Our final weeks with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV saw us take it well away from the city, on a roundabout country adventure.
The trip from CarAdvice’s North Sydney office to the Blue Mountains (where I live) extended all the way to Cowra in central west NSW and on to Parkes, home of The Dish.
It isn’t made for long-distance kilometres – we’ve found during our test against the diesel Outlander that drivers who do lots of mileage outside of town are best to leave the PHEV to urban-dwellers.
Still, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to see what it was like on a properly, er, out-on-the-land-ish tour of duty.
Before we left, though, we took the opportunity to explore the connectivity of the PHEV a little further.
While many of the drivers have been critical of the usability of the Outlander’s media screen, the car offers extended connectivity through a dedicated smartphone app.
The Outlander PHEV remote control app allows the owner of the vehicle to access the onboard systems for a range of functions.
You can set charge times – so, get home, plug it in and it won’t commence charging until the off-peak period, making for cheaper electricity bills – as well as set the cabin temperature to be cooled or heated at certain times of the day (on a seven-day cycle). So, with the summer heat at its peak, a cool cabin can await you for your evening drive home.
The app also allows you to control the parking lights and headlights should you need them, and keep an eye on the status of charge.
A key change Mitsubishi instigated late in 2014 was that all PHEVs would be 10-amp compatible.
You may remember from our first long-term update that we found it a bit rude of the brand to insist upon 15-amp charging, as that type of powerpoint can be expensive to install (more than $600 in this case).
With the new plug, the car’s batteries were able to be recharged from a standard powerpoint (with the smaller earth pin) in roughly the same amount of time, give or take, required using the 15-amp socket. Nice one, Mitsubishi – but it should have been standard from the start, and we feel for those poor sods that had to spend extra cash just to charge their car at home or work.
Back to the trip.
After an uneventful trip over the mountains (where the average fuel use readout hovered around 6.0L/100km), we arrived in Cowra, where the Outlander PHEV had its first taste of solar power.
My partner Gemma’s parents (Andy and Lyndall) have a large solar array on the roof of their pottery studio, so the opportunity to recharge with the help of the sun’s magic was a must. I also wanted to see if made me feel greener or more enviroconscious than before.
In short, it didn’t.
Still, myself, Gemma and Andy and Lyndall spent the day on the road from Cowra to Parkes and back again.
I switched the media display to show the drivetrain information screen, which shows what part of the drivetrain is sending power where (the batteries to the front/rear/all wheels, engine to the front wheels and wheels to battery in the case of regenerative braking).
It became apparent after just 20 minutes or so that this is a seriously complex powertrain, with the illustration seemingly changing every few seconds depending on the topography. It was interesting to note that we ran out of battery capacity after just 30 kilometres – no doubt as a result of the extra mass of four bodies on board and the heat (it was sweltering, about 38 degrees).
We made it to Parkes to a relatives’ property, before eventually returning back to Cowra later that evening. The consumption readout was a little higher this time around, at about 8.0L/100km.
This further illustrated what we knew to be the case after just a month or so in the PHEV – it doesn’t make that much sense outside of its city comfort zone. Admittedly, 8.0L/100km isn’t too bad for a family-friendly SUV with four adults, but it isn’t the 6.0L/100km you’d likely see in the diesel Outlander.
After returning to Sydney we decided to try the PHEV’s hand at some light off-roading.
With its all-wheel-drive system able to work in full-electric mode, this is an unusual experience, but over loose gravel it felt comfortable enough, despite its weight becoming noticeable at higher speeds. The PHEV’s ride height – and its low-hanging exhaust due to the battery pack below the floor of the car – meant any serious punishment was off the cards.
Back to the office where CarAdvice’s national sales director Benn Sykes spent some quality urban driving time in the Outlander commuting from the office to his place in Seaforth, near Manly.
Over his five days of driving (totalling 216 kilometres) he averaged 6.1L/100km. He charged the car twice during the weekend at the local shopping centre (1 hour per day), as well as plugging it in every day at work.
Benn made it clear he liked the size of the Outlander, and how quiet it was (which was picked up by passengers, too). He also reckoned that if you can stick with a strict charging regime, it can be properly efficient.
However, like most of the team who’ve spent time in the PHEV, he experienced frustration when attempting to use the media screen (the slow start-up time got his goat most). He also found it to be highly inefficient if you need to just jump in and go somewhere without thinking about charge, as well as being sluggish when attempting quick lane changes
Straight from Benn: “I used to be a massive advocate for this car – but not any more! The more I had it, the longer I drove it, the more I hated it. The novelty of having a PHEV wears very, very quickly.”
That last comment is more of a stab at the infrastructure available than the car itself, and there’s still plenty to be done in Australia if EVs or PHEVs are to gain real traction.
In summary, our 10,000-odd kilometres and six months in the car left us both hot and cold.
Its average fuel consumption of about 5.6 litres per 100km – pretty good given this is a big bus with plenty of space, but our numbers were well over the claimed consumption figure of 1.9L/100km. And, it must be considered that electricity isn't free (unless you're like Andy, and solar panels ain't cheap!).
Our overall rating has dropped away over time - we initially gave the car a 7.5 out of 10 at launch, which then dropped to 7/10 in our initial long-term reviews. After six months, it dipped a little lower: 6.5/10.
There’s no denying the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV offers an alternative to the diesel and petrol SUVs that dominate this segment. And as far as electric cars go, it offers an unparalleled practicality advantage for the price. For that, Mitsubishi deserves some accolade.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Date acquired: August 2014
Odometer reading: 15,200km
Travel since previous update: 5484km
Consumption since previous update: 5.6L/100km