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Extreme Winter Testing With the 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV S-AWC

I had the chance to drive the 2024 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GT S-AWC a couple weeks ago here on TestDrive. A compact consumer crossover with a plug-in hybrid electric system, the Outlander PHEV has been on sale longer than any other plug-in SUV on the market. This past weekend I was invited by Mitsubishi Motors Canada to fly out to Montréal, QC to test out their Super All-Wheel Control system on a purpose-made snow & ice track.

Our testing began Monday morning, after a nice breakfast and quick rundown of Mitsubishi's recent successes and accomplishments, we hit the road in pairs of two on a pre-determined course to get up to Circuit ICAR in Mirabel. The weather was relatively uncooperative, that is to say we had clear, sunny, warm weather - not ideal for testing a sophisticated AWD system. It was nice seeing parts of Laval that I hadn't explored before, including some in-town driving and a mix of country roads. We had one stop along the way at Tim Hortons to swap drivers, where we continued our trek up to ICAR along some rural roadways.

HONDA Kentaro, C-Segment Chief Vehicle Engineer - Mitsubishi Motors Corporation

Before hitting the track, we got our debrief from Mitsubishi engineers from Japan, pictured above, Honda Kentaro, C-Segment Chief Vehicle Engineer for Mitsubishi Motors Corp, explained in detail why S-AWC works along with how his engineering team worked with the PHEV system on this latest generation to provide an improved driving experience over the previous generation. We've discussed how the electric systems work on the Mitsubishi Outlander and invite you to check out the video we filmed and article here.

SAWASE Kaoru, Engineering Fellow - Mitsubishi Motors Corporation

Sawase Kaoru, Engineering Fellow at Mitsubishi Motors Corp and considered the Godfather of S-AWC, discussed the math behind Super All-Wheel Control, and I can tell you that while they encouraged us to check the math for ourselves, I had to take his word for it. Math was never my strong suit in school.

Then it was time for the fun. The team prepared two different track configurations for us to drive on. The first being a circle test where we'd push the cars around 27 kph in a counter-clockwise direction in 4 different drive modes: Snow Mode - Normal Mode - 'Eco' Mode - and Snow Mode again. Eco mode was far from an economical driving style though, the engineers essentially hacked the vehicles to drive without S-AWC, that means all the yaw control, brake control, and everything else that made Super All Wheel Control famous were disabled, imitating what a regular run-of-the-mill AWD system would perform like. The thought process was to show us how the two drive modes help keep drivers in control, while the third drive mode helped to exemplify the S-AWC system. It worked. Really well.

There was an undeniable difference when S-AWC was disabled, something that writing about it won't truly explain. It's why we filmed our experiences for our YouTube Channel, mixed with some excellent footage captured by the professional photo and video team on site. Each change between the 3 different drive modes decreased the level of control the vehicle had, not only showing why Snow mode is important when driving in rough conditions, but why S-AWC performs better than other all-wheel drive systems. The Eco mode had the least control, with significant understeer and constantly needing to let off the gas so I wouldn't veer into the wall.

It's important to note that the 4 main test vehicles we were using were all equipped with Yokohama BluEarth V906 winter tires. We've discussed ever since day one at PRN that winter tires are crucial for any sort of climate like ours in Canada. The tires not only grip the road better when temperatures drop below 7ºC, but they move snow off the tire treads more efficiently than all-seasons, meaning more of the rubber can come into contact with the ground rather than it getting clogged with slush and ice.

We overheard we'd have the chance to test the all-season tires that come from the factory, and boy was I excited. I've wanted to film a direct comparison between winter and all-season tires for years now, and we got the chance. We took the first course again and the difference in performance was major. The all-season tires in snow mode performed about as good as the winters did in Eco mode, that's to say they didn't do well. Throw the vehicle into normal mode and things got even worse. Our all-season test vehicle didn't come with the S-AWC hack, but I can only imagine how many cars would have bumped into the snow walls if we drove those around the track.

After a quick lunch we were back on the track with a new configuration. We'd start off with a high-speed lane change, 90º turn, a tight slalom, followed by a larger slalom, with another 90º turn to bring us round back towards the start. This setup was mean to give us a course that provided a real-world driving experience, such as an emergency lane change, turning on an icy curve, evasive maneuvers around obstacles like pot holes, and some braking. Much like our previous testing we hit the modes in order, from snow, to normal, to S-AWC off, back to snow, followed at the end with a run in the intelligent pedal drive mode, which works like a brake regen mixed with one-pedal drive. Once more it was obvious how well the S-AWC system performs, and why you'd want to use the appropriate drive modes based on weather conditions.

Our final run through the course was on the all-seasons again, which had been reserved just for this course layout originally, but we all wanted more time trying both types of tires out. Luckily we had plenty of time and everyone had a chance to run the course with the final Outlander. I overheard some of the track marshals joking that no one had really lost control with the cars so far, which I took as a challenge. All-seasons in normal mode was easily the most fun, with the least amount of control. The Outlander can only do so much when the only part of the vehicle that makes contact with the road is the wrong piece of equipment. Grip was bad, and the car slid around quite a bit. The first slalom was pretty fun as I tried to plow through as fast as I could, but limited with how much braking I needed in order to make it through the pylons.

Sufficed to say winter tires are a must, and after being able to test the Super All-Wheel Control system on actual snow I can safely say I'm a believer. We always hope for a snow storm during our weekly testing but this winter has been very mild in Southwestern Ontario. This opportunity allowed us to see the Outlander PHEV in action while being safe about it too. I highly recommend watching our video that we filmed while on site, as it really shows how different our testing situations were. Check out the full video below!


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