Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid: Gas Mileage Drive Report

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The Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid isn't a "forbidden fruit", but it sure feels like one to American customers right now.

A series of delays has pushed its on-sale date to fall 2015, almost two years after it debuted in Japan and a full year after it went on sale in Europe.

Luckily, that European availability means we've been able to get behind the wheel for a week to test the Outlander's viability in day-to-day driving.

The look

Mitsubishi designed the latest-generation Outlander to use plug-in power from the outset, so in terms of first impressions it has exactly the same impact as the regular car.

If we were being unkind, we'd say that's "not a lot", since the Outlander isn't the most striking of vehicles.

But in dark gray metallic paintwork with attractive brushed-finish alloy wheels and some subtle chrome detailing, the Outlander PHEV actually looks rather handsome.

It's a similar story inside, where this high-end model features leather seats and a sunroof to give the cabin a lift. The design is unremarkable but it's simple and clear enough to avoid causing confusion or offense.

Exterior changes for the plug-in model amount to some blue-colored "Plug-In Hybrid EV" badging and inside, there's just a splash of white technical-patterned plastic.

You'll also note the absence of a tachometer, replaced with a charge and assistance "swingometer", the unusually-shaped joystick-style drive selector, and some extra options for the central touchscreen display and the smaller display in the gauge cluster.

Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid - UK version

Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid - UK version

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The technical stuff

Those displays give you a good idea of what's going on under the Outlander's skin.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder and a 60 kW (80 horsepower) electric motor. It's interesting to note that visually, the engine is almost apologetically hidden in the engine bay, while the electric components get a bright silver-colored cover.

At the rear wheels is another 60 kW electric motor. This gives the Outlander PHEV part-time all-wheel drive, but also a series of options as to what can power the car at any one time. The official 0-62mph time is 11 seconds.

A 12 kWh lithium-ion battery pack sits below the passenger compartment at the center of the car. This not only means trunk space is uncompromised next to gasoline (or diesel) models, but also results in a low center of gravity for better handling. Charging takes five hours from empty at 220-240V.

The car defaults to EV mode in normal driving, during which one or typically both of the motors power the vehicle along.

ALSO READ: Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid, More Details And Photos

Call upon a little more power and the engine kicks in as a generator, in series hybrid mode. This will charge the battery if it gets low, or help maintain charge when extra power is required--climbing hills, passing vehicles and so-on.

Reach higher speeds or accelerate hard, and the car switches to parallel hybrid mode. The engine provides most of the power here with electric assistance. It can, occasionally, power the car on its own--if you're accelerating hard and there's not enough battery charge for extra assistance, for example.

Beyond these three modes, drivers also get a "save" mode to hold ten miles or so of electric range for entering urban centers, and a "charge" mode which draws some of the engine's power to recharge a depleted battery.

Further driving options are available by way of the "B" transmission position. In drive, clicking the joystick towards you enables heavier regenerative braking, the strength of which can be adjusted in five positions using paddles behind the steering wheel.

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