The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has been refreshed, to better enabl it to retain its title of the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the UK. I reviewed the PHEV last year, and was rather impressed. Since then I have been seeing an increasing number of them on the road, and know of several company car drivers who are reaping the benefits of the low benefit-in-kind taxation. With this in mind I got hold of the newest model, in GX4hs guise, to see just what difference the updates have made. So with a full battery, I set out to see how the new model fared on the road.
Looks – 9/10
One of the most noticeable changes to the new Outlander PHEV comes in the styling. The revised front end is an improvement. The centre of the bumper is gloss black, and this is framed with chrome trim; it’s all very plush. The headlights now incorporate LED daytime running lights, and the front lip is now more sculpted. The two-tone 18-inch alloys are a multi-spoke design, and the privacy glass is also framed with chrome. At the rear you now get a shark fin aerial, and the clear tail lights are gone, in favour of red ones. The rear lip has a silver trim, and looks more sculpted than before. Overall the PHEV is a nice package.
On the inside it’s a case of small changes making a big difference. The leather seats are no longer perforated, for example. They still have contrasting stitching though, and get some small white contrast sections. The door card leather is now patterned. The centre console is still gloss black, but the gear surround is now dark woodgrain to match the other finishers, as opposed to just plastic. I generally dislike ‘wood-effect’ trim, but in this instance it kind of works. The new steering wheel features more controls, and looks a lot better. The gear selector still looks a little cheap, but has been re-designed and brandishes the words “Outlander PHEV”.
Handling/Performance – 8/10
The drivetrain is unchanged- you get a 2.0-litre petrol engine up front, and twin electric motors (60kw on each axle). The variable drive, with the petrol engine kicking in and butting out, is seamless. Providing you aren’t lead-footed, the Outlander can reach 70mph in electric-only mode. 0-62mph takes 11.0 seconds and top speed is 106mph. For a large SUV that’s to be expected, and the Outlander never feels underpowered. This is the only genuine electric-only 4WD, and its electronic stability control system works in electric-only mode. For all you rally fans out there, you will be pleased to hear that the Outlander PHEV also features active yaw control, taken from the mighty Evo.
The handling remains mostly unchanged from the regular Outlander as well. It leans into the corners but no more than you would expect from a car of its stature. The suspension is a little firmer than the standard car, but then again it has to in order to cope with the extra weight of batteries and two electric motors. On the motorway the PHEV is comfortable and makes a great cruiser, even if the hybrid set-up isn’t geared up for long-haul drives. The steering is weighty but not the most responsive, although I don’t see this as a major issue. It’s not like you’ll feel the urge to go on a track day with it. Through town the PHEV is manoeuvrable, smooth and relaxing. That’ll do for me.
Economy – 10/10
The Outlander has an electric-only range of around 30 miles. That’s infinity mpg for popping to the shops. The petrol engine on its own is not the most economical, but the weighted average fuel consumption is 156.9mpg; seriously cheap motoring. Furthermore, CO2 emissions of 42g/km put the Outlander PHEV in VED band A; currently free to tax in the first and subsequent years. Company car drivers can save money too, with the Outlander incurring a 7% benefit-in-kind charge. If you are a motorway commuter, then the Outlander may not be the best choice. If, like me, you have a 15-mile trip each way to work, with the occasional longer journey, then the Outlander is perfect.
Practicality – 9/10
With a generous boot and plenty of room for passengers, the Outlander is a great car for the family. Unfortunately the two rearmost seats have had to make way for the batteries and electric motor, which stops you from taking all your children’s friends to school. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll let you decide. The GX4hs I tested is very generously equipped, including satellite navigation, Bluetooth hands-free telephone, keyless entry and go, dual-zone climate control and heated seats. Without doubt my favourite gadget is the 360-degree parking camera. It works very well and compliments the standard reversing camera. That makes parking a doddle; a bonus in a car this size.
Fun – 7/10
So as entertainment behind the wheel goes, the Outlander PHEV does well. It’s intriguing, knowing just what goes on under the floor. The multimedia screen can display a hybrid information screen, which shows just what the engine, batteries and motors are doing. What is drawing from the battery, what is recharging it, and what is driving each axle. It’s all good fun at first, but the novelty wears off. Driving the Outlander is great through town, where you can make the greatest use of the electric mode. As a self-proclaimed petrolhead, there is a part of me that inherently dislikes hybrids. It’s not personal against the Outlander; more conceptual. I never felt the urge to take a trip up my favourite road in the Outlander, I chose to silently ‘woosh’ through the village instead.
So that’s my week with the Outlander PHEV. The cosmetic changes make the exterior look more stylish, and the interior more luxurious. The new technology is a hit; with the 360-degree parking camera my highlight. The hybrid functionality works well, but still has the drawback of being coupled to a petrol engine: reduced economy on long motorway drives. But for the company car driver, or someone with a 15 mile commute to the office, the Outlander PHEV could significantly reduce the cost of running the car. The Outlander PHEV starts at £22,500 plus VAT for commercial grades, and £31,750 for the passenger car. Both prices are after the £2,500 government grant. The GX4hs is £38,500. For more information visit a dealer or log on to the Mitsubishi website. The Outlander PHEV; updated, refreshed, and still top of its class.
Total Score – 43/50