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The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a good entry into electric driving

It’s easy to be a Philippine EV pioneer with this car

The Outlander PHEV is a great choice for families looking to embrace the electrified lifestyle without the worries of range anxiety. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

A growing number of motorists on our shores are getting interested in electric vehicles, and that’s great. With the charging network still in its infancy, however, a good chunk of potential buyers suffer from (perceived) range anxiety or simply have nowhere to charge a proper BEV overnight.

For them, a plug-in hybrid might be a good solution. It provides the best of both worlds while making sure they never run out of electric juice. We took Mitsubishi’s latest offering in this segment for a spin, in the shape of the Outlander PHEV.

If you were to pick one vehicle to drive around the country, this would be it. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

As with all road tests, we didn’t just tootle out of town on a leisurely photo drive, but instead used the car as an everyday workhorse for a week. From daily commutes to shopping trips and a fully loaded up out-of-town journey with the extended family, the Outlander had to prove its worth under a variety of conditions. What mattered most for this review wasn’t the 0-100km/h figure or the number of horses under the hood.

Those specs are mostly meaningless in megacity traffic anyway. What mattered was a different set of features. One you won’t find in the sales brochure. I call it the car’s “Manilability.” Does this two-hearted Japanese eco-warrior have what it takes to take on the relentless battlefield that is Metro Manila traffic?

Despite its electrified drivetrain, there's enough cabin space to comfortably shuttle a family and cargo around. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

In one word: yes. The high-up seating position and the sleek design ensure good visibility; its overall size is reasonable and below that of road-legal oil tankers; and the various cameras (360° as well as forward and rear ones) are great for getting out of tight spots.

The steering is hamster-steers-a-truck light at slow speeds and reassuringly firm when you go faster; the suspension gives a comfortable ride even with the one million speed bumps in my neighborhood; and the fact you have EV power at your disposal provides you the ultimate rush-hour party trick. If you’ve never driven an EV, then let me explain.

This car isn't as docile and boring as you might think it to be. PHOTO FROM FRANK SCHUENGEL

Unlike petrol or diesel engines that only give you peak va va voom at certain revs, electric cars give you all of the oomph all of the time. To go rush-hour gap-hunting and make the necks of your passengers snap back in surprise, all you have to do is hit the magic blue button labeled Sport, and this harmless-looking family carrier switches into “Samurai” mode.

In Sport mode, it gives you as much combined EV and petrol power as fast as it can. Hit the pedal and it’s instant go time with speed and agility nobody onboard or around you will expect. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to have that lovely EV punch at my disposal, and leave drivers of more powerful cars scratching their heads about just how exactly I managed to outsprint them with such ease.

The beauty of a PHEV is that it can drive fully electric for at least part of the journey, and therefore gives you that wonderful silent and smooth electric driving experience. If you’ve never tried it, then you really should. Gliding silently out of the subdivision where we live in Mandaluyong, with no risk of waking anyone up at 6am, feel incredibly polite and sophisticated. You’re welcome, dear neighbors.

If there's nowhere to charge, you don't need to worry—the gasoline engine can both propel and charge the vehicle. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

If you buy this car now, you will be part of the growing number of EV pioneers in the country while still having the reassurance of a petrol engine until the charging network gets better. That means you can take advantage of the early-adopter perks such as free fuel. Free electric fuel, that is, and the same comes in a number of ways.

Firstly, from the car itself, of course. Using regenerative braking, the Outlander fills the battery with free juice every time you slow down, and shows you by how much with the multi-display on the dash. Take it from an EV driver that the joy of seeing free fuel being generated in front of your very eyes never gets old.

Yes, there are charging stations in the Philippines already, but it's not exactly a smooth experience. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

Then there are the free charging stations that are currently springing up in some locations. Get yourself a Type 2 adapter and you can rock up at some of the SM malls with charging bays, such as SM Mall of Asia. Not only do you get VIP-style parking right at the entrance, but you can also recharge for free while shopping.

We also tried the Unioil EV charging station on EDSA, which pumps out a tidy 50kWh and should get you a full battery quite quickly. While it does have the right connector (CHAdeMO), the terminal threw an error message when we tried it. It’s still early stages, and we expect these issues to be ironed out by now.

There's a reason that this is Japan's best-selling PHEV. PHOTO BY FRANK SCHUENGEL

With ultra-low emissions, all-wheel drive, a smooth ride, plenty of space, and no range anxiety to worry about, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV offers a great way to dip your toe into the sea of alternative-fuel vehicles, and be gentler to the planet. It’s yours for P2.998 million from Mitsubishi Motors Philippines.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.