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"It's the Package."

When any of the disgustingly young F1 drivers are asked what is the most significant component of success on the track, they inevitably fake disinterest in claiming it's their rare talent, and gather the entire team into the glow of recognition by assigning credit to, "the package."

In truth, although they've been schooled to follow that line, it's almost always correct. The late Colin Chapman was once asked about the key to his team's record of race wins. His reply - "It's a Lotus."

So it is with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

Here's what it isn't:

  • the fastest electric vehicle.

  • the largest SUV

  • the best equipped family 5-seater

  • the widest range of digital features and driver aids

  • the longest electric range

  • the best handling family transport

But in spite of that list of fall-shorts and almosts, each component of the car found its way into my personal preferences as a great intermediate 'package.' As a pioneer it doesn't cut it, but as a stepping stone to an all-electric future, Mitsubishi has nailed it.

I've driven most electric vehicles and the range issue, although largely in the driver's head with Tesla, still irritates, and will continue to do so, not so much until the infrastructure is in place but rather until we change our thinking and attitudes.

Right now we can find a fuel servo in a couple of corners if we leave it a bit light on before an important appointment. You simply can't get away with that in any EV. You have to top up overnight, and in the case of the Hyundai Ioniq, one of my favourite EVs from a dynamics point of view, during the day as well if you're a frequent user.

But there's none of that with the PHEV. If you've been smart enough to plug it in overnight, or at least for 5-6 hours, you'll get to most places in Perth from home using around 92% electric.

There are two power plants under here - petrol and electric.

The 4-cylinder engine will join in through a pretty tricky transaxle arrangement if you're pressing the loud pedal a lot, but mostly it just drives a generator when the software tells it to top up the charge a bit. The best part of the PHEV is the transition from EV, to EV combo, or all petrol is absolutely seamless. Try as I might, the only way I could tell what was happening under the bonnet was looking at the EV energy source dial and perhaps faintly hearing the petrol engine rev a bit.

Such a balance of features takes a lot of planning and design smarts. The alliance with Renault is likely to see the PHEV tech morphing across to the parent pretty sharpish.

Looking at the car as an SUV I could find nothing that I felt compromised its role as a big family hold-all, other than the rear floor being a bit higher than normal. This is because of the extra driveline between the rear wheels. The battery pack itself is mid-mounted. However, few SUV's, if any, are ever loaded up to the gills anyway.

The best part is driving the car is entirely conventional. Any family member with a license will feel right at home. For the entire week I used three night's worth of mains power and a quarter of a tank of petrol. Just look at those fuel figures in the table below. And I never fretted once about getting stuck.

Inside the PHEV it's pretty much high-grade Outlander spec, which includes all that's expected of a contemporary passenger vehicle. Everything is connected, every driving control has an electronic angel looking over the driver's shoulder, and every human whim is catered for.

Sure it's a bit plasticky, but it looks quality and is certainly comfortable. Traffic delays weren't a problem and cruising was oh so quiet.

In short, the eventual deletion of the petrol engine, addition of a swag more battery capacity and perhaps a fuel cell isn't going to make the Outlander PHEV all that more unique and progressive. It's actually already there.

Meantime, as the F1 driver would say, "it's the package that makes everything work together well."

Models: Mitsubishi Outlander AWD PHEV ES; ES ADAS; Exceed

Price: $47,390; $48,390; $56,390

Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol

Output: 94 kW/199Nm

Transmission: One-speed

Fuel: 1.9L/100km (ADR Combined)

CO2: 43g/km (ADR Combined)

Safety rating: Five-star ANCAP

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