The 124mpg SUV -- three-in-one Outlander pegs road tax at €170
* Battery can be charged at home or on run for 52km on electric power * Combined system has a total range of 824km
STRAIGHTAWAY we'd better clear up what the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV really is because those strange letters might be confusing.
The Outlander, as you know, is a mid-size SUV. It has been around, mostly as a diesel, for a while.
But this PHEV creation is a different proposition altogether. PHEV stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. Mitsubishi claim it is a world first.
Effectively it means you get an SUV that:
* Is a hybrid using two electric motors/battery bank and a 2-litre 4cyl (121bhp) petrol engine.
* Has means to charge the battery from a three-pin plug at home or on the run so that it gives you 52km on its own - without using a drop of petrol. Think of that element as an urban-range electric vehicle (EV) in its own right.
And think of the tank of fuel, the battery bank and two electric motors (they normally drive the front and rear axles) as the hybrid element.
Put them all together and Mitsubishi says they will cover more than 824km. And manage 1.9litres/100km - or a remarkable 124mpg.
Emissions are so low (44g/km) that road tax will be just €170 a year.
It gets here in June, possibly May, and will cost in the region of €44,000 after grants and VRT rebates. That is about €4,000 more than the existing 4WD 2.2-litre diesel automatic.
A central element is the Twin Motor 4WD system - basically two electric motors drive the front and rear wheels. There is no propeller shaft.
Now, I have just driven the PHEV (indeed I am writing some of this from the back seat). I wanted to see if it did what Mitsubishi claims is the best of three worlds: the low-emission performance of an electric vehicle (EV), cruising range of your ordinary motor and the power on-and-off-road of an SUV.
Depending on driving conditions and battery charge, the control unit decided which of three modes best suited my demands at any one time.
* It could pick Electric Vehicle Mode. Indeed the system tried to use this as much as possible (the engine kicks in a lot quicker in some hybrids). In this mode, the front and rear motors drive the vehicle using only electricity from the battery bank. No petrol used; zero emissions.
* It could pick what they call Series Hybrid Mode where the petrol engine worked as a generator for the battery to power the electric motors to drive the wheels. This happened when the battery charge dipped below a certain level and/or when I wanted acceleration or more power.
* It could pick what they call Parallel Hybrid Mode where the petrol engine joined the electric motor in powering the front wheels while the rear motor worked away behind. That happened when I drove the PHEV hard and harshly.
I liked the idea, too, where I could manually switch to 'battery charge mode' - the engine acted as a generator to boost the level of charge which I could use later if I wanted to go electric-vehicle mode only.
The great thing about electric power is that you get instant torque (pulling power). So in this case the motors gave full blast from the get-go - the sort of acceleration you'd expect from a big-engined conventional car.
We got up a fair head of steam. On sweeping motorways it powered on; around quiet, narrow suburban streets it slipped quietly by, using only electric power.
Remarkably, the fuel gauge barely moved despite some hard driving. I don't know about 124mpg but there is no doubt it's extremely easy on the juice.
Yes, price is a factor and there won't be a mad rush to buy one.
But I think we've got a glimpse of something that, in part, will shape our thinking on what is possible to reduce fuel consumption and emissions well into the future.