Given the exotic nature of the powertrain – a conventional four-cylinder 2.4-litre petrol engine combined with two battery-driven electric motors – it’s actually remarkably conventional. There's no gearshifting – just a seamless transmission of power. You can drive without doing anything special; the onboard 'brains' will decide when the electric motors should contribute to your progress or convert themselves into generators to recharge the battery when its charge has nearly run out.
If you want to, you can decide (via console switches) when to recharge the batteries, when to use electric drive only and when to ensure all four wheels are being driven.
On the move, the Outlander is easy and relatively pleasant to drive. Refinement is very good at low speeds, while the electric motors do the work of moving the car. The 2.4-litre engine is quiet and refined, only becoming audible under heavy acceleration.
The car can travel at speeds of up to 84mph in full electric mode, meaning small jaunts on the motorway without waking up the petrol engine are possible. But given that the car's claimed 28-mile electric-only range will fall by a large margin at motorway pace, pure electric running is most effective during trips around town.
A Sport driving mode (which can be selected via a button on the centre console) sharpens the car’s throttle response and adds weight to its steering, but in reality it doesn’t make the Outlander any more engaging to drive. Even under full acceleration, the Outlander fails to deliver the kind of effortless pace associated with a more traditional diesel engine.
The same goes for the Outlander’s handling. Compared with other SUVs such as the Skoda Kodiaq, it feels less agile, generating plenty of lean through quicker corners, while the steering lacks the accuracy we’ve come to expect from the latest crop of modern SUVs. This is a car that feels best when wafting along at a relaxed and comfortable pace.
But surely the Outlander’s soft suspension results in a more supple ride than that of sportier rivals? Well, yes and no. At higher speeds, the Outlander does a reasonable job of dealing with long-wave undulations. However, around town, sharp abrasions such as expansion joints and potholes send jarring impacts through the interior.