Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid: Quick Drive

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Aside from the all-electric Toyota RAV4 EV, there's a distinct lack of plug-in crossovers and SUVs on the market right now.

Mitsubishi was hoping to change that with its Outlander Plug-In Hybrid, but battery issues and legislative delays mean it could be early 2016 before the car hits American roads.

Thankfully for us, it's already available elsewhere--and we've grabbed half an hour with the car at an event in the UK to bring you our first impressions.

The Outlander Plug-In Hybrid (or PHEV) makes use of a 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine and twin electric motor setup, drawing on Mitsubishi's electric vehicle knowledge from the i-MiEV city car.

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Each motor is based on those found in the i-MiEV, but tweaked for a higher output--60 kW (80 horsepower), with 101 lb-ft of torque for the front-mounted electric motor and 143 lb-ft at the rear.

At the front, the motor works through a clutch that switches between electric and engine power, through a reduction-gear transaxle. At the rear, with no mechanical connection, power goes through a reduction gear alone.

With no pesky driveshaft to work around, the Outlander's 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack sits right at the center of the car, below the passenger compartment. The fuel tank is behind this, there's an inverter at each end, and a generator sits in the engine bay allowing the engine to power the battery pack when required.

Sounds complicated, but the net result is--according to European figures--an all-electric range of 32.5 miles, an all-electric top speed of 75 mph, and a total gasoline and electric range of over 500 miles.

In 30 minutes we weren't able to put all of those numbers to the test, but the car can certainly cruise at highway speeds on electric power alone when required. The twin electric motors also offer brisk acceleration, though if you require "full speed ahead" the gasoline engine does come into play.

When it does so, you get a typical CVT-style flare of revs, though it's a long way from being intrusive--as engines go it's a quiet, well-insulated one.

There is, like all plug-in cars, a pure EV mode, which works as you'd expect. There are also charge and hold mode switches, the first using the engine to boost battery charge (and therefore keeping the engine on, regardless of speed) and the hold mode to limit EV mode use for lower-speed requirements, such as city driving.

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