This is the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It’s a new plug-in hybrid version of the company's Mazda CX-5 rival, and it's powered by both a 2.0-litre petrol engine and two electric motors – the second of which powers the rear wheels, giving four-wheel drive capability.
You can plug in, charge up and use electric power alone for short trips, and then rely on the petrol engine to take you further afield. According to the official government figures, this makes the PHEV capable of 148mpg, but even Mitsubishi is throwing a pinch of salt at this because of the unrealistic way the official tests are conducted. Real-world mpg is still mightily impressive, according to the company's in-house tests, though.
The Outlander PHEV should, in theory, be ideal for anyone who does mainly shorter trips, with the occasional venture further afield. Anyone who regularly bashes the motorways will be better off with the standard diesel Outlander, and that’s exactly what Mitsubishi will be telling potential customers when the car goes on sale in April.
Mind you, company car drivers will see a sizeable tax benefit from the 44g/km official CO2 output, while regular visitors to Central London will enjoy exemption from the Congestion Charge.
What’s the 2014 Mitsubushi Outlander PHEV like to drive?
If you’re used to a more conventional car, it’s going to be an odd feeling put the auto ‘box into ‘D’ and driving an Outlander in electric mode for the first time. You glide along silently with seamless and effortless propulsion every time you push the accerator pedal.
You can, in theory, do up to 70mph on pure battery power. However, this will deplete the battery far quicker than the maximum 32.5-mile range that Mitsubishi quotes.
It's far better to let the car work out the optimal power source to use, because it flits imperceptibly between petrol and electric power, and even when running, the 2.0-litre petrol engine is impressively quiet. Or you can press a button that forces the PHEV to hold its charge for a more appropriate time – useful, say, when you need to do a motorway jaunt before heading into the city. You can even use the petrol engine to top the battery up to 70%.
You can also determine the level of brake regeneration – which boosts battery power, using the otherwise wasted energy from stopping. There are five settings – which can be selected using the steering wheel-mounted paddles – on its most severe setting, you can achieve maximum regeneration but there is a pronounced feeling of ‘engine’ braking.
In other respects, the PHEV drives much like a regular Outlander, feeling stable and refined at motorway speeds and handling well on twistier roads. However, the ride is a little choppy, and because of the silence of the powertrain at low speeds, you're more aware of other noises.
What's the 2014 Mitsubushi Outlander PHEV like inside?
There are SUVs with better quality cabins. There are SUVs with more user-friendly layouts.
However, the Outlander gets a lot of the basics right. The driving position will be spot on for most and it affords a commanding view out of the front and decent over-the-shoulder visibility, too.
All of the major controls are conveniently placed and easy to use, even if the infotainment system doesn't look as well integrated as in some systems.
Mind you, the screen does have easy-to-read graphics (unique to the PHEV), displaying info such as pure electric range and whether you're being propelled by electric power or the petrol engine. It's great, because you find yourself incentivised to drive as economically as possible.
Elsewhere, there's plenty of space for five. Unlike regular versions, though, there isn't a seven-seat option; an electric motor robs the space the third row would otherwise be located. Mind you, boot space is near identical and generous.
Should I buy one?
It will be a masterstroke of Mitsubishi's if they manage to keep the price of the PHEV Outlander within shouting distance of the diesel version.
With most other similar technologies, such as diesel-hybid Volvo V60, the price is so high it wipes out most of the company car tax advantage you gain from the ultra-low CO2 output.
The Outlander, though, is a seriously good proposition if you are paying company car tax as it commands only a 5% premium. Even the cleanest cars cars are charged at 13%.
Being able to use only electric power for short journeys will also pay dividends if the bulk of your usage is for shopping and school runs too - assuming you have easy access to a charging point.
If you meet the criteria for a plug-in Outlander, then, it's a seriously tempting proposition.
What Car? says...
Engine size 2.0-litre petrol plus two electric motors
Power 200bhp (est.)
Torque 249lb ft (est.)
0-62mph 11.0 seconds
Top speed 106mph
Fuel economy 148.0mpg (official combined)