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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV breathes new life into old horse (pictures)

Mitsubishi unveiled a plug-in hybrid version of its updated Outlander model at the 2012 Paris Motor Show, complete with all-wheel drive. The new vehicle could help Mitsubishi in the U.S. market, where hybrid SUV competition is limited.

Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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At this year's Geneva auto show, Mitsubishi showed off its updated Outlander SUV model. Now, at the Paris Motor Show, Mitsubishi unveiled a new version of this Outlander with a hybrid gasoline-electric drive system. The vehicle will launch in Japan next year, with other markets, including North America, to follow. In the U.S., it would face off against the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and VW Touareg Hybrid, likely undercutting both in price.
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The right rear fender hosts two plug-in ports, one for standard 240-volt charging and the other for fast charging. Mitsubishi says that it would take about 4 hours to charge from a 240-volt source and 30 minutes on a fast charger. As a plug-in hybrid, the Outlander can drive under pure electric power or a combination of electric and gasoline.
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The left rear fender hosts the fuel filler port. With the batteries full, the Outlander can drive about 34 miles on electricity only. Taking its gas tank into account, total range would be 546 miles. Mitsubishi quotes a target fuel economy of 143 mpg, but that is based on the Japanese JC08 test cycle. The numbers would be different under U.S. EPA testing.
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The drive system for the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid uses Mitsubishi's variable valve timed 2-liter four-cylinder engine, combined with two 60-kilowatt electric motors, one on each axle, and a 12-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack. Mitsubishi has gained experience with electric drive systems through its i-Miev model, and uses similar technology for the Outlander.
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The Outlander Plug-in Hybrid loses no cargo space despite its battery pack. As an SUV, the Outlander features three-row seating and voluminous cargo space.
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The Outlander Plug-in Hybrid features three drive modes, the first being as a purely electric vehicle. When the batteries become depleted, it automatically goes into a range extender mode, where the engine fires up to primarily work as a generator. Under heavy loads, the engine takes over as the main driving force for the wheels, with the electric motors providing assist, similar to Toyota's hybrid system.
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Mitsubishi calls the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid's all-wheel-drive system Twin Motor 4WD, because it relies on electric motors at each axle to regulate torque. The system relies on Mitsubishi's development of its Super-All Wheel Control system used in the Evo cars.

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