The Outlander is a hybrid SUV that's efficient without being stingy
Hybrid vehicles have come a long way in the last few years; not only are they finding ways to get much more out of the batteries on the inside, they have also evolved on the outside.
The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is firmly in keeping with that emphasis on the aesthetic, making it an ideal car for those out there who want an SUV that looks the part, without all the huge expense of fuel costs and motor tax which normally come as part of that package.
After spending a full week with the vehicle, there are a few different things that make the Outlander stand out from the crowd.
This new version of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is much easier on the eye than most other electric vehicles. It has a sleek, clean design from front to back, inside and out. With alloys, a full colour body kit and a more aggressive layout at the front than its predecessor, there is an eye-catching quality that has echoes of the design elements of the Range Rover Evoque, which is by no means a bad thing.
There are a number of touches dotted throughout the inside that make this vehicle feel more like a premium car than other hybrids, something which is increasingly important as SUVs become less about off-roading and more about stylish city driving.
While the joystick-style gear stick felt a bit kitschy and the paneling could have been something other than plastic for a really premium feel, touches like a heated leather steering wheel and seats balance that out nicely. The seats are spacious and comfortable, there's plenty of room in the boot, and as an electric vehicle, it's an incredibly quiet drive even when it does switch to the fuel engine.
As with most vehicles these days, there's a large display in the centre panel of the dashboard, which is one of the first things you notice as you sit in to the driver's seat. As you might expect, that's where your sat-nav and audio is based, and once you put the car in reverse, the feed from the camera at the back will also appear there.
That provides you with plenty of information, including a graphic representation on the space your car will take up and the trajectory of the move, but another surprising addition is the use of concave lenses on the outside to produce a top-down view of the car and its surroundings. Trusting the usual tricks of using your mirrors and lining up your vehicle properly still apply, but when you're trying to squeeze into a tight space or make a tricky manoeuvre, then this view really comes into its own.
However, the warning sensors which let you know that you're too close to an object, both front and back, are quite sensitive and noisy. Better to be safe than sorry, of course, but it can feel at times that there's an alarm clock with a broken snooze button going off.
If you choose EV Information, the display in the centre panel details the car's fuel efficiency, letting you know what's using what, and what your fuel efficiency is like. Notably, there is a reading that displays how much power the air conditioning is using up, and it is by no means an inconsiderable amount. That said, the Irish weather rarely calls for it to be switched on, so you can just roll the windows down if you really want to go green.
The display also allows you to look at where the power feeding the battery is coming from, as there are a number of different ways to ensure that you get the maximum out of every drive.
Charging & fuel efficiency
With a full charge, the car can run for nearly 50km, which is decent given the size of the vehicle. The car will charge at a standard charge point in just over four hours, while at a quick charge station you can get the battery up to 80% in about 20 minutes or so. You can also plug in at home with the so called "granny cable", and it will take about five hours to charge.
Despite the added weight of the battery in the floor, it manages to handle very well without feeling overly clunky, and responds nicely when you put your foot down to accelerate.
The car itself is set to default to the power from the battery wherever possible, but next to the gear stick are two different options that can tell the car to rely on the fuel to save or charge the battery back up using the engine's own power.
Equally, the regenerative braking feature allows the energy generated from slowing the car down to send a charge back to the battery, essentially somewhat like a dynamo. Paddles on either side of the steering wheel give you control over how light or firm you want that braking to be, from B1 to B5. With the latter being the strongest, it almost takes automatic driving to the next level, as the car will start to slow down as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator.
Overall, the car is a joy to drive; smooth, quiet and luxurious, you can be forgiven for wondering just why it's taken this long to create a hybrid that feels like a premium vehicle.
If you've stuck to your ecological or economic principles and denied yourself an SUV because you can't justify the emissions or the cost, this is the car that might just change your mind, and turn a few heads while you're at it.
You can learn more about the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV from Mitsubishi's website