David Thomson road tests the highly anticipated Mitsubishi Outlander VRX PHEV.

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A highly anticipated plug-in hybrid has joined the conventional pure-petrol variant in the latest Mitsubishi Outlander lineup. David Thomson verifies it.

What’s new?
It’s boom time for Mitsubishi in New Zealand, the brand that has led Toyota’s perennial market for new vehicle sales since the start of the year, and the Outlander, the best-selling passenger car in this country in 2022.

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) have been integral to Mitsubishi’s success, its two plug-in offerings
– the Outlander PHEV and Eclipse Cross PHEV – accounting for over 70% of all Kiwi plug-in hybrid sales.

In the case of the fourth-generation Outlander, the success of the PHEV is a natural progression from the popularity of the equivalent vehicle in the third-generation lineup. This previous model, in its final form, combined a 2.4-litre petrol engine with a dual (front-rear) electric motor system, producing combined peak outputs of 157kW and 332Nm. 9 kWh allowed a theoretical autonomy of 55 km only electric.

The same power unit configuration has been maintained this time around, but with substantial upgrades to both electric motors providing considerably more power under battery power alone while significantly increasing combined gas-electric outputs to peaks of 185 kW and 450 Nm. With a higher 20 kWh battery also installed, the theoretical electric-only range increases to 84 km.

It sits on an all-new platform featuring an upgraded version of Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system. All PHEV versions are equipped with all-wheel drive.

At first glance, the price differences between the petrol and PHEV variants seem significant: the flagship VRX PHEV 4WD, for example, costs $73,990, or $18,000 more than its pure petrol equivalent. However, taking into account the impact of the government’s clean car program and the combination of the $1,150 gas charge and the $5,750 PHEV rebate, the price gap narrows to $11,100 .

Three Outback plug-in variants are available, the flagship VRX PHEV joined by the $66,990 XLS PHEV and $60,990 LS PHEV.

What comes as standard?
Outlander’s Active Safety Suite includes Adaptive Radar Cruise Control, Emergency Lane Keeping and Changing Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention, Driver Attention Alert, Assist blind spot detection, forward collision mitigation (with pedestrian/cyclist detection and junction assist), rear cross-traffic alert and automatic emergency braking,

The entry-level LS Outlander features a nine-inch touchscreen and an infotainment setup that includes a six-speaker audio system, smartphone mirroring and satellite navigation with recognition traffic signs and parking sensors.

Unlike its predecessor, the new Outlander PHEV matches its gasoline-powered sibling by offering a third row of seating in both XLS and VRX specification levels. The XLS also adds tri-zone climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats (driver power adjustment), wireless smartphone charging, rain-sensing windshield wipers and dimming headlights. automatique.

The VRX spec adds a stack of additional kits.

What does it look like?
The new Outlander is taller than its predecessor, with increases in wheelbase, overall length and height. Combine those gains with the boldest iteration yet of Mitsubishi’s so-called “dynamic shield” on the nose, strong styling creases along the flanks and a high window line, and there’s visual presence. sufficient.

I’m a fan of the new look, especially on the VRX, which takes a lot of the trim body kit.

How is it inside?
The new interior is an absolute highlight of the latest Outlander, being roomier, much more contemporary in appearance and superior in fit and finish.

The big new thing for the PHEV is the addition of a third row of seats on the XLS and VRX variants.

Turning the plug-in version into a seven-seater required considerable design intelligence, as some of the underfloor space that a third row of seats would normally fold into is needed for the battery system.

For the PHEV, the third row features a one-piece bench seat rather than the 50:50 split configuration of the gas-powered seven-seater. The seat back is also slimmer, to allow the layout to fold flat into the boot floor.

Up front, a clean approach to design and the efficient integration of the central touchscreen result in a welcome lack of clutter in the cabin. Intuitive touchscreen functionality and seamless device connectivity signal major advancements in ICT, as does the provision of a fully digital main dashboard.

How is it to drive?
Compared to its petrol counterpart, which can sometimes work as its 2.5-litre petrol engine powers what is quite a large vehicle, the PHEV is a quietly confident performer. Notwithstanding the additional 400 kg imposed by the battery and the electric motors, it is exactly as it should be given that the PHEV deploys 37% more power and a gigantic 84% more torque.

Despite all its 185kW and 450Nm, the test car never felt subjectively fast because it picks up speed in such a smooth and unobtrusive way that it never feels like it’s accelerating hard. .

The various drive modes – power, eco, normal, asphalt, gravel, snow and mud – are activated via a rotary knob next to the drive selector and adjust aspects of the power, steering and intervention points of the stability systems for different conditions.

Ride quality is good and aural refinement excellent, both in town and on-road driving. The steering lacks a bit of feel, and while the Outlander PHEV isn’t a sports car through the twists and turns of the tarmac, it handles predictably and comfortably if driven with deference to its size and mass. . The test car felt safe on gravel roads, and with 206mm of ground clearance and snow and mud modes, it also handles off-roading smoothly.

Making the most of the vehicle’s electrical capabilities requires mastering a range of buttons and controls. First, mode ”B” rather than ”D” must be selected to engage the regenerative braking system, the intensity of which can be adjusted via the paddle shifters on the steering wheel; It would be much simpler in my opinion if ”B” was the default selection when engaging forward movement. Once in the ‘B’ position, single-pedal driving, in which braking is controlled via the paddle shifters to maximize efficiency, is easy and rewarding.

Another button, next to the drive selector, controls the extent to which electric versus petrol propulsion is determined. The two extremes of this four-step selection fully favor electric on the one hand and on the other, deploy the petrol engine to propel the car while recharging the battery.

The standard cycle economy return figure of 1.6litres/100km is not indicative of what an owner is likely to achieve in everyday motoring; for testing

Drivesouth recorded a return of 8.1litres/100km on a great day trip beyond the city limits, but then mostly managed zero-emissions driving with no gas consumption in four days around town, for a final test return of 5.2 litres/100 km.

The trick to maximizing the potential of the battery-only automobile at minimum cost is to charge at home. With its relatively small battery, there’s really no need to install a specialist wall charger as plugging it into a standard three-prong household outlet fully charges the battery in about seven hours.

If faster charging is needed, the Outlander differs from most plug-in hybrids in that its battery can be recharged using a commercial rapid charger. I did this in a test, adding 7.2kWh of charging in 20 minutes.

The cost of this commercial charging, at seven dollars, is considerably more expensive than a few dollars to add the same via home charging. Either way, the cost of recharging the battery is far less than the gasoline needed to cover a similar distance. I think the fuel bill to go 100 miles on gasoline alone will be around $25-30 at the current 91 octane pump price, compared to around $15 for electric via commercial charge and five or six dollars at home.

Verdict
The pure petrol version is competent and contemporary, but the plug-in hybrid easily eclipses it as the shining star of the new fourth-generation Outlander variants.

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