New Motorsport Challenge For Plug-in Outlander

Long-time Mitsubishi rally pilot Hiroshi Masuoka will take on the dual roles of team captain and driver for a sortie in the Baja Portalegre 500 cross-country rally near the end of October.

For the Portuguese event Masuoka will be behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, modified to withstand all the adversity the event can throw at it.

It’s not the first time the plug-in Outlander has competed in a demanding event of this nature. Around the time the fuel-sipping SUV made its global debut in 2013 it was being campaigned in the Asia Cross Country Rally. The Outlander PHEV will run in this year’s event as well, in the same specification as the car Masuoka will drive in Portugal.

For the Baja Portalegre 500, Mitsubishi will beef up the Outlander PHEV’s drive battery structure, control system and suspension. A support team will be led by manager Yasuo Tanaka and will also include four engineers from the company’s EV Component Research Department. Mitsubishi anticipates a podium placing for the Outlander PHEV in this event.

“The non-stop competition format of the Baja 500 will again demand the highest levels of drive motor and battery durability from the Outlander PHEV,” Masuoka was quoted saying in a press release.

“Like many competitors in this year’s Baja Portalegre 500, I am driven to show Outlander PHEV’s incredible driving dynamics and durability which come direct from the production car.

“With the support of MMC EV development engineers, we will compete with a view to finishing among the winners.

“Mitsubishi is using this event as an opportunity to demonstrate the upgraded power of the rally car’s EV components and advanced development of our 4WD control technology, with the aim of using our experiences at the Baja Portalegra 500 to develop our plug-in hybrid EV system further in the future.”

The Outlander PHEV Masuoka will be steering in Portugal will be based on the updated model first previewed in concept form at the Paris motor show last year, and soon to reach Australia, where it sells on the strength of its unique specification – a plug-in hybrid that’s also an SUV – and its affordability.

For the 2015 model year the Outlander PHEV has been upgraded for driveability, electric-only range and fuel economy. In addition there’s more equipment and revised cosmetic details to report.

The updated model features the revised frontal treatment introduced already for the conventional models in the Outlander range. Mitsubishi refers to this new look as ‘Dynamic Shield’ design. A variation on the design sees the PHEV version wearing unique bumper extensions, side garnish and exterior decoration. The Outlander PHEV gets its own design of 18-inch alloy wheel too, in a black gloss and machined-finish combination. New colours comprise Ruby Black Pearl and Quartz Brown metallic, the former unique to the PHEV and presenting as red flecks on a black pearl base. Other colours available are: Black Mica, Titanium Grey Metallic, White Pearl and Red Metallic.

As distinct from the mainstream Outlander variants, the PHEV model features an exclusive interior design as well. Seats have been redesigned and a new upholstery with ‘accent stitching’ is applied to the door inserts as well. Both the leather-bound four-spoke steering wheel and the centre console are new to the Outlander PHEV. All variants now come as standard with a power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Mitsubishi is claiming a fuel economy gain of around eight per cent from reducing the engine’s internal friction and working on “overall system optimisation”. Electric motor efficiency is slightly improved too, yielding an extra 600m of range, taking the total electric-only range to 60.8km. Drivers may notice a difference in the car’s “launch feel” too, due to revision of the motor control systems.

Two new driver-assist systems are Multi-around View Monitor, which provides an elevated view of the entire vehicle while parking, and Unintentional Move-Off Control, which is an option for some PHEV variants and mitigates accident damage if the driver accidentally presses the accelerator rather than the brake.

Mitsubishi Australia plans to introduce the revised Outlander PHEV to Australia in July.

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