Ask anyone close to the Mitsubishi Motors brand, and they’ll tell you the ever-changing car giant is hard at work developing new, innovative products for the future. Even more, Mitsubishi has been quick to say their future lies with hybrid and electric vehicles. Case in point, in 2009, the company dipped its toe in the alternative energy pool, bringing to market the all-electric i-MiEV city car. Finding the water warm, last year Mitsubishi decided it was time to tuck up its legs and cannonball into the deep-end, releasing the more mainstream Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).
Still no debut in the states, the Outlander PHEV has been on a slow worldwide rollout since its debut in Japan in 2013. Based on the current third-generation Outlander, Mitsubishi has already delivered over 33,000 of these hybrid crossovers around the globe. And impressively, for 2014 the Outlander PHEV is the highest selling plug-in hybrid currently on sale in the U.K.
So where’s our version? Be patient, it is coming. Expect the North American version to arrive in late 2015 or early 2016.
AutoGuide recently drove the worldwide phenomenon, and this is what they had to say:
The drivetrain for the PHEV starts with a 2.0-liter gasoline engine derived from the Lancer compact sedan. To bolster refinement, balancing shafts have been added to the engine, which makes 120 hp and 145 lb-ft in this application. Joining it between the front wheels is an electric motor with 40 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque. In the rear there’s another electric motor that also generates 40 hp, but since it’s the sole powertrain for the back tires, torque has been boosted up to 144 lb-ft.
It’s What’s Inside that Counts:
The PHEV can run in three different drive modes: EV, Series or Parallel. In EV mode, the Outlander runs on pure electric power up to speeds of 75 MPH, utilizing the front and rear motors. In Series mode, the gas engine acts as an energy producing generator for the electric motors, similar to the Chevrolet Volt. When maximum power is called for, Parallel mode kicks in that uses the gas engine and electric motors to drive the vehicle. If a charge is completely depleted, the vehicle becomes front-wheel drive only since the gasoline engine is only coupled to the front wheels. But, a charge can be recaptured through regenerative braking, coasting, etc., that can store a little power in the batteries for use at the rear wheels when needed.
But How Does it Drive:
Power delivery is smooth and feels more robust than figures suggest. A fair amount of throttle application can be applied in pure electric mode before the gasoline engine will engage. Once it does, the transition from all electric to hybrid mode is smooth.
Getting up to speed on the highway with three adults onboard isn’t an issue and the Outlander will cruise comfortably at 74 MPH in pure electric mode without struggling. Being a European spec vehicle, the brakes were a bit grabbier than we are used to in North America, but otherwise worked fine. The paddle shifters from the V6 Outlander are still present, now serving a new purpose. Slap the left paddle and the vehicle’s regenerative braking force increases while clicking the right paddle decreases pressure. In all, regen braking force can be adjusted through six levels, ranging from zero (off) to five (whiplash).
Recharge on Demand:
One of the coolest features in the Outlander PHEV has to be the vehicle’s ability to recharge its battery pack on demand. By selecting the recharge button on the center console, the gasoline engine will not only produce power for the drive motors, but also enough to begin recharging the battery pack. Mitsubishi claims battery can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in just 40 minutes, which is impressive considering a stage three rapid charger needs 30 minutes to accomplish the same feat.
While on the topic of charging, a standard 110V household outlet can charge the Outlander fully in 6.5 hours which is also impressive. It almost makes a stage two 220V charger’s four-hour refill time seem redundant.
For those who do a lot of highway commuting followed by drives through a city, Mitsubishi has given the Outlander PHEV a “save” feature that allows drivers to manually engage the gasoline engine when wanted to save the electric charge for later. I experimented using both the save feature and the recharge on demand and found neither adversely affected the Outlander’s performance. In fact, when cruising on the highway, I would be interested in finding out how much more gas the Outlander uses during a forty minutes charge period compared to just running the drive motors. Is the extra gas trade off worth the recaptured electric range? Only a proper test with the upcoming North American version can answer that question.
In the meantime, come out and test drive the Mitsubishi Outlander! By the time the PHEV hits the market, it will just the time for an upgrade!