Thursday 25 April 2019

Mitsubishi rings major changes with its revised Outlander PHEV - only you can't see most of them

First Drive in Marseille: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The interior of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

John Galvin

You will be hard-pressed to detect any differences between the new Outlander PHEV and the model it replaces. It had to be pointed out to me that the new car sports an updated front grille and different alloys.

Despite this, pretty much everything else has been changed.

There's a new engine, new suspension, a new battery and a completely revamped hybrid system. The only major carry-over is the front electric motor.

Mitsubishi insists its PHEV is built around a proper electric car architecture, whereas other hybrids are internal combustion designs with battery and motors added on.

This approach results in all four wheels being driven electrically all of the time, no matter whether the power is coming from the battery or from the petrol engine.

When the battery charge has been depleted, the engine drives the front wheels and generates power to drive the motors.

The engine also kicks in at speeds in excess of 135kmh, which is the limit for the electric powertrain.

The new engine is an Atkinson cycle design, which favours efficiency over power, although it can switch to a conventional Otto cycle when maximum power is called for.

The motor produces 135bhp, up from 121bhp in the old model, but when it comes to overall power, including the electric motors, it's not so simple.

Essentially, the car's operating system will never give full power from the engine and the motors combined as it always favours fuel efficiency over maximum output.

A fully charged battery should give around 40km of electric range and takes four hours when charged from a normal socket, but you can get an 80pc charge in 25 minutes using a fast charger.

Regenerative braking is also on offer, with various levels selectable, as previously, using the steering wheel paddles.

Other changes include the addition of battery cell warming, in addition to the existing cooling function.

The car's accessories and air conditioning can also now be powered directly from the charging point.

To drive, the PHEV is quieter than before, even when the petrol engine kicks in. We had the chance to compare new and outgoing models back to back on the launch in Marseille and the new suspension seems softer and more comfortable although it doesn't handle speed humps all that well. It's certainly not a sharp drive, but it's relaxing and stress-free.

A revamped interior keeps the basic architecture of the outgoing model, but better materials and detail changes have elevated the ambience significantly. Quilted leather seats are uniquely available on the PHEV model and they're comfortable and attractive to look at. Convenience features include a rear USB socket and two 220v electrical outlets to power mains devices.

The Outlander PHEV is available as a five-seater only because of the space taken up by the batteries, and boot capacity is also reduced by 14 litres. The batteries themselves have 10pc more capacity than before.

A new structural adhesive welding method for the body makes it lighter and, in fact, the PHEV is 250kg lighter than the Volvo XC60 hybrid. The light weight contributes to efficiency and on our test route we posted 5.7l/100km. Although we started with a fully charged battery, for most of our route we needed the petrol engine. I though it was a creditable result.

With the Pajero being phased out, the Outlander will soon take over as the flagship of the Mitsubishi range and the new model is expected in Ireland in meaningful numbers by October with a 10pc price reduction achieved through greater production efficiencies.

I tried to find out why there were no major changes to the exterior looks, but the only answer I got was that customers liked the style of the current car.

For a new exterior design, we're going to have to wait for an all-new Outlander, which is around two years away.

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