ONE of capitalism’s more insidious assertions is that all that is popular is inherently worthy. The fact that ‘Call Me Maybe’ by Carly Rae Jepsen went nine times platinum here is all the evidence you need to torpedo that argument. Therefore, Mitsubishi’s claim that it shifts as many Outlander PHEVs as the rest of Australia’s plug-in market put together doesn’t, in and of itself, float our boats.
If, during 2018, you had fifty-odd grand to spend on a plug-in hybrid with more space than a compact hatch, here’s the longlist: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. That’s it.
Therefore it comes as a refreshing revelation to discover that the Outlander PHEV is not awful. In fact, it’s genuinely likeable. Talented even. When the battery is charged, it dips in and out judiciously in hybrid mode, making an agreeably alien noise in the process that certainly lets you know that you’re not just driving an internal combustion vehicle. The steering is better than any of the EVs we had in this test, offering crisp turn-in which combines with sharp pick-up that’ll have you jinking through tight corners and jetting out the other side assisted by all-wheel drive electric torque. Six levels of regenerative braking are available via the paddles.
The 12kWh lithium-ion battery is bigger than you get in a $100K Volvo XC60 T8 and delivers more range. Mitsubishi reckons 54 kilometres; we managed 47 on test with a little to spare, so that’s not entirely outlandish. Recharging takes five hours on a standard household plug or 3.5 hours if you install a dedicated home charger.
Aside from the self-explanatory Pure EV mode, the Outlander PHEV can also be driven in Series Hybrid and Parallel Hybrid modes. Series Hybrid mode activates when the battery charge is low or when more power is required for a burst of acceleration. In this mode the engine runs to charge the battery, which then provides power to the wheels. In Parallel Hybrid mode the engine drives the wheels directly, coming to life when the battery is empty. Onboard software will automatically select the optimum drive mode – and it usually makes a good fist of things – but should you wish to override these modes there are mode buttons on the centre console.
Downsides? You’ll lose the third row of seats; that real estate now housing an on-board charger and the control unit for the rear motor. Then there’s the fact that when the battery is depleted the 2.0-litre lump can sound a bit gruff, and the interior isn’t the final word in elegant materials integration. But less than fifty grand for a sizeable dual electric motor SUV that’s decent to drive and comes with a five-year warranty? The Outlander PHEV deserves its popularity and then some.
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