It's not very often a car comes along with the promise of 'changing the game' – but that's exactly what Mitsubishi believes its new plug-in hybrid Outlander will do. We took it for a spin on and off road to see if we can believe the hype.

What is it?

It's an SUV with a seriously clever powertrain that combines a 2.0-litre petrol unit with battery technology. On pure electric power, the car can travel up to 32 miles – even at motorway speeds – and when the batteries are depleted an engine takes over to keep you motoring. All that clever technology has huge benefits too such as no road tax, Congestion Charge exemption, and just five per cent BIK for company car drivers. But that's not all – you get all this with no price premium over the equivalent diesel model. That's an industry first and to put it into perspective, Volvo's plug-in hybrid V60 commands an £11,000 premium over the diesel...

What's under the bonnet?

Ok, take a deep breath and concentrate – because this is no ordinary off-roader. First up it's not what's under the bonnet that matters but what's hidden in the floor. There, you'll find a wedge of batteries. As the plug-in name suggests you can top these up every night if needs be, for around £1, from a normal three-pin plug. If you do no more than 30-odd miles a day, and top the car up every night, you'll never use the fuel in the tank. On those occasions when a longer trip needs to be made, you can use the electric range and then rely on the petrol unit to power the wheels, which in itself will do 48mpg. The switch between the two units is seamless. Officially the combined economy is 148mpg, but this will vary depending on where you use it and how often you charge the batteries.

What's the spec like?

There's a lot to like about the Outlander PHEV. The bottom of the range model gets 18-inch alloys, cruise control, air-con, leather steering wheel, reversing camera, Bluetooth and a lot more. On higher spec models there's a mobile phone App (Apple and Windows) that lets you change the heating settings, view current range and even operate the headlights and horn remotely to make it easier to find in a car park. Also, it's worth remembering this is a proper off-roader with 190mm ground clearance, four-wheel drive and Mitsubishi's renowned reliability.



Any rivals?

Not really. This is the first true plug-in hybrid SUV. The closest thing to a rival comes from Volvo, in the shape of its V60 plug-in hybrid – but remember that costs nearly £50,000, and commands a £11,280 premium over the equivalent diesel. With the Outlander PHEV starting at a frankly ridiculous £28,249, we're inclined to believe Mitsubishi when they say there isn't really a rival on sale at the moment. We're sure that won't last long though...

What's it like to drive?

Pretty good. In EV mode it's near silent and although the petrol unit is a little revvy when it kicks in, it's not nasty. It will hit 60mph in 11 seconds, which is quicker than the diesel, and it'll go on to a top speed of 106mph. It's all very refined, while wind and road noise is kept to a minimum – impressive for such a big car. There's lots of clever tricks up the PHEV's sleeve too – like the ability to hold a charge and use the petrol engine instead at the touch of a button, and the ability to recharge back to 80 per cent when left on tick-over for just half an hour. Our only complaint would be a rather hard ride.

The AOL Cars Verdict

When you do the maths – there's few people who could argue against an Outlander PHEV. The biggest winners are company car drivers who effectively get a £10,000 pay rise a year if they're higher rate tax payers and get free fuel – who wouldn't want that? Business owners are winners too as they can write down the full cost of the car in the first year. If you're a normal car driver then the benefits of EV motoring, no road tax and Congestion Charge exemption will be equally attractive. And remember this is all wrapped up in a comfortable, high-riding, go-anywhere off-roader. Our guess is Mitsubishi won't be able to produce them fast enough...

The knowledge

Model: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Price: £28,249
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol, Electric motor
Power: 119bhp, 190Nm
Max speed: 106mph
0-62mph: 11 seconds
MPG: 148mpg (combined)
Emissions: 44g/km