The engineers let us try an autonomous version of the PHEV that not only finds and parks itself but also selects gears from reverse, to forward and even park.

Nagoya, Japan – On a recent visit to Mitsubishi research and development centre, I was among a small group of visitors afforded the opportunity to drive the Outlander PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle).

The Outlander PHEV (an unfortunately long and awkward name) has been on sale in Asia and Europe since 2013 and it has become the best-selling PHEV utility vehicle in the world.

Unlike some electric vehicles that boast unique exterior styling to help make a statement, the Outlander PHEV looks just like the gasoline version except for subtle badging and an integrated flap that hides the charging port. At the centre, the engineers let us try an autonomous version of the PHEV that not only finds and parks itself but also selects gears from reverse, to forward and even park. Unlike other self-parking vehicles, the prototype vehicle can extract itself from the spot, all without the driver touching any of the Outlander’s controls.

Under the rear seat is where the battery pack for the 50 km of pure electric range is located. The interior of the PHEV is the same as the gasoline version, with simple and easy to use controls, plus a large centre screen surrounded by high-glass piano finish. To be honest there was not much time to enjoy the interior because the focus was out the front window and onto the steeply banked test track that surrounds the centre. This was the first time I had driven on a track like this and the sensation of being pushed into the driver seat is fun and a bit frightening.

During the high speed laps the range of the battery depleted to the point that the PHEV could no longer run on just electricity. When the electric range end is reached, the Outlander reverts to an efficient gasoline/electric hybrid model. The power goes through a continuously variable transmission and there are two electric motors, one for the front wheels and a second for the rear. The gasoline engine is a 2.4L 4-cylinder. As is the case with all electric vehicles, the ride is smooth and with no gears, the surge of power is effortlessly smooth.

What is impressive is just how well this PHEV has sold. Since there is no other electric crossover for sale by a non-premium brand means Mitsubishi has an impressive head start. This past September I noticed many of these vehicles on the road of France. Mitsubishi Motors was recently purchased by Nissan/ Renault and with combined sales of almost ten million vehicles worldwide it will be interesting to see what other electric products can be produced. What Mitsubishi achieved, as a small carmaker, is a major accomplishment. Look for the Outlander PHEV and, with luck, a refreshed version in about a year.
zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown

Power: 2.4L 4-cylinder with 2 electric motors
Fill-up: N/A
Sticker price: N/A

Mitsubishi Profile
In Canada we know Mitsubishi as the automaker and a small player at that. As part of a recent trip to Japan my eyes were opened to just how big Mitsubishi is. To be clear, Mitsubishi Motors is just one of 29 companies that fall under the Mitsubishi Group. In Japan, Mitsubishi Group accounts for ten percent of Japans entire GDP and that would translate into fifty percent of Canada’s GDP at 726 billion Canadian dollars.

Part of the trip included a stop at “M-Square”, kind of a one-stop-showcase of all that Mitsubishi Group does. Rocket, airplanes, beer, cameras, ships, cruise liners, trains, forklifts, small engines, even appliances. Yep, all made by Mitsubishi. One of the famous brands includes Nikon. I had no idea Mitsubishi owned Nikon and I’m a Nikon user. In fact, just steps from M-Square is the Nikon Museum, a worthy stop for camera geeks. Satellites are sent to space using Mitsubishi rockets and just over a year ago Mitsubishi had a maiden flight with its regional jet, similar in size to Bombardier’s CRJ.

Yes, this was way for Mitsubishi Motors Canada let us know, in turn our readers, that Mitsubishi might be small in Canada is part of a much bigger company with many tentacles. The twist is that Mitsubishi Group has recently become a minority shareholder in Mitsubishi Motors; the majority was acquired by Nissan/Renault to help bring scale to this small brand.

The commitment is keep the Mitsubishi name as a car brand, with distinctive styling and heritage. Time will tell, but the injection of outside money will help fill out the Mitsubishi lineup for us to enjoy here in Canada.

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