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Powerflaw: Outlander PHEV

ProfileTechnology is a wonderful thing, especially when it goes hand in hand with common sense. It’s when something simple is overlooked, not designed well or just plain forgotten that technology bites. Hybrid cars are a great example; use a battery pack and electric engine or two to power the car along, use a petrol engine to back it up and charge the battery when required. Plug it in overnight….except, with the Outlander chargerPHEV (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), it’s potentially impossible for over 90% of Australian homes. You see, Mitsubishi provides the PHEV with a charging cable suitable for 15 amp power sockets; however, where the car is expected to reside, Aussie homes, this idea immediately hits a bump as virtually all homes have 10 amp sockets… 15a
This immediately reduces the potential this car is expected to have by a massive factor, as the idea of a hybrid drivetrain is to try and reduce fuel consumption. But if you can’t charge charger2the car overnight by a cable then you’re solely reliant on the 2.0L petrol engine fitted to be the battery’s generator, which uses fuel. The Outlander PHEV gives you the option of running the petrol engine as a charge unit or allowing it to kick in and out, almost seamlessly, when required. Given that there’s little charge in the battery without the plug in bit,fuel guess which other option uses more fuel? Mitsubishi’s official ADR figures quote 1.9L per 100 kilometres, from a reduced in size 45L tank. In the space of four days, including pickup from the dealership to home (say 70km) and including a return run to Canberra and back, over a tank and a half of fuel was used, with a worst figure seen of over 12L/100km. The expected range from a full charge is said to be 50 to 60 kilometres, so you can see the lack of a suitable for most Australian homes charging cable really hurt.

A Wheel Thing was handed the key to the Outlander Aspire PHEV, complete with satnav, electric seats and sunroof. Like all Outlanders of the current design, there’s plenty of room for the front seat passengers and easily two on the back seat, it’s mostly ergonomically well thought out, consolewith dials and buttons pretty much where you’d expect to find them. Of note, at least in this household, was the placement of the interior door handles to open the door. Almost every instinctive reach would result in a look to see where it was, feeling as if it’s an inch too low. There’s adjustable height seatbelts, with the plastic shroud on the test car provided vibrating and rattling. Plastics are of good quality although the shade of grey on the doors is unusual. The dash dashdisplay is modified to show the drives in operation, fuel usage and expected range from battery and petrol, accessed via a button on the dash just above the driver’s right knee. Instead of a tacho or rev counter, there’s a dial that gives an idea of being in economical or charge mode. The petrol engine itself is barely noticeable when on charge mode but becomes quite buzzy when utilised for acceleration. It’s no rocket engine, with maximum power and torque, 87kW and 187Nm, both coming at 4500 rpm, whilst generator power is 70kW. Ride quality is decent although there’s a definite sensation of mass at 1800 kilos (kerb weight), with the the suspension (McPherson strut front, multilink rear) absorbing most bumps well, although the short throw travel of the front is noticeable at low speeds over bigger speed bumps. wheelRubber is 225/18/55s wrapping some very tidy looking alloys. Of some concern is the electric tailgate; there’s a button on the keyfob to raise the tailgate but it failed to activate in around 80% of attempts. Of more concern is the fact that the ‘gate also failed top open at the press of the normal rubber pad in half of the attempts, requiring a lock and unlock of the doors to reset.

20140612_095407The drive system is a combination of two electric motors, with 60kW and 162Nm each, mounted front and rear (the PHEV is still off road capable) along with the aforementioned petrol engine. Transmission is a single, fixed gear automatic, with acceleration under full throttle being leisurely yet linear. The Outlander PHEV is fitted with a 20140612_100142regenerative braking system, with energy being fed back to the battery under braking or rolling downhill, with the amount of brake adjustable via two paddle shifts; in this case they adjust the “grab” from zero to quite a bit and each step can be felt on the press of the up or down paddle. The actual engagement of the drive system is simple: foot on brake, hit start, move the fighter jet joystick to the right to select Drive or Reverse, go. Just ahead of the selector is a selectorPark button, push that and push the stop button and your journey is done. As usual there’s Mitsubishi’s safety suite, including collision avoidance, driver’s knee airbag, hill start control and reverse camera. The satnav is seen on a 7 inch capacitive touchscreen, which folds out to access the CD drive, plus there’s Bluetooth and USB media. The driver’s seat is oddly uncomfortable, consoleeven though fully adjustable it never seemed to be in the right spot and the squab has the driver sitting on, not in, the cushion.

frontThe Aspire, in its own right, is a decent car with plenty of luxury style spec, as one would expect for a price in the mid $40K range, normally (Aspire diesel $46K). It’s around the $53K bracket in PHEV specification; it drives well enough, looks a bit better after a mid model freshen up but the lack of a 10 amp charge cable (Holden’s Volt comes with one standard) severely and seriously restricts its flexibility and therefore its useability.
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