Outlander charges into hybrid market

Dated interior and €40,000-plus price tag balanced by usability of hybrid power

Make: Mitsubishi

Model: Outlander

Year: 2014

Fuel: Hybrid

Date Reviewed: July 14, 2014

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00


It was Brazil v Germany. The score was already 4-0 and I had just pulled in from work. The Mitsubishi Outlander told me its battery power was about to run out. But it’s the World Cup semi-final after all. I’d plug it in after the match.

Needless to say, at 7-1 all thoughts of the Outlander’s battery went out the window. Next morning as I hit the start button the engine kicked in. And that’s why plug-in hybrids make sense. There are those whose lives run to the tick of a well-set Swiss watch. Then there are the rest of us for whom lastminute.com seems to be more a way of life than a website.

In just over five years’ time there will be 200,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads. Yes folks, 10 per cent of the entire Irish vehicle fleet will be electric, at least if the Government’s long-held plan comes to fruition. Given that there are barely 500 electric cars on the road at present, it would seem like we’re in for something of a sales surge in the next few years.

It’s easy to mock the idealistic plans laid out at a time when we even believed that our little island could be the template for the electric car revolution. We were going to write the book on electric cars, deciding everything from the charging points to the future format of these cars. Ireland – a car market barely the equivalent of the sales in greater Manchester – was going to put the global auto giants in their place. Admittedly this was at a time when we also thought unemployment was an historic anachronism, and that buying a flat-screen TV with money from a 30-year mortgage made sound financial sense.

While the electric vehicle targets remain in place, the reality is that the motor industry is taking a far more considered approach to the electric revolution. Everyone realises the restrictions placed on motorists by the limited range of fully electric vehicles. Tesla has pushed the boundaries on range but for now their limited vehicle offering makes them a niche player.

A fully-charged electric car is, frankly, great fun to drive. Power is linear and smoother than most combustion engines’. The heavy batteries in the floorpan add to the stability of the car, making the handling far better. It’s also good for the environment and relatively cheap to recharge. Yet there’s always the “what if” elephant sitting in the passenger seat. What if I suddenly need to get to Galway in the afternoon? What if I forget to plug it in the night before? What if my life is far less organised than I pretended to the sales staff at the dealership? If you have ever seen the fuel light flashing on your dash then you have to wonder if you really will recharge the battery in time every time.

That’s where hybrids come into play with their mix of combustion engine back-up and electric power. The plug-in versions such as this Outlander have advanced the electric power to be the first port of call and, thanks to the ability to plug into the mains, you get a decent range of up to 52km on full electric power. That’s the official figure, but we managed to get approximately 39km on EV mode before the engine had to kick in. That’s enough for most commutes. Charge up at home overnight and with the likes of the Electric Ireland value- saver price plan you could get your battery full for as little as €1.20. Buyers can also avail of the free home-charging points being installed at present. Charging takes five hours on a regular cycle or 30 minutes for an 80 per cent charge at one of the quick-charging stations dotted across the island. The two-litre petrol engine therefore becomes your safety net or if you happen to go above 120km/h, which of course you wouldn’t in Ireland.

Some of the features on this Outlander are designed with an eye to city congestion charges, where in certain countries electric cars care exempt. So you get two extra functions: a save button and a charge button. The former will maintain the battery charge at its current level, while the latter will call on the engine to recharge the battery while also powering the car. That way you can ensure you can run the Outlander as a full EV when you get into town.

Charge button
The downside of the charge button is that it means the petrol engine is trying to build up a charge in the battery while also powering the front wheels. That leans on the fuel consumption figures. Whereas we were averaging an impressive 1.9l/ 100km in the mix of electric and engine power, once we hit the charge button our average consumption shot up to 6.9l/ 100km. It supposedly recharges the battery to 80 per cent in about 40 minutes but, frankly, it’s a feature best ignored by Irish buyers. Instead just be sure to plug in the car when you get a chance.

For all the power available on electric mode, the Outlander doesn’t set any speed records. It’s a rather languid 11 seconds to 100km/h and the focus is clearly on preserving battery power rather than pace.

A plug-in hybrid is the sensible choice for those wishing to dip their toes into the electric car wave, a fuller electric experience for your short-hop commutes than the light-hybrid systems of the regular Prius, but with a engine back-up for longer trips.

It’s also where Mitsubishi should have focused it attention from the start, rather than wasting its time trying to sell its ridiculously expensive full- electric supermini, the i-Miev.

This Outlander is not without its flaws. The cabin is roomy but it lacks the quality fit and finish you’d expect from a car with a price tag of more than €40,000. Up against rivals it looks rather dated. The touchscreen system, for example, is clunky, the screen doesn’t always sense which button you pressed and the information on the hybrid system is far too data-heavy for intended to be used by a driver who needs to focus on the road.

The steering is also quite light and uninformative and the ride quality is a little soft, but the addition of the battery pack in the floorpan makes the car feel very stable in twisting bends and it handles like a regular saloon rather than a higher set soft-roader. Then there is the practicality of a roomy back seat with plenty of legroom, the ability to call upon four-wheel- drive and the capability to tow.

The plug-in version of the Outlander is €2,000 more expensive than the regular diesel version, but then we wouldn’t really fancy an Outlander if it wasn’t for the plug-in electric feature. It’s a tempting proposition for those in the market for a soft-roader and a great boon to a brand that desperately needs a winning model to recapture the public’s eye.

It’s not cheap and the interior could do with an upgrade, but it’s a good all-rounder that offers the practical cost savings of an electric vehicle, the chance to ascend the moral high ground with EV mode on the commuter runs, but the safety net of a petrol engine for those times when life just gets the better of our best intentions.

The lowdown: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Power: Three modes on offer– all-electric EV mode in which front and rear motors drive the car using electric battery
power only; series hybrid, where the front and rear motors power the car and the petrol engine operates as a generator supplying electricity to the electric motors; and parallel hybrid mode, in which the petrol engine provides the power, assisted by electric motors as needed.

Engine: 300V lithium-ion battery pack with 80 cells combined with a 1,998cc petrol engine with an output of 120bhp @ 4,500rpm and 190Nm of torque

Acceleration: 11 seconds

Max speed: 170km/h

Electric driving range: 52km (official figure)

Charging time: 4 hours 30 mins on 230V/10A system

Emissions: 44 g/ km (€170 annual motor tax)

Fuel economy: 1.9 l/100km

Specifications: standard features include dual-zone air-con; cruise control; Bluetooth hands-free; rear parking sensors; hill start assist; active stability and traction control; leather/cloth seats; 18-inch alloy wheels; rain-sensor wipers; and privacy glass

Price: €41,950

Our verdict: Not without its flaws but a chance to catch the electric wave with the safety net of a regular engine for added range