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by Daniel DeGasperi

An entry-level version of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) could be priced below the current flagship diesel all-wheel-drive variant as the local division finalises the positioning of its incoming hybrid SUV.

Mitsubishi Australia product planning manager James Tol told CarAdvice the company was considering introducing two specification levels of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV when it launches in mid 2013, including a modestly equipped model that could undercut the price of the fully optioned Outlander Aspire diesel.

“We might offer one to get the price as sharp as we can but it may not get the toys,” Tol said. “We’re working on how we structure it.”

Tol said spec-for-spec the petrol-electric Outlander would be more expensive than the diesel, but suggested “that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be available for less [than the diesel]”.

The new Outlander Aspire diesel (above) is priced from $45,490, and rises to $50,990 when optioned with the Premium Pack that adds adaptive cruise control and the forward collision mitigation driver assistance system.

A $50K price tag for the base model Outlander PHEV would see it slot just inside the specced-up, high-grade diesel, and, significantly, undercut the compact four-seat $59,990 Holden Volt plug-in.

“It won’t be more expensive, or prohibitively more expensive, than a Volt,” Tol said.

Mitsubishi Australia is targeting a five to 10 per cent share of total Outlander sales for the plug-in – around 50 to 100 per month of its 1000-unit monthly goal for the new third-generation model.

The world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV teams a 70kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 12kWh lithium-ion battery and two electric motors: a 60kW/137Nm motor on the front axle and a 60kW/195Nm motor at the rear.

Tol said the petrol engine in the Outlander wouldn’t be forced to work as hard as the smaller 1.4-litre unit in the Volt, suggesting that the SUV’s powertrain should be quieter and more refined than its Holden counterpart. He said the PHEV would also be capable of towing.

The plug-in model can be operated in three modes: all-electric EV mode, where the front and rear motors drive the vehicle using battery power only; series hybrid mode, where the petrol engine acts as a generator to supply electricity to the motors; and parallel hybrid mode, where the petrol engine provides most of the motive power and is assisted by the electric motors as required.

Mitsubishi says a full charge from a 200-volt, 15-amp power source takes around four and a half hours, and can provide an EV cruising range of roughly 55km. Operating on a full charge and a full tank of fuel, the Outlander PHEV can cover around 880km – competitive with many petrol-powered cars – using the equivalent of 1.6 litres of fuel per 100km.

More details of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will be revealed in early 2013 as the plug-in SUV goes on sale in its domestic market, Japan.