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I first saw the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV—the world’s first plug-in hybrid-electric SUV—in the metal when I was in Japan for the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. Four years have gone by before I could finally get behind the wheel of this groundbreaking vehicle and take it out on a spin on local roads.

I’m always giddy when I get to test drive any vehicle that could run on alternative fuel sources. I’ve had my fair share of these hybrids and pure EVs in recent years—some from Japan or Korea, or even from Europe, others from emerging global automotive powerhouse China—but I still feel that the presence of hybrids and EVs in the Philippines is still sorely lacking. I do strongly support automotive technologies that could eventually reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but public perception as well as government inaction has kept hybrids and EVs, which have become practically everyday cars in other developed countries, still just a mere novelty here.

Nonetheless, I still view hybrids and EVs such as the Outlander PHEV as the future of a less destructive and sustainable motoring in the country. It’s just a question of “when”.

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp has done its part to push the use and acceptance of hybrids and EVs forward. Years before the Outlander PHEV rolled onto our shores, the company shipped in an i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) hatchback—the world’s first highway-capable mass production electric car—to try on local roads. Though the future of the i-MiEV becoming commercially available in our market is yet unknown, the Outlander PHEV—which represents the fusion of EV technologies developed by Mitsubishi Motors Corp in Japan for models such as the i-MiEV, Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) technologies honed in the Lancer Evolution, and SUV know-how gained from the Pajero—has broken through the “trial run” barrier and has, indeed, become available for the Filipino motoring public.

In a nutshell, the Outlander PHEV is a wonderful drive. Apart from the subdued elegance of its exterior design, the Outlander’s responsive acceleration was among the first impressions of the vehicle that took me by surprise. It was hard to resist the temptation of flooring it every time the red turned to green at traffic stops.

Looking at the dashboard and display monitor, I also got the impression that the Outlander was generous in giving out energy consumption information and insights, and mighty proud of it. The 8-inch Smartphone-Link Display Audio (SDA) system monitors energy and fuel (during my drives, the fuel efficiency readouts displayed a range of 4 to 9 liters per 100km), trip distances, fuel efficiency histories, ratios of EV energy outputs to gasoline consumption, etc. The occupants could also patch their mobile devices via Bluetooth for easy connectivity. The Outlander PHEV can supply up to 1500W of power from two onboard outlets, making charging laptops, gadgets, and even powering up appliances possible.

The Outlander PHEV may be classified as a compact SUV, but it can comfortably seat 5 adults with flexible seat configurations to accommodate various cargo requirements. A maximum 1,602 liters of space is available when the 2nd row is folded. Complementing this interior spaciousness is the sunroof, which also makes the SUV an ideal vehicle to use during the pandemic, as various studies have shown that opening windows or the sunroof can help minimize occupants’ risk of getting the Covid virus from their onboard companions. Opening the sunroof even just partially makes it unnecessary to open your windows.

My biggest takeaway from the Outlander PHEV interior is that no genuine leather or animal skin was used to wrap the seats, steering wheel, and dashboard, which makes this PHEV not only sustainable but cruelty-free.

There are other nifty tech touches that make driving the Outlander PHEV an enjoyable and convenient experience, such as the electric tailgate, rear view camera, ultrasonic misacceleration mitigation system (to prevent sudden inadvertent acceleration) during parking, reversing sensor system, parking sensors, charging lid, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

For added driving safety, the Outlander PHEV is equipped with Blind Spot Warning (BSW) and Lane Change Assist, and the Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The side view mirrors, the dashboard and the 8-inch monitor also had visual indicators (aside from audible warnings).

Those are on top of the Outlander PHEV’s safety highlights, such as: The adaptive cruise control (ACC) system, which employs radar technology to judge distance from the vehicle ahead and accelerate, slow down or stop to maintain a safe driving distance; the radar and camera-based forward collision mitigation (FCM) system designed to prevent or reduce collision damage by warning the driver and automatically applying brakes once it detects vehicles ahead or pedestrians to be in an unsafe distance; automatic high beam (AHB), which automatically switches the headlamp to low beam when another car from the opposite lane approaches, then reverts back to high beam after it passes, and; rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), which uses a radar sensor unit to warn the driver of vehicles approaching from either side while backing up.

This suite of passive and active safety features has earned the Outlander PHEV the maximum 5-star rating from the New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP).

Ultimately, what makes the Outlander truly stand out is its PHEV powerplant, or shall we say powerplants. This compact SUV essentially runs on two motors—an electric one powered by a 13.8-kWh large-capacity battery, and a fuel-efficient 2.4-liter gasoline engine. This twin-motor 4WD system delivers power independently to the front and rear wheels, with an engine power output of 128 PS and 199 Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm. The Outlander PHEV’s maximum electric motor output is 60kW for the front and 70kW for the rear. Matched with a Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) integrated vehicle dynamics control system, Active Yaw Control (AYC), Active Stability Control (ASC) and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), the Outlander PHEV did, indeed, give me that stable and responsive handling that could instantly adapt to various road conditions. With a full charge, the Outlander PHEV can go on sole EV mode for up to 55km. This, however, I did not get to try as the test unit didn’t come with a socket adaptor to enable full charging.

For its looks, performance, sustainability, and fuel efficiency alone, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV checks all the boxes of a conscientious, upwardly mobile young urban professional with an eye for the future of humanity’s continued existence. The thing is, the price may be the single biggest hurdle to making the sale. At P2.998 million, the Outlander PHEV already goes into the realm of bigger and badder SUVs. Some would even say they can almost buy two conventional subcompact cars that burn less fossil fuels with that price.

It’s indeed a hard sell, and I pray that forces outside of the car market (I’m looking at you, government) finally work their magic to give hybrids, PHEVs, and EVs a level playing field, at least in the price wars.

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