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This Frankenstein of a vehicle was always going to happen. It all began with the i-MiEV Evolution that ran up Pikes Peak last year, and lessons gained from that car are now practised here. You’re looking at the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, or to stretch out its name in full, the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. It is the world’s first SUV that fuses EV technologies with 4WD capabilities.

The underlying concept is easy to understand. One could think that the Outlander PHEV is the love child of the i-MiEV and the Lancer Evolution – in that the SUV takes on the characteristics of an EV, with the four-wheel drive system of Mitsubishi’s once-hottest car.

The Outlander PHEV looks like any other current-gen Outlander, save for a few adjustments. But, because we don’t get to see the Outlander often, I’ll run the list down for you. The front upper/middle grille and rear combination LED lamps with clear lenses are specially-designed, while the bumpers and lower body are sprayed in body colour. The machine-polished 18-inch wheels are aluminium, made exclusively for the PHEV, with the exception of the base E trim that seems to be the stripped-out spec.

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If you think the Pajero Sport is somewhat large, you’ll also feel the same way about the Outlander. The measurement tape stops at 4,655 mm for length, 1,800 mm for width and 1,680 mm for height, while the wheelbase measures 2,670 mm long. Depending on trim, it weighs between 1,770 kg to 1,820 kg.

Pry open the doors and the first things that greet you are the seats. They are pencilled exclusively for the Outlander PHEV, and upholstered in artificial leather and fabric, with silver stitching. The G Premium Package gets genuine leather, power adjustments and heating. Both seats do hold on to the torso rather well, but goes out of sorts when pushed through tight turns.

Right about now, I should also mention that the E trim does not get the nifty Rockford Fosgate Premium Sound System that’s standard on the G Premium Package and an option for the G Navi Package and G trim levels. Outlander PHEVs fitted with this see six speakers, a subwoofer and a 710 watt, eight-channel amp with a high-end Aereus 32-bit DSP and a Burr-Brown 24-bit D/A converter. Audiophiles should appreciate this, yes?

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Let’s continue by looking to the front, where the new crystal-fibre-like dashboard holds the high-contrast meter cluster that now hosts a power meter, which, in turn, displays how much energy is being employed and recharged. Off to the middle, you’ll find an HD LCD multi-information display system that gives you access to the e-Assist, eco-driving support data, route guidance information linked to the satnav and vehicle energy flow data. The ECO Mode you see here comes standard in all Outlander variants, not just the PHEV.

It also becomes the display for the camera, stuck in an odd angle to the bottom of the left-side wing mirror. Now, you might think that it should point behind and that it is used mainly to eliminate the blind spot, but no. The camera points to the front left fender of the vehicle so you can see what’s making the front left tyre feel squishy.

Still on the quirky, there are paddle shifters in here, but it doesn’t work as you’d think. Since this SUV has no gear ratios, the paddle shifters let you select the Outlander’s regenerative braking level. Odd, because the paddle shifters now slow the car down instead of making it go faster. So, the left paddle is used to decrease deceleration, thus taking a longer time to regenerate, as opposed to the right paddle that increases deceleration to cut short regeneration time.

Overall, it isn’t an entirely bad place to be in, the Outlander PHEV. Close the door, and it goes all hushed, save for the whine of the rear motor on the go. The reason being that it is harder to soundproof the boot, compared to the front. Seating position, especially for the driver, is high and it feels very much like other Mitsubishi SUVs.

Instead of being as flat as a sheer cliff, the dashboard contorts itself towards the driver. So, the driver has two air-conditioning vents blowing air into his/her face. Now, depending on the trim, you can have natural light invading the cabin via a sunroof.

Slip the gear to D – the selector lever’s layout mirrors that of the Prius – and you’re ready to go. There are no gear ratios or a CVT unit to rob power away from you. The electricity flows from the battery to both transaxles, and then to the individual motors that are tacked to each axle. Machined to the transaxle is a simple single-speed fixed reduction gear that doesn’t need to do the paperwork to gain momentum. No, it isn’t a transmission in the traditional sense, and it’s not a CVT unit either.

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The smaller front motor outputs 60 kW and 137 Nm of torque. The rear, being a larger unit, puts 195 Nm of instant acceleration to the rear wheels, although it shares the 60 kW power rating of the front motor. Supplying power to the motors is a 300 volt, 80-cell lithium-ion battery with a 12 kWh total storage capacity. The package is powerful enough to let the SUV sustain a speed of 120 km/h without needing help from the petrol engine. So, the power flows from the battery to the electric motors to the wheels and it’s a go.

The first and definite thing you’ll notice is the whine of the motor, specifically from the rear, and that’s all. OK, maybe some tyre noise too. But the petrol engine stays gagged and asleep, and will only come alive when there is need to assist the electric motor. Yes, I did say ‘assist the electric motor’; a regular hybrid works the other way round – electric motors assist the petrol engine.

Acceleration is eye-blink instant. All the weight of the mass suddenly seem to disappear. Then, it seems to settle down on an even plane. By now, it’s moving at city speeds, still being powered by electricity alone. And it’s the same up to 120 km/h.

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Ah, I’ve almost forgotten to mention the petrol engine. The mill is a 2.0 litre MIVEC engine that produces 118 PS at 4,500 rpm and 186 Nm at 4,500 rpm. The figures don’t matter because the main task of the engine is to recharge the battery when on the go – a setting known as the Series Hybrid Mode.

But when the SUV starts scaling up an incline, the engine kicks to life to ensure the PHEV keeps moving. This is known as the Parallel Hybrid Mode. With all things taken into account, the Outlander PHEV spends most its time being an electric vehicle. Impressive.

The switch from one drive mode to the other – there are three in total – is also quite seamless, to the point I have no idea if the engine has woken up, unless I stand on the go-pedal, at which the engine roars to power. Mitsubishi says that it has built-in a clutch into the front axles that lets the engine come in at whatever speed the SUV is currently moving in. Se, there are no jerks or loss of momentum when the engine joins in the fun.

All things considered, the Outlander PHEV has a plug-in cruising range of 60 km, or 897 km when you add everything up. When driven in the most fuel efficient manner, one can get 67.0 km/l – yes, that number is not a typo. Still, its hybrid fuel efficiency is rated at 18.6 km/l, which is something you cannot pooh-pooh at.

The handling is respectably good – steering inputs are spot on, and its responsiveness is well appreciated. You’ll also feel the weight of the SUV as you nip it into the corner. The only complaint here is that the steering lacks feedback – even so, I’m pushing the car around a race track, so the smooth tarmac does not provide the most accurate litmus paper.

That said, there is some body roll to contend with. This is a tall vehicle after all, in spite of the 30 mm-drop from the conversion from the petrol Outlander to the Outlander PHEV. In fact, the ride has been tuned for plush and quality, both of which I only got a glimpse of in the midst of trying to hit every apex of the Mobara Twin Ring.

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Still, it needs to be said that the Outlander PHEV had just recently completed the Asia Cross Country Rally 2013 that ran from Pattaya in Thailand to Pakse in Laos, in its near standard form. Only a roll cage and some reinforcements were added, in compliance to the regulations. So, there’s proof of its capabilities.

Aside from the usual going from Point A to B and rolling over small rodents, the Outlander PHEV also has additional uses. In the boot, which has no space for a spare tyre, you can find a 100 volt AC power supply plug. Fully charged and with the petrol engine recharging the battery, the SUV can produce up to 1,500 watts of 100 volt electricity to ordinary home appliances up to 10 days. It’s something you’d appreciate when out on a picnic or camping.

Versatility, then, is its strongest point. Excellent range, 4WD capability and its potential as a temporary power station make the Outlander PHEV one of the most useful SUVs that ordinary money can buy, and then some. So, when can you really buy one? If the approval process takes as long as the i-MiEV, then we’re likely to see the Outlander PHEV on our shores by 2015. We’re crossing our fingers for an earlier launch date.