Hybrid Outlander the way to go

By Richard Bosselman on Sat, 26 Jan 2013 | Mitsubishi | Latest News
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The Mitsubishi Outlander now comes with a diesel option and, later this year, a petrol hybrid electric, which promises a return of 1.6 litres per 100km. Photo supplied

Heard the one about the Mitsubishi Outlander owner who, set on swapping his old-model petrol for a new-generation equivalent, instead bought into the diesel and is likely to trade that on a forthcoming petrol-electric version?

A story related by a dealer after the new Outlander was launched reflects the extent of change affecting this popular model, not least in its powertrain choices.

Two orthodox petrols (112kW/193Nm 2.0 and 126kW/224Nm 2.4-litre) and a 112kW/366Nm 2.2-litre turbo diesel are starters in a price spread from $39,990 to $56,990.

From June-July comes the ‘‘PHEV'' (petrol hybrid electric vehicle). With a petrol engine acting as a generator to feed lithium ion batteries which can be plug-in recharged (Mitsubishi claims the battery pack can be 80% replenished in just 30 minutes) and electric drive motors, it's broadly Japan's answer to the Holden Volt range-extender, if a bit more complex.

The drivetrain comprises a front electric motor powering the front wheels and a rear electric motor sending power to the rear wheels. It departs from the Volt route by also allowing the 2.0-litre petrol engine to drive the front wheels under certain circumstances.

The diesel alone is enough to convince that sales will surge ahead this year, with a volume of 150-plus monthly sales, climbing a further 20 units-plus when the range-extender joins the current six-strong petrol and diesel line-up.

While the diesel and petrol Outlanders do their bit for green good, with a special economy setting, they are utterly outshone by the PHEV, which in ideal conditions is supposed to return just 1.6 litres per 100km burn - a record for any vehicle in this market by some margin.

For now, the diesel is the best car; a 2000kg towing rating, against 1600kg for the petrols attests to the extra torque, it's not thirsty and is equal to the petrols for mechanical refinement. The pure automatic transmission it marries to is less fussy than the petrols' constantly variable transmission.

Outlanders are well loaded: alloys, seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction control, reversing camera, reversing sensors, cruise control, audio and Bluetooth are standard and all but the LS have seven seats, push-button engine start and dual-zone air.

The highest-end VRX adopts adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance which works as advertised, albeit with much bleeping. The VRX also has leather, heated front seats, power driver's seat and a power tailgate, now a one-piece design, Mitsubishi having deleted the old car's drop-down lower section to create extra seat room inside.

Styling has certainly altered significantly but, in driving terms, the Outlander has not changed hugely. The steering remains light, and while it hangs on well through corners, the suspension hasn't the suppleness that Peugeot engineered into their now defunct 4007 version of the old Outlander. Coarse-chip-generated road noise also still intrudes.