Not too long ago, driving an SUV was seen as an environmental offence, but the times are changing.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (it stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) is a full-size five-seater SUV with 143mpg fuel economy and 49g/km emissions, plus it will qualify for the Government’s £5,000 electric car grant. So is it the ‘game-changer’ the company claims it is?
We tried one of Mitsubishi’s test mules, which hides the new hybrid drivetrain – as well as the PHEV’s dash – under the body of an old Outlander.
The car features an electric motor on each axle, powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, to give four-wheel drive. It claims an electric-only range of up to 34 miles, but when necessary, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine kicks in to drive the front wheels and charge the batteries.
Plug the Outlander into a regular power socket and you’ll have the full EV range after four hours. And a quick-charging set-up provides 80 per cent battery capacity after just 30 minutes. Of course, you can always count on the petrol engine if you don’t have access to a socket.
On the road, there’s instant torque, so the car never feels too heavy or sluggish. Unlike some other hybrids, the petrol engine refuses to kick in below 62mph unless you floor the throttle, so this is a genuine zero-emissions commuter car. When it does fire up, you hear the engine over-rev as it picks up where the electric motors left off, but otherwise it’s refined.
Showroom versions of the Outlander PHEV will package the batteries under the floor, so it’s fair to say the lower centre of gravity will mean better handling than our test mule, which had the batteries in the boot. Yet accurate steering and good body control still bode well for the final model. If Mitsubishi can keep the price down, the PHEV looks like winner.