Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV First Drive
It might sound familiar, but Mitsubishi has brought out a range of updates for its Outlander PHEV. It is just over 12 months since the last refresh remember, but the Japanese firm hasn't rested on its laurels, and now offers further enhancements to the UK's best selling plug-in vehicle.
Review by Chris Lilly
Unlike the previous update which saw a facelift included as part of the updates, you would be hard pushed to tell a model year 2017 Outlander PHEV from a MY16 version. However, that's not to say that nothing has changed, even if the improvements have been small and subtle. The headline changes are an improvement in the electric-only range by one mile, CO2 emissions reduced by one g/km, and nine more miles per gallon achievable on the official cycle. None of these improvements are ground-breaking developments, but it is interesting to see that Mitsubishi will continue to polish a model, even when it is performing very well.
Other than the tweaks to the powertrain elements, Mitsubishi has also added an electronic parking brake, a new colour option, and made the Outlander PHEV more refined thanks to new dampers and rear suspension bushes. Safety equipment has been improved too. Forward Collision Mitigation now has Pedestrian Detection added to the set-up. Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert have also been made available on models further down the trim levels too. Finally, there are a few visual changes but you will have to be wearing your finest spotter's anorak to tell, with a shark-fin antenna fitted alongside chrome trim accents.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Although we only had around half a day with the new Outlander PHEV, it is clear that Mitsubishi hasn't upset the overall balance of the car with its tweaks. In terms of handling, it would essentially need a back-to-back test to truly evaluate the suspension changes as, from memory, the Outlander PHEV feels very similar to the previous version. It might be a little more refined, though the Outlander PHEV was already a comfortable car. The suspension soaks up lumps and bumps well, and the ride only begins to be let down by the Outlander PHEV's weight either at low speeds over big bumps, or at higher speeds while cornering. Other than that, treat the Mitsubishi as a relaxing cruiser rather than a hot-hatch, and the Outlander PHEV will return an impressively comfortable driving experience.
Performance remains the same as before, with a 0-62mph time of 11.0 seconds hardly exhilarating, but not shabby either for such a large car. In-gear performance along shorter sprints feels much quicker - relative to the 0-62mph time at least - thanks to the assistance from the electric motors giving a hefty shove of torque when needed. All told, you get 203hp and 244 lb ft of torque to play with, which is ample for most situations, whether that's pottering around town or cruising at motorway speeds.
WHAT'S IT LIKE INSIDE?
The Outlander PHEV comes will equipped, with the previous refresh significantly improving the feeling of quality inside. These standards remain with the latest revisions, and although there are a few minor tweaks inside, the main changes come in improved kit. Safety systems have been upgraded with pedestrian detection now added to the forward collision mitigation set-up, and rear cross traffic alert has been added too. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloys, a new touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and DAB, rear view camera, electronic parking brake, dual zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, and cruise control. Higher spec trims add the likes of satellite navigation, leather interior, heated steering wheel, automatic tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, and a high end stereo.
In terms of actually sitting in it, the Outlander PHEV is a comfortable place to be, with plush chairs and lots of space available for occupants. Although some of the materials used aren't of the highest quality, it must be remembered that the Mitsubishi starts at a little under £32,000 including Plug-in Car Grant - even top spec trims top out at less than £45,000 - so this isn't the luxury car that some might think it is. The dashboard, instruments and controls don't match up to more modern rivals in terms of aesthetics or ergonomics. There can be few complaints though as everything feels solidly built, and there's nothing much wrong with the dash; it's just it doesn't compare favourably to rival's newer and slicker efforts. The touchscreen system for example seems a bit basic, and doesn't have the same feeling of quality as found in the likes of Skoda's Kodiak.
IS IT MORE ECONOMICAL?
Yes. The official figures say as much and the inclusion of an EV Priority button means drivers can keep the car in zero-tailpipe emissions mode for as long as possible - therefore it must be more economical. Unfortunately, half a day or so with the car isn't enough to really put the Outlander PHEV through its paces economically speaking. Therefore I can't say categorically how much better it is in the real world compared to the previous model. A little extra electric range can be no bad thing anyway, and the brake energy recuperation system has been made more efficient too - a strong point with the Outlander PHEV anyway. The Mitsubishi offers drivers a variable system, with different levels of brake recuperation strength selectable with paddles behind the steering wheel. Used well, the Outlander PHEV will rarely need the brakes to be applied .
The EV Priority mode is an important one, especially when combined with the cars (slightly) increased EV range. Although 33 miles is quoted, on a cold and wet afternoon in the Cotswolds in January, 22 miles of range was showing on the car's display. Expect around 25 miles on a typical day and after the car has 'learnt' how the it will be driven. As before, the Outlander PHEV can operate in zero-tailpipe emission EV mode, series hybrid mode with the engine acting as an on-board generator, or in parallel hybrid mode with both engine and motor working at the same time. Mitsubishi's PHEV set-up is one of the most flexible and efficient around, and the improvements made for the new model make it even more so.
IS IT STILL THE BEST IN CLASS?
The Outlander PHEV remains the best around, though Mitsubishi is facing increasing competition from rival manufacturers as they try and take a bite out of the SUV's sales success. More than 26,000 Outlander PHEVs have been sold in the UK now, and the model single-handledly makes up more than a third of the UK's plug-in car market. Interestingly though, Mitsubishi's statistics reveal that the split between retail and business customers is 50:50, showing that there is genuine demand for the Outlander PHEV beyond the perks that it offers as a company/fleet car. The savings available are attracting regular car buyers too, and there isn't anything else in the Outlander PHEV's price bracket that offers the same mix of low running costs and practicality.
Should you be looking for a plug-in hybrid or need a large car, the Outlander PHEV has to be a serious consideration, especially because of its 166 MPG (official combined), 33 miles of EV range, and 41 g/km CO2 emissions figure. For those who travel into London, the Mitsubishi is exempt from the capital's congestion charges, company car drivers pay just 7% BIK, and there are even commercial variants available for drivers who need a van. The Outlander PHEV can be rapid charged too, which means drivers can make the most of that EV range where infrastructure allows. The Outlander PHEV might not be perfect, but it is a very good car, and Mitsubishi keeps making it better.
Model tested: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GX4hs
Engine:Four cylinder petrol and two electric motors
CO2: 41 g/km CO2
MPG: 166 MPG
Electric range: 33 miles
Trim grades: GX3h, GX3h+, Juro, GX3h Leather, GX3h+ Leather, Juro Leather, GX4h, GX4hs, GX5h, GX5hs
On-road price: From £31,749. Price as tested £38,999
Warranty: Five years / 62,500 miles
In the showroom: Now