6.11.2018Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 2.4 review
Mitsubishi hit a sweet spot in the market when the original Outlander PHEV came along, with soaring sales making it the UK's best-selling plug-in car for some time now. The Japanese firm hasn't once rested on its laurels though, bringing out a refresh here, a styling tweak there, to keep the SUV fresh for buyers. Another raft of updates has been released on the Outlander PHEV, with this time around proving the most significant of the lot. NGC tests the latest Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to see what effect the improvements have had.
Review by Chris Lilly
Reviews of previous Outlander PHEV models have effectively reported a 'nothing-to-see' here in terms of changes in this performance section. That's not the case with the new model however, with the previous 2.0 litre petrol engine replaced by a 2.4 litre unit. This produces 134hp and 211 Nm of torque, and is supported by twin electric motors - one on the front axle producing 60 kW and one on the rear producing 70 kW. All told, this means that the 0-62mph time is down to 10.5 seconds - from 11.0 seconds previously - and a top speed of 106mph is possible. It's still not a fast car then, but the Outlander PHEV is a large SUV, weighs around 1.9 tonnes, and is designed to be capable off road - you really shouldn't expect a performance model then. It feels noticeably quicker to pick up than the previous version though, and the Outlander PHEV will get around with a degree of urgency when pushed hard. Set a more relaxed pace and the Mitsubishi shines, allowing the frugal elements of the powertrain to shine through and suiting the car's set-up more. It excels on the motorway and on flowing open roads, while urban driving is dispatched with a reasonable degree of aplomb if the electric motors are in use.
The Outlander PHEV is a big, wafty machine; and there's nothing wrong with that. Despite the current trend for sportier SUVs, the Mitsubishi is an SUV in the old style, and it makes for a far more relaxing drive because of that. Its height means body control from the suspension is never going to be high on the list of priorities, but it manages to get around corners with surprising pace when pushed, thanks mostly to the high levels of grip on offer from the all-wheel drive system. Mitsubishi has worked on the suspension to improve refinement. It's not the most engaging driving experience you are ever going to come across, with a twisty B-road best tackled in a patient manner rather than on full attack. Sport mode does help in this regard though, and makes a difference to the dynamics. Again, stick to open roads and motorways and, like the performance characteristics, the Outlander PHEV proves a very comfortable machine. It settles down nicely at speed and cossets occupants from all but the worst of road imperfections, and it's an area that has also been improved upon over the outgoing version. You feel how large the Outlander PHEV is in town, but the Mitsubishi is agile enough to deal with tight car parks and the like easily, and the steering is precise enough to pilot it confidently through gaps in traffic or, in its more traditional environment, a passing place on a tight country road.
This review is the inverse of the previous road test about the Outlander PHEV since, whereas before, there were no changes to the powertrain but the styling was improved, this time the styling is largely the same as before. Mitsubishi says that there is a new front and rear bumper, radiator grille, LED headlamp set, and 18-inch alloy wheel design, but unless you put old and new models side by side, you'd be hard pushed to point out the new features. It does show Mitsubishi's method of continual improvements though, and the new details freshen things up a little. The interior space is unchanged however. This isn't an issue, since the Outlander PHEV has a lot of space inside, with acres of occupant space up front, a good level of leg and head room in the rear seats, and a cavernous boot. There is no seven-seat option as there is in the diesel-powered Outlander, because of powertrain requirements, which means that no buyers will complain about the amount of load area on offer. Sitting three adults across the rear seats is possible, but a little tight on shoulder room. Keep it to four adults, or put kids in the back, and there will be no such issues.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The cabin has been subject to significant improvements in the past, so its a case of small tweaks inside from Mitsubishi with this version. The firm says that there is a new front seat design, revised switch gear, new vents, and enhanced equipment levels, with some of these features more obvious than others. The seats are not vastly different to previous pews, and the dashboard & centre console look similar, though there are a few key differences. The handbrake is electronic, and there's a new Sport button to tighten up the steering and throttle response. It's still a fairly simple set-up though all told, and the touchscreen system looks more like an after-market set-up than many of the Outlander PHEV's rival offerings. There are plush materials on upper surfaces, and hard wearing ones further down, with the former looking good and nice to the touch. The controls are not to a particularly high standard in terms of perceived quality though. While I expect the buttons to be hard wearing and reliable, there are plenty of rivals around that have a more upmarket cabin for similar cash. The seats are comfortable though - suiting the ride - and the interior is quieter than before thanks to improved noise dampening.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The new engine has been designed to be not only more powerful than before, it is also more frugal - despite the tougher WLTP figures compared to NEDC stats doing their best to muddy the waters. The unit can switch between Atkinson and the more common Otto cycles, the latter used when under load, and the former when the Outlander PHEV doesn't have to work as hard. The electric motors are supported by perhaps the biggest change - a larger battery. This has increased to 13.8 kWh, and allows for improved fuel efficiency of 139 MPG and a range of 28 miles on a single charge. As always with PHEVs, it depends on how you drive them as to how efficient they are. I saw a trip of 45 miles return more than 500 MPG according to the trip computer, as 84% of the time was spent driving on electric power only. By contrast, a much longer run saw that figure dip to 28 MPG, though an average of almost 60 MPG was returned after my time with the Mitsubishi. With a number of longer trips without the ability to charge, that's a relatively low average - though still a good one. Top the battery up more regularly, and an average in excess of 100 MPG is easily possible, and sticking primarily to trips under 30 miles will see that shoot up. The effective electric range is at least 25 miles, and that's almost a minimum. The quoted 28 miles is a perfectly attainable figure, and sticking to urban driving can easily see that figure top 30 miles on a single charge. To tax, the Outlander PHEV will cost £130 a year under the Standard Rate including a £10 Alternative Fuel Discount, and nothing for the first year. The model tested incurs the £310 Premium Rate since it cost more than £40,000, and therefore costs £440 for years 2-6.
There is a considerable amount of tech included on the Outlander PHEV to help with efficiency. The new engine is only part of the story, and the Mitsubishi is unusual in that it can be run in series or parallel hybrid - with the engine and motors working together, or with the engine charging the battery. It can also be set into EV mode, and there is an Eco button to lessen throttle response and reduce auxiliary systems' drain on the powertrain. The Outlander PHEV has variable levels of brake energy recuperation, which can be edited using the paddles on the steering wheel. This means drivers can coast, or apply strong brake regen, or variables in between. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 39.
Mitsubishi packs in a fair amount of kit to the Outlander PHEV, with entry level Juro getting features such as heated front seats, touchscreen infotainment system compatible with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, remote smartphone app compatibility with pre-conditioning, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, dual zone climate control, heated windscreen, and cruise control. The 4hs model tested added a 360-degree camera, leather seats with electric driver's seat, heated steering wheel, powered tailgate, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, and auto high beam. Models further up the trim levels add heated rear seats, premium leather seats, and Alpine audio system.
The Outlander PHEV has been worked on further, to take an already highly capable plug-in SUV and make it better still. An improved electric driving range and more efficient engine will reduce running costs, and the changes here and there improve the overall package. It's still got the market to itself to a degree, but the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV remains an excellent prospect for those wanting a large, practical car with low running costs.
Model tested: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 4hs
Engine / CO2: 2.4 litre petrol and twin electric motors / 46 g/km
Trim grades: Juro, 4h, 4hs, 5h, 5hs
On-road price: Range from £36,755. Model as tested from £41,600
Warranty: Five years / 62,500 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars