Mitsubishi Motors has long stated that any future performance models would almost certainly utilise a form of its multiple-motor plug-in hybrid-based AWD technology, and last week we finally got to sample a prototype of just such a development.
The company invited us to Norway — where its its dual-motor Outlander PHEV is the market’s number-two selling vehicle behind the Golf — to test both the regular model on a frozen lake, and a unique prototype with two new driving modes.
The test car sported the familiar PHEV setup from the production car.
This means an electric motor on each axle that can power its constituent wheels independently — Mitsubishi labels this as a type of yaw control system — supplemented by a petrol engine generator/dedicated power source under heavier loads, and brake-based torque vectoring.
Mitsubishi calls this system S-AWC — short for Super All-Wheel Control — and claims lineage to the iconic Lancer Evo rally cars.
In regular guise, the Outlander PHEV’s two different 4WD modes (lock and normal) work as a backup behind the ESC — into which the individual wheel brake-torque vectoring is incorporated.
Switch the ESC to its most lax setting, and you’re relying on twin motors to send torque to whichever wheel requires it.
For example, understeering with loss of front tyre grip would demand the rear motor allocate torque along the back axle to imitate a RWD car. In effect, you add throttle to ‘power oversteer’ your way out of the problem.
Here’s where the Outlander PHEV prototype with new S-AWC came in. This model featured a Sport mode that greatly altered the throttle mapping to bring on power earlier, meaning more subtle right foot work allows you to steer through corners with accelerator modulation.
True enough, we flicked the ESC off and turn aggressively into a slippery corner, and noticed small corrections with the throttle made it much simpler to push the tail out, allowing us to counter-steer our way around and out. Yours truly is hardly a rally driver, and yet the difference was marked. No Kool-Aid drinking here, either.
We’d note that driving modes that change the throttle tune are hardly novel these days, but it’s kind of cool to see Mitsubishi doing such things, and letting the media have a burn.
The prototype also sported a new Snow Mode (which could also be called gravel mode) that numbed throttle response to abet take offs in low-traction environments.
The good news is, we understand this expansion of the S-AWC system will enter production, though quite when remains unknown.
Mitsubishi has previously teased us with other cool ideas, one of which harks back to a development from new Alliance partner Nissan. The 2016 Ground Tourer PHEV concept (pointing to a new Pajero) has twin rear motors, one on each axle, to offer instantaneous assistance to whichever wheel needs it most.
If only it would make a performance car to use the technology… Stay tuned for a report on our 2017 Outlander PHEV driving experience on ice soon.