Outlander PHEV better handling. Mitsubishi’s Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system has a torque vectoring effect, shuffling power to the wheels that need it the most.
The positioning of the battery between the wheels and a ride height drop of 30mm compared to the regular car also mean that the PHEV has a lower centre of gravity. While it changes direction well enough, its extra 200kg can be felt, and the ride is jarring on poor surfaces.
Changes to the Outlander PHEV for Canada include a unique front bumper and new alloys. But there are compromises: it’s not available with seven seats, the rear bench seat is raised 45mm, eating into headroom, and the raised boot floor cuts luggage space by 14 litres. In terms of hybrids, it’s a step forward, but saving fuel still comes with plenty of caveats.