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Geneva show: Mitsubishi reviews new Outlander range

Risk-avoidance: As well as new safety systems, the next-generation Outlander sports conservative styling.

Hybrid Outlander set to replace diesel as Mitsubishi plans new Outlander SUV range

8 Mar 2012

MITSUBISHI has revealed it will launch the plug-in hybrid version of its new Outlander in Australia in April 2013 – four months after the regular petrol-powered version of the mid-size SUV.

The innovative hybrid Outlander, which has three distinct drive modes, could possibly come here at the expense of a diesel variant.

Revealed in production form at this week’s Geneva motor show, the third-generation Outlander wagon will be launched in Australia in December, initially only with petrol power and potentially only four-cylinder.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (MMAL) corporate communications manager Caitlin Beale said the company was still discussing powertrain options with head office in Japan.

The current model features two petrol engines in Australia – a 2.4-litre four-cylinder and a 3.0-litre V6 with 4WD only – but the V6 accounts for only 10 per cent of Outlander sales locally and could make way for the introduction of a turbo-diesel.

Ms Beale said the diesel – which accounts for 15 per cent of sales globally – remains “unconfirmed” as MMAL works through various supply issues with the factory.

21 center imageAs revealed in Geneva, the new Outlander in production form has stayed true to the style of the PX-MiEV II concept hybrid vehicle shown at the Tokyo motor show in November, including a distinctive ‘solid’ grille between the headlights with hockey-stick motifs.

European-market models will be powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces only 110kW of power at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque from 4100rpm – much less than the 125kW and 226Nm of our 2.4-litre unit – or a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that also produces 110kW (at 3500rpm) but a hefty 360Nm at 1500-2750rpm.

Both are available with an idle-stop function.

While the petrol model makes do with a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT), the diesel comes with a six-speed manual or a new six-speed auto.

To be built in Russia, the European model will go on sale first in that country during the northern hemisphere summer, followed by other European countries, then Japan, Oceania, China and North America.

The third-generation Outlander runs on the same 2670mm wheelbase as the outgoing model, is the same 1800mm wide and 1680mm high (plus 40mm for the roof-rails that are standard in Australia), but is 10mm longer than before at 4665mm.

With fold-flat second-row seats that provide a more useable cargo area, Mitsubishi claims the load length is 335mm longer than the current model and easier to access due to the adoption of a powered one-piece tailgate.

Other features appearing for the first time on Outlander include adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, more powerful “wide-vision” Xenon headlights and a collision-avoidance system that automatically applies the brakes when it detects an object ahead.

It will also introduce dual-zone air-conditioning, a 50/50 split-fold rear seat and reach adjustment for the steering wheel (the current model only tilts).

Mitsubishi said the plug-in hybrid version would initially go on sale in Japan later this year, followed by Europe and other markets in 2013.

The Outlander Hybrid has an innovative flexible drivetrain configuration that enables it to operate in electric-only mode, as a range-extender or with petrol engine power direct to the wheels.

It was briefly tested by GoAuto late last year in Japan, where we found it to operate smoothly, even in prototype form.

In pure ‘EV’ form, two 60kW electric motors (front and rear) drive all four wheels independently according to conditions, with a range of up to 50km.

As a ‘Series hybrid’, a 70kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine acts as a generator, recharging the batteries on the move once charge levels drop below a certain point, range-extender style.

And in ‘Parallel hybrid’ mode, the petrol engine drives the front wheels with or without help from the electric motors at higher speeds or when strong acceleration is required.

The first-generation Outlander was launched globally in June 2001, but did not come to Australia until February 2003, when it replaced the slow-selling Pajero iO as a rival to compact SUV favourites such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester.

A slightly larger second-generation model was released in late 2006 and heavily revised three years later with new Evo-look front-end styling.

Outlander has been a consistent if unspectacular performer for Mitsubishi, last year racking up 7599 sales (down 11.0 per cent on the previous year) to be the brand’s third-highest-selling model, though well behind the Lancer small car and Triton ute.

Outlander finished seventh in the competitive compact SUV market last year behind Forester (13,142), RAV4 (13,125), Nissan X-Trail (12,089), Hyundai ix35 (11,487), Mazda CX-7 (9714) and Nissan Dualis (9214).

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