Monday 25th March 2019
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First drive: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2019MY. Image by Mitsubishi.

First drive: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2019MY
Clever hybrid tech in an SUV body or just an odd-bod from Mitsubishi? We try out the 2019MY Outlander PHEV.

 



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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2019MY

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Following on from its UK launch in 2014 and a significant visual update in 2016, Mitsubishi has had another go at revamping its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the Outlander SUV. With a bigger engine, enhanced hybrid technology and even more impressive numbers, can the 2019 model year Japanese PHEV tempt people out of mid-spec, diesel SUVs, of the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC and Volvo XC60?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: 2019MY Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 4hs
Pricing: PHEV starts at 34,255; 4hs as tested from 39,100 (all prices include 2,500 Government Plug-in Car Grant)
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol with twin electric motors (front- and rear-mounted)
Transmission: single-speed reduction gear, electric all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 46g/km* (VED Band 1-50: 0 in year one as Alternative Fuel Car, then 130 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 139mpg*
Top speed: 106mph (84mph maximum in EV mode)
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Power: petrol 135hp at 4,500rpm, 60kW (82hp) front axle electric motor plus 70kW (95hp) rear axle electric motor, no combined system maximum output quoted
Torque: petrol 211Nm at 4,500rpm, 137Nm and 195Nm available instantaneously from electric motors, no combined system maximum output quoted
Boot space: 463 litres + 35 litres under-floor cargo box
* official figures under new WLTP testing

What's this?

The current product of which you sense parent manufacturer Mitsubishi is most proud - it's the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, or PHEV, updated for the 2019MY. Now, Mitsubishi has every right to puff up its chest regarding the Outlander PHEV; since it launched globally in 2013, it took the 'best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle in Europe' title for three years in a row (2015 to 2017), before ticking past the 100,000-unit sales mark across the region in January 2018. That's extraordinary stuff.

And this continental success has been emulated in the UK, because 10,000 Outlander PHEVs were sold in its launch year here (2014) alone - a figure put into context by 2013's sales of all plug-in hybrids combined in this country, which totalled less than 1,000 units. Indeed, it has been the country's best-selling plug-in hybrid for calendar years 2015, 2016, 2017 and year-to-date 2018, and with 4,200 sales this year so far, it's the best-selling plug-in vehicle of any type (hybrid or electric) - there have been, in fact, 39,000 Outlander PHEVs sold in the UK so far, making it easily the most popular PHEV on these shores.

The Outlander PHEV's USP is its hybrid drivetrain, of course, pairing a normally aspirated petrol engine to a couple of electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack. And it's the running gear that has seen by far the biggest changes for the 2019MY. The old 121hp/190Nm 2.0-litre four-pot has been replaced by a new MIVEC 135hp/211Nm 2.4-litre petrol unit, which can switch between the more powerful Otto cycle and the more frugal Atkinson cycle of combustion when needs be. The electric generator output of the Mitsu is up by 10 per cent, the lithium-ion battery has 10 per cent more power and (with new cells) an extra 15 per cent storage capacity at 13.8kWh, and of the two electric motors (mounted on each axle), the rear item is boosted by 10kW to a peak of 70kW, or 95hp - the front stays at 60kW (82hp).

On this final score, no system maximum outputs have been quoted by Mitsubishi as yet, although on the older model the company used to say it was 204hp and 385Nm; being the sums of the most powerful electric motor plus the petrol engine, it would be fair to extrapolate from that and say the 2019MY Outlander PHEV is playing with something like 230hp and 406Nm. Whatever it is, Mitsubishi claims that it is half-a-second quicker from rest to 62mph (now 10.5 seconds), it's six tenths more rapid from 50-62mph (recording 3.7 seconds) and it can go another 9mph faster in full EV mode, the petrol engine only kicking in permanently above 84mph on the 2019MY.

Elsewhere, suspension, braking and steering alterations couple with a firmer bodyshell - featuring structural adhesive welding - to make the Outlander PHEV purportedly both better to drive in the corners and also more comfortable for low- and mid-speed ride, while new driver assist technology is bundled into certain high-spec versions of the SUV. Visually, a new grille, front bumper/fog lamps and LED headlights couple with redesigned 18-inch alloy wheels and a re-sculpted rear bumper plus spoiler arrangement to freshen the Mitsubishi's looks, while inside the instrument cluster is revised, the front seats have been re-shaped in an effort to offer more lateral support, there are air vents in the rear of the cabin... oh, and a Sport mode has been added to the drive programmes, as well as a Snow setting.

When it comes to pricing, Mitsubishi UK will sell the 2019MY Outlander PHEV in a five-trim line-up. It starts with the Juro (34,255), before running through 4h (37,000), 4hs (39,100), 5h (41,000) and then culminating with the 5hs (43,100). All these prices include the Government Plug-in Car Grant of 2,500, so the Outlander PHEV is not what you would call cheap, on the face of it - but a few caveats to offer here: one, even the base-spec Juro comes with a heated windscreen and front seats, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with a speed limiter, a reversing camera, keyless entry and go, an electronic parking brake with auto hold, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a electric pre-heating function for the cabin, among more, so moving up the trim tree loads in some real luxuries; and two, even a high-ranking Outlander PHEV 4hs like our test car will seriously undercut something like, for instance, Volvo's XC60 T8 Twin Engine PHEV. Albeit the Volvo has 407hp and far nicer interior finishing, granted, but we digress...

How does it drive?

Rather a lot like the old 2.0-litre, 2018MY Outlander PHEV - and we know this because Mitsubishi laid on some of the outgoing SUVs as a comparison. Which is not to say that the 2019MY Outlander PHEV is without merits: it definitely has a nicer, smoother ride on bobbly Cotswold roads, the 2.4-litre engine does seem just that teensy-tiny little bit pokier and, crucially, quieter than the primitive 2.0-litre mill it replaces, the cabin quality is comfortably the best the Mitsubishi has ever had (the gruesome fake carbon-fibre trim swathing our test car notwithstanding), the Outlander as a whole remains a huge and practical vehicle, the rolling refinement at normal driving speeds is quite exceptional and the company's claims of improved electric range on the WLTP testing cycle seem plausible - Mitsubishi says the PHEV can do 28 miles on zero emissions on the combined cycle, with 35 miles possible if conducted in city driving. On a severely undulating Cotswold route, we managed to achieve 20 miles in full EV mode, using not a drop of petrol as we operated the Outlander in 'B5' regenerative braking and its 'Eco' setting for the drive parameters, and it still reckoned it could go another nine miles on its remaining battery reserves. Not bad; not bad at all.

The handling is also clean and tidy enough; so much so that Mitsubishi felt confident enough to let us loose on a small circuit for some faster laps. Now, we're not saying this was a dynamic, adrenaline-soaked event equivalent to ploughing through Eau Rouge-Raidillon flat knacker in some track-focused 500hp leviathan, but it was certainly entertaining to try the Outlander PHEV in an environment that was most emphatically not its 'Comfort Zone'. Albeit, the moderate thrashing on a circuit did reveal those improved front-seat side bolsters don't do an awful lot to hold you in place during higher lateral G-forces...

However, we can't universally sing the praises of the likeable, if flawed, Outlander PHEV. Realistically, the 2.4-litre engine is hauling around 1,880kg of SUV when it hasn't got battery back-up, so after our initial hypermiling, some petrol-powered performance driving soon saw the mpg figure tumbling well down into double figures (Mitsubishi quotes a 51.4mpg average for an Outlander PHEV with a depleted battery, but that looks optimistic), while the driving experience is never what you'd call exciting. Especially when you ask for full power and the hybrid drivetrain goes all CVT on you, the single-speed GKN reduction gear transmission allowing everything to sit at maximum revs for prolonged periods of time. It's an unpleasant noise. In short, as refined as the Outlander PHEV is for tyre and wind noise, ultimately the petrol part of its drivetrain lets it down.

And, like any modern PHEV, it all comes back to how you are going to use it. Commute 20-40 miles a day and charge the Mitsubishi at home, at work or - ideally - at both locations, and it will exceed the astonishing 139mpg WLTP economy figure, perhaps only needing three or four tanks of fuel a year. In fact, Mitsubishi went so far as to assert that up to 18,000 miles per year were possible in the Outlander PHEV and you'd still be significantly better off in the wallet department than if you owned a comparable diesel SUV - but only if you charged the Mitsu every day.

Yet we reckon the reality is that anyone who needs to do more than 50 miles between charge-ups is going to start using the petrol engine, and that's when the incredible on-paper numbers of the PHEV just do not translate into the drudgery of the real world. And while it seemed ahead of the curve when it arrived in 2014, which rightly allowed it to pick up all those headline sales figures we mentioned at the top of the piece, the Mitsubishi - for all its noble 2019MY updates - doesn't seem quite so cutting-edge four years later. Truthfully, it's going to immensely satisfy a small band of EV-dedicated urbanite customers in the UK, who can juice it with electric on a regular basis, but for everyone else, a plain old diesel SUV is going to make far more sense. And be nicer to live with, to boot.

Verdict

If you can take out the whole 'can a PHEV ever truly attain its stratospheric on-paper eco-stats?' debate, the 2019MY Outlander PHEV is Mitsubishi's hybrid SUV in its finest iteration so far. While never thrilling to drive, it is nevertheless incredibly refined when EV running, has a well-appointed and capacious cabin and it looks good on the outside. You're going to be spending 40,000 or thereabouts to own one, which immediately makes the conventional, premium, European SUV competition look tempting, but if you're a short-distance commuter who wants to embrace the electric age in SUV form, there are few better cars at this price point than the 2019MY Outlander PHEV.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 6 Sep 2018









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2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Image by Mitsubishi.








 

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