2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GX4h 2.0 PHEV review – Plug-In Hybrid SUV Makes a Lot of Sense

Big, practical, 4WD SUV with potentially minuscule running costs; No UK Road Tax; 80% charge in 30 minutes using rapid charging points.

No on-screen display of your phone contacts; interior is a tad boring.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV?

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A while ago, we reviewed the Outlander 2.2 D-ID, and found that while it was a decent all-rounder, there was a distinct dullness about it. It did its job well, but there was nothing of real interest about it, and it all too easily faded into the crowd of other diesel SUVs. However, Mitsubishi released a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) version, and after having tested it thoroughly, we’re completely won over – it’s like a whole different vehicle! Why? Read on to find out more about the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GX4h 2.0 PHEV…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

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The Outlander isn’t conventional-looking. While the market is full of SUV’s that look similar, the Mitsubishi sticks out. Its styling is very Japanese, rather than European, especially at the front end where there’s an almost a futuristic design going on in the grille area. It’s also probably the best angle of the car too.

I’m half-and-half on the Outlander’s looks though. First of all, I don’t think it’s either handsome or particularly attractive. It looks too long and ungainly from some angles, and the back end hangs out past the rear wheels too far. However, there is the positive of the Outlander’s cool front-end design, and there is also a ruggedness about the Outlander that sets it apart from the usual modern SUV, that seem like they’d halt in dread at even the sight of mud on their bodywork, or start shedding parts at the mere mention of crossing slightly rough terrain.

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The Outlander at least gives off the impression that it’d happily ford a flooded road, take on a snowy mountain pass, or cross a boggy field – possibly because of Mitsubishi’s heritage of producing the super-tough and ultra-reliable Shogun (or Montero/Pajero depending where you live) does this come to mind. Another decent angle is from a rear three-quarter view, high enough up to see the ridged roof, where it has – gasp – almost a Range Rover Sport look about it.

Personally, I believe the Copper Metallic colour did the previous Outlander we tested absolutely zero favours, and in fact, you can’t spec that colour anymore (at least in the UK). Instead, the white or Glacier Blue makes a huge difference and makes it far more modern-looking showing how much the right paint will do for a car’s looks.

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The 190 mm (7.48″) of ground clearance, and a large amount of space between the tyres and arches, tell you the Outlander is somewhat more capable of just bumping up the kerb on the school run, or going over that particularly nasty speed hump near work. Perhaps the Mitsubishi’s slightly different looks also serve another purpose – to seem as at-home in an urban environment as it does in a more hostile environment.

The Outlander is, after all, going to be sold globally and Mitsubishi clearly know it is going to be used in countries with seasons that make even our coldest winter look mild, or our more scorching summer’s day look positively frigid by comparison. For me, the Outlander looked as comfortable on a city street as it did in a field, and if that was Mitsubishi’s aim, they’ve achieved it.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

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The Outlander’s interior is certainly airy, spacious, and comfortable for the most part. The PHEV model has seating for five instead of being a 7-seater like the diesel. Being the GX4h-spec, the car comes with full leather throughout. The front seats are deep and pleasant enough for long journeys, but I’d have liked there to be lumbar support on the driver’s seat.

The 60/40 split middle row of seats can both be reclined and they double-fold too, to allow more storage room in the boot. The centre seat of the second row isn’t entirely comfortable, due to the armrest and the fact the two seatbelt clips stick into your backside. Passengers either sides of the second row will find it comfortable nevertheless, with plenty of leg, head and elbow room. The PHEV version loses just 3% of space in the rear over the diesel Outlander, and I’m guessing that’s through the floor when houses the batteries and is slightly raised in the rear.

There are enough soft-touch, rubbery plastics on the dash and doors to keep you happy for the price you paid, whilst elsewhere there’s piano black plastics and satin silver trim edges, and new for the Outlander PHEV are a ‘crystal fibre-like dashboard and door trim ornament panel’, for a more updated look.

It’s not the most exciting interior colour scheme I’ve come across though, and a fair amount of the switchgear felt slightly outdated. It’s still got to be practical for buyers who’ll use it in more extreme conditions though, and Mitsubishi have obviously thought the buttons through in this respect, as they’re big and easy to push and control – glove-friendly, in other words.

The dials in the driver’s binnacle are sharp and easy to read, while the information screen between them features stuff like your average fuel readout, how economically you’re driving via a 5-leaf graphic (more leaves filled green = economical driving), plus sat nav directions, and energy flow data for the hybrid system.

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At just over 4.6 metres (183″) in length, the Outlander is not a short vehicle, and what comes with that is good boot space. With the third row of seats stowed flush, there are a massive 591 litres available, and with the middle row folded you’ve opened up a cavernous 1,022 litres. On that point, the third-row seating is some of the easiest I’ve come across to fold out and put away. A simple pull on a strap unfolds them, and the same to stow them too – taking around 5 seconds each way.

The GX4h we had came with a powered tailgate, which is a really handy bit of kit to have, but it’s too slow when lifting or lowering, and you often find yourself getting impatient when it’s raining hard and you want to get something in the boot quickly. Annoying.

In-car entertainment on the GX4h is via a 7″ touchscreen HD navigation and music system, and you can get your music fix using either Bluetooth, USB or SD card, plus there’s DAB radio, which worked excellently. The sat nav worked fine, but the graphics, for the most part, looked outdated. There’s also has a reverse camera, which gave good visuals and a clear image. I’m glad it had this as that long body makes it a pain to reverse into spaces otherwise.

Something very frustrating is the fact that the only way to make a phone call through the car’s Bluetooth system is to use audio controls, and speak the name or number of whoever you want to call – there’s no display for your phonebook. Hugely annoying, as it did get names wrong fairly often, and it’s just plain ol’ weird not to be able to have access to contacts visually.

With the PHEV, the same screen also shows a whole head of useful info, such as a natty energy flow display, an energy monitor to show what amount of electricity you’re using on the ventilation and more, and what percentage of the journey you’ve driven on electric for, plus there are other displays showing graphs with long-term electricity and fuel usage info, a charging cost monitor, and a charge point search function, amongst other things. All very neat, and it makes your journey a little more interesting.

A brilliant feature is the Mitsubishi PHEV app (free to download). This allows you to control the charge timing, so you can plug the car in and then time it to start when the cheaper night tariff kicks in, view the charge level and time left until full, and switch on the heating or cooling so you can enter the car in comfort through summer or winter.

As a summary, the Outlander GX4h interior is a tad boring, and some of the switches and buttons appear a bit last-gen. However, it is solidly-built, roomy, comfortable, well thought-out and has ‘real SUV’ practical stuff such as the big switchgear and loads of storage space.

Engine and gearbox

The Outlander PHEV has both an engine and an electric motor powering the Mitsubishi’s permanent all-wheel-drive. The engine is 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve petrol unit with MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system) producing 119 bhp and 140 lb ft (190 Nm) both at 4,500 rpm.

The PHEV system uses an 300-volt, 80-cell high-capacity lithium-ion battery with a storage capacity of 12.0 kWh, and the two 60-volt electric motors produce 101 lb ft (137 Nm) through the front wheels, and 144 lb ft (195 Nm) at the rears. With both the engine and motor in use, a combined 245lb/ft of torque is available.

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Official EU test stats say you can achieve up to 148 mpg (UK), but in all honesty real-life driving will usually differ massively from this. It’s very hard to work out your real mpg simply by the average computer trip info you see, as it depends on lots of factors; i.e. have you used the engine in ‘Parallel Hybrid’ mode, which uses the engine to power the wheels as well as the motor, or has the engine been used in ‘Series Hybrid’ mode to charge the batteries.

It can vary massively, and really doesn’t show it correctly. For example: I did a 10-mile trip in mostly EV-mode, with the engine cutting in just a couple of times under hard acceleration to when overtaking. At the end of the journey I’d averaged 28 mpg, according to the display. However, another motorway journey showed over 56 mpg, and yet another short motorway hop gave me an average of a staggering 87 mpg.

The best way to work it out is to start with a completely empty tank of fuel and a full battery charge, wait until both are totally empty, and work out your average miles-per-gallon that way. According to Mitsubishi, after 106 miles of driving, the mpg will drop below that of the diesel version though. There’s no tax to pay (in the UK) as the CO2 emissions are rated as just 44 g/km, and importantly for company car drivers, you’ll pay a mere 5% BIK (Benefit in Kind) on the Outlander PHEV.

In full EV mode, you can travel up to 32.5 miles, but again it massively varies depending on your driving habit, and what you’re using in the car, such as the air con, fan speed, heat, and more. On a full charge I comfortably managed over 22 miles on EV alone, without driving conservatively and with the heating on high, both front heated seats on full, and the stereo pumped up.

Regarding the gearbox, there isn’t one. To quote Mitsubishi “The front and rear transaxles incorporate simple single-speed fixed-reduction gears for smoother travel… [and] the front transaxle also has a built-in clutch that switches the system to Parallel Drive Mode mainly for engine-powered travel at high speeds.”

0 – 62 miles-per-hour is done in 11 seconds, and it’ll do 106 mph at the top end. Not a lot, then, but unless you live in Germany or Australia and have access to a de-restricted section of road, you’ll rarely use that top end speed.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

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Climb aboard the Outlander PHEV, press the starter button and… you’re greeted with total silence. Yes, technically the car is ‘on’ and ready to move, but it’s in EV mode and therefore noiseless. Set off, and the only sound you’ll hear from the motor is a slight whirring as you accelerate. Once going, there’s really nothing apart from the fan for the heating, and some slight tyre noise. Passengers travelling in it for the first time described it as ‘eerily quiet’, and it really is.

The Outlander glides along beautifully, and while in EV mode I continuously had a sense of satisfaction knowing that I wasn’t using any of the ridiculously high-priced petrol sat in the tank. Take that, greedy oil companies and fuel distributors of the world. Oh, and to make things a bit safer while you’re in EV mode, there’s an Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) which produces an audible warning sound to alert pedestrians.

There are 3 drive modes on the Outlander PHEV: EV which is full-electric, ‘Series Hybrid’ which uses the petrol engine to supply electricity to the electric motors, and also give you more power when accelerating or climbing a steep hill, and ‘Parallel Hybrid’ which uses the engine to kick out full power to the wheels, assisted by the electric motors, and this is used under the hardest acceleration or when cruising at higher speeds.

There’s a system called ‘Twin Motor 4WD’ on this Outlander, which uses the electric motors on the front and rear axles to drive the car. This is twinned with Mitsubishi’s S-AWC (Super-All Wheel Control) integrated vehicle dynamics control system for greater stability under a huge range of different driving conditions. Press the ‘Twin Motor 4WD Lock’ button behind the gear selector, and there’s the equivalent of a centre differential lock for even more traction and stability on or off road.

I found the Outlander’s ride is a comfortable one, with the suspension soaking up bad road surface well, while exterior noise is kept down well inside the cabin. When the engine is working, Mitsubishi has made the exhaust quieter and included extra engine bay soundproofing. More help in that department is that Mitsubishi’s engineers have tuned the chassis to further dampen vibration and insulate and absorb sound. There’s no gearbox – or at least not as we normally think of them – so there’s zero feel in change up or down, making for super-smooth acceleration.

Over a thorough work-out in the twisty stuff though, and it will feel spongy and soft, but yet again this isn’t designed as a sports car, and has to serve both on and off-road situations. Normal driving conditions sees the Mitsubishi do just fine. The Outlander PHEV is 200 kilos (441 lbs) heavier than the diesel, but Mitsubishi have tuned the suspension to handle the extra weight and reduce road noise. All said though, it’s a very enjoyable car to ride in, and it soaks up bad road surfaces with ease.

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Zero to sixty miles-per-hour in 11 seconds isn’t exactly face-warping stuff, but I can easily forgive this as the in-gear, rolling acceleration is impressive enough once you plant your foot firmly to the floor. Actually, even in EV mode the car pulls forward with gusto, a whole heap of torque generated from the electric motors and going directly to the wheels.

On a motorway journey, I managed an admirable 70 mph (112 km/h) using purely the electric motor for a good few miles before the engine kicked in as we went up a long hill section. Again, it’s hugely satisfying knowing you’re using exactly zero fuel.

Charging times vary depending on what system you use. At home, a 3-pin 240-volt socket means around 5 hours for a full charge, 3.5 hours on a specific EV (16A – 32A) point, and a rapid charge point – such as those found at service stations and elsewhere – will do an 80% charge in just 30 minutes. Enough time to grab an overpriced burger and a coffee, then. Two charge leads come with the car, one for domestic use and the other for EV points.

There’s also a ‘Charge’ button in the lower centre console. Pressing it will start up the petrol engine and use it as a generator to charge the car. It’s a fairly efficient system, and this along with regenerative braking means you can charge the batteries decently quickly. Over a 15 mile hop I managed to get 8 miles of charge into the batteries, so it works well.

When driving the Outlander, when you either brake or take your foot off the accelerator and coast, regenerative charging starts. A neat feature is that you can actually use either the paddles behind the steering wheel (5 settings) or shift the gear selector across (3 settings), and vary the resistance of the regenerative system. At the max setting you can slow the Outlander down surprisingly quickly, and on the lightest setting you can simply coast without any regeneration. It works well, and it’s actually a fun system to play with as you can just about get away without using the brakes if you time things right when approaching roundabouts, bends and junctions.

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If you want to save the electricity you’ve stored, next to the above-mentioned ‘Charge’ button is a ‘Save’ control – handy for when you’re running low on fuel! The ECO Mode switch on the centre console saves further energy and fuel by suppressing engine output for more gentle starts, reduces the air con load, and goes into a more efficient ‘eco’ 4 wheel drive mode.

Regarding safety equipment, on PHEV Outlanders there’s a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, 7 airbags, traction and stability control, brake assist, and hill start assist. On some of the higher models you’ll also get Forward Collision Mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. That’s a high level of equipment considering how well-priced the Outlander PHEV is.

All said, the Outlander PHEV makes way more sense than the diesel version. It drives better, seems to ride better over the bumps, is quieter, more interesting, and immensely satisfying to drive in EV mode knowing you’re saving so much money on fuel.

Price

(Figures correct Dec. ’14) Aside from the Outlander PHEV Commercial versions (no rear seats or rear side windows) which cost around £27,600 – £33,200, the normal Outlander PHEV sits from £28,249 – £34,999. These prices include the Government Plug-In Car Grant (PICG) which knocks 25% (or up to £5,000) off the price of a plug-in hybrid car, and 20% (up to £8,000) off the price of a van.

Considering the high spec, roominess, comfort level, good 4WD system, and safety tech, the Outlander PHEV has an impressively low price. If you’re a company car driver, that 5% BIK makes it extremely tempting too.

As I write this review, there are currently no plug-in hybrid SUV rivals to the Outlander PHEV, although it looks like over the next year or two (2015/16) there’ll be a swarm of them arriving as manufacturers battle furiously with each other. So, for now at least, the Outlander is an extremely competitively-priced PHEV SUV – because there is no competition.

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GX4h 2.0 PHEV verdict & score

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The Outlander PHEV makes a whole lot of sense, and you’re getting a huge amount of car for your cash. Here’s the tick list of what it does well: Short city or town commutes will cost a ridiculously low amount if you’re almost always using EV mode, and very little petrol. It’s comfortable, spacious and airy interior gives ample room for passengers, and there’s a ton of storage room in the boot too.

The only negatives I really found about the interior were that there’s a fair amount of tap-hard non-rubberised plastic trim used, which doesn’t exactly give off plush vibes, the rear central seat isn’t as comfortable as it should be thanks to the protruding armrest, and finally, that voice-only phone system is plain stupid.

Permanent 4-wheel-drive means you can keep going year-round, and gives confidence if you’re driving in other bad weather, plus it means if you do need to go off-road, the Outlander is ready for it. The drive and ride are good, and the combined torque from the engine and electric motor has decent-enough punch for when you need it, and there’s some good safety tech and a 5-star Euro NCAP rating too (watch this video showing how strong it is).

In conclusion, I think the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a great vehicle – a proper big, practical, 4WD SUV with minuscule running costs, and almost a no-brainer for the company car driver.

Do you own an Outlander PHEV or have questions about it? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7
Interior  7
Engine/EV motor  7.5
Gearbox  N/A
Price  8
Handling  7
Drive & Ride  7
AWD system  8
Overall Score  7.5 / 10

Read more of our Mitsubishi reviews here

Specs

Model (as tested)  2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GX4h 2.0 PHEV
Spec includes  Tinted rear windows, super HID front lights, remote control app, charging connectors, leather seating, sunroof, 18″ alloy wheels, rear view camera, 7″ touchscreen HD navigation and music system with Bluetooth, USB & AUX ports and DAB, dual zone climate control, front heated seats, electric-adjustable driver seat, cruise control with speed limiter, 7 airbags, brake assist, ABD with EBD,  hill-start, Acoustic vehicle alerting system See website for more info
Options you should spec  LED foglamp with daytime running light: £286.99
The Competition
Price  (Dec. ’14): £28,249 – £34,999 with PICG
Engine & hybrid  Engine: 2.0L 16-valve inline 4 cylinder DOHC MIVEC | EV sytem: 2 x 60-volt electric motors with 300-volt, 80-cell high-capacity lithium-ion battery
Power, Torque  Engine: Power: 119 bhp @ 4,500 rpm | Torque: 140 lb ft (190 Nm) @ 4,500 rpm | Electric motors: 101 lb ft (137 Nm) through the front wheels, 144 lb ft (195 Nm) at the rears. Combined torque engine & motor: 245lb/ft
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Permanent All-Wheel-Drive (Twin Motor 4WD & S-AWC) | Automatic
Ground clearance, Wading depth,  Towing Capacity  Clearance: 190 mm (7.5 inches) | Wading: N/A | Braked towing: 1,500 kg’s (3,307 lbs)
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 106 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 11.0 seconds | Euro NCAP rating: 5-stars
Fuel economy (UK mpg), Battery milage, CO2, Charge time  Combined: 148 mpg | Battery: up to 32.5 miles | CO2: 44 g/km | 240-volt domestic: Approx. 5 hours, EV point (16A – 32A): 3.5 hours, Rapid charge point: 80% full in 30 minutes
Weight (kerb)  1,810 kg’s (3,990 lbs)
Websites  Mitsubishi UK, Mitsubishi Europe, Mitsubishi Worldwide

Words: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

2 responses to “2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GX4h 2.0 PHEV review – Plug-In Hybrid SUV Makes a Lot of Sense”

  1. pedlar

    pleased with my outlander(2015) only had it a few days still checking it out so far very impressed

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