Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The plug-in Outlander was, I believe, the first SUV that could be driven on pure electric, if only for a moderate distance. Six years and several updates later, the PHEV still does what it does very well. Better, in fact, than ever before. Problem is, the rise of long-range, pure-electric SUVs are squeezing the Mitsu’s market niche. Even 18 months ago, if you wanted the option of all-electric motivation in something roughly SUV-shaped, you were pretty much limited to the Outlander hybrid, or the very much more pricey, all-electric Tesla Model X. But now we’ve got the Jaguar I-Pace and the Audi e-tron, and, down a price division, the Hyundai Kona and Kia e-Niro: SUVs with a 200-mile-plus range.
For me, without the benefit of overnight driveway charging (terrace-dwelling peasant here, limited to less-than-daily charges at work, and the occasional visit to a public chargepoint) I couldn’t get close to the PHEV’s official, almost-entirely-hypothetical 139mpg. Financially, I’d have been better off with a Kona or Nexo, and dedicating a few hours once or twice a week to recharging. Or a diesel Skoda Kodiaq, and to hell with eco sanctity.
As electric SUVs get cheaper and cheaper, and go further and further between charges. I suspect that, in years to come, we’ll look back at plug-in hybrids as a brief – though perhaps necessary – bridge between the Age of Internal Combustion and the Electric Era.
Which is a shame, as there’s lots to like about the Outlander PHEV. It’s big, it’s robust, it juggles petrol and electric with little fuss. Drivetrain aside, it’s got the feeling of an old Volvo, the sense it’s been designed to survive an Arctic snowstorm, and remain easy to operate even when you’ve lost all your fingers to frostbite. But, though its niche may have narrowed, there’s still nothing else out there that does quite what the Outlander PHEV does. If the shoe fits your (admittedly unusually shaped) foot, go for it.
Good stuff: Feels as robust and all-terrain as any non-plug-in SUV out there. Entirely apocalypse-proof.
Bad stuff: Infotainment is way off the pace of the best in the business, undermining the PHEV’s cutting edge aspirations