Greater refinement and efficiency from both petrol engine and electric powertrain boost the case for the best-selling plug-in
105,000. Thatâ€™s how many Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs were sold in Europe in 2017 alone. Six years after launch, itâ€™s now the worldâ€™s most successful plug-in.
Still, refusing to rest on its laurels, Mitsubishi has opted to give the Outlander PHEV a new 2.4-litre petrol engine and better electric drive systems. The chassis has been stiffened up too to give an improved drive and a more premium experience.
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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVÂ
Price: Â£40,000 (est)
Engine: 4cyls, 2360cc, petrol, plus two electric motors
Power: 133bhp (petrol engine), plus 81bhp and 94bhp (electric motors)
Torque: 156lb ftÂ (petrol engine), plus 101lb ft and 144lb ft (electric motors)
Kerb weight 1880kg
Top speed: 106mph
Fuel economy: 141mpg
Rivals: Skoda Kodiaq,Â Nissan X-Trail
That doesnâ€™t mean throwing away the carâ€™s off-road credentials. Mitsubishi is keen to retain the reputation so solidly carved out by the Shogun, which by the way has just gone out of production.Â By default, the Outlander PHEV therefore becomes the Mitsubishi range-topper in the UK.
Externally, itâ€™s not easy to spot the differences in the 2018 Outlander PHEV. It does have new wheels and a cleaner-looking front grille design, but basically itâ€™s a case of plus ca change, based on the fact (Mitsubishi says) that customers are content with what theyâ€™ve been given.
Again, apart from new leather in the higher-trim models and a new drive mode toggle switch on the centre console, the cabin designÂ stays the same. That console has the familiar seven-inch infotainment touchscreen, set up with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring and graphics illustrating powertrain power usage. The menus are less than slick, though, and the buttons below the screen are functional rather than stylish. Some dash plastics are equally unimpressive for a car not far short of Â£40k.
Things improve when you start driving though. The Outlander PHEVâ€™s powertrain feels a lot more developed than that of conventionally-powered opposition in this sector. In electric mode, 28 miles is said to be possible before the 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine comes in to do the work. Normally the petrol unit is kept out of things, restricted to battery top up duties, unless you really call hard for power. The twin-motor electric setup with a stronger 94bhp rear motor (the front one remains at 81bhp) and a bigger 13.8kWhÂ battery (from 12kWh) is easily able to move this 1880kg SUV.
The larger (by 0.4 litres) Atkinson cycle petrol engine chimes in very smoothly. It’sÂ larger than the old carâ€™s 2.0-litre unit to compensate for its having less bhp per litre ratio than the old engine. The capacity growth gives it more performance but also with more economy, even if the figures (141mpg and 46g/km of CO2 emissions) are skewed by the recent changeover to the WLTP test.
You can really feel that extra urge in either pure electric or hybrid modes. Throttle response is more urgent and the pickup at speed is more impressive. A 0-62mph time ofÂ 10.5sec wonâ€™t trouble any supercars but the elastic thrust of the electric motors brings an effortlessness to stressful situations like overtakes or junction exits. The electric mode top speed is up to 84mph from 78mph.
The stiffer body has allowed Mitsubishi to enhance the steering and suspension for better ride comfort. Itâ€™s not a big difference but you will notice it on some surfaces. Thereâ€™s less body vibration and a greater abililty to deal with road cracks. The old crashing through the body has been largely swapped for more suspension-led absorption.
Thereâ€™s no steering feel to speak of but the new steering does make it easier to manipulate the car through smaller streets. The ride quality is conventional SUV, ie less secure-feeling than something like the Skoda Kodiaq, but the Outlander PHEV has a pleasingly sturdy feel to it that will go down well with Mitsubishiâ€™s customer base.
Those same customers have voiced encouragement for the introduction of Sport and Snow modes, worked through that new toggle switch we mentioned earlier. In Sport, the engine is working all the time, adding power to the front wheels. In Snow the driveline juggles torque between the front and rear ends, with anything from 0-100% being on offer at each axle. Torque between the sides is automatically distributed via the braking system, giving torque vectoring on less than grippy surfaces.
At nearly Â£40,000, the updated Outlander PHEV is in the sights of more premium rivals like high-spec Kodiaqs, from whom the Governmentâ€™s Â£2500 plug-in hybrid subsidy doesnâ€™t really protect it that much. Youâ€™ll do better with different, better equipped vehicles that are better drives on the road if youâ€™re not that bothered about mileages or zero-emissions driving.
But if tax advantages, fuel efficiency and electric-only driving are right up your strasse, the Outlander PHEVâ€™s new, more efficient powertrain gives it quite a kick forward in terms of appeal. The new carâ€™s additional urge and smoothness add to the pie of buying wisdom, if there is such a thing.