I love speed. I love motorbikes. And I love sidecar racing. My husband had been into the sport for a long time and back in 2009 he took me down to Oulton Park to watch sidecar racing. I’d been to the circuit when I lived near Chester to see the British Touring Car Championship, but I’d never watched sidecar racing before. I was hooked straight away. We went to watch sidecar racing again at Mallory Park the next day and then the following weekend we bought our first motorbike and sidecar to race, ready for the following season.
We practiced at Llandow circuit in South Wales the following February because you don’t need a racing licence to use its track and then the following month I made my racing debut at Brands Hatch. We’ve raced at most of the British circuits over the years, including Donnington and Silverstone, but these days a lack of time means we tend to just race at Scottish tracks.
That love of speed has stayed with me though. Even when I was driving on the road, I would want to make progress – I’d be watching the revs flick up to the red, working my way up through the gears.
But then along came the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). You know a car is something special when it changes the way that you drive. We bought an Outlander as our family car last December – my husband took me to a showroom to see another car but it was the Outlander that caught my eye. I loved the design – it’s a really good-looking vehicle – and I loved the concept of the hybrid system, which means you can plug it into the mains to charge the battery or you can recharge it as you drive.
Let’s face it, most of us want a car that we know will be a workhorse. Being a Mitsubishi, I knew it would be safe and sturdy, which is what I wanted and what I needed for taking my three children to Scouts, football practice and all the other duties as mum’s taxi service. I needed something with a big boot too. The Outlander ticked all of those boxes for me and it looked good at the same time, going head-to-head with the equivalents from Audi or BMW.
I also like what Mitsubishi is doing in terms of watching the car’s carbon footprint – it produces just 42 grams of carbon dioxide-equivalent per kilometre it travels and its eye-catching headline fuel economy figure is 156 miles per gallon. I think that all the big car brands should have a model in their range that includes a hybrid option.
Living with the car for the past six months has really changed my driving style. Instead of watching the revs, I’m now watching the performance of the battery, making sure that I can eek out as many miles as I can from a full charge. I tend to fly now for business, so the car is mainly for my local ‘mum’ journeys. I’ve regularly been getting more than 20 miles from a single charge and – now that the winter has ended and I can turn off the heating – I’m aiming to get it up to the magic 32-mile mark that Mitsubishi calculates it can hit in electric-vehicle mode.
My passengers have noticed it too – when I give my husband a lift now, he comments on how smooth my driving has become, especially through the corners. I laugh and tell him that it’s not his comfort I’m thinking of, but my mileage.
Having driven our 2015 Outlander, I was really interested to get behind the wheel of the 2016 model. Under the skin, the technology is just the same, but the aesthetics in the cabin have been upgraded. I took my mum and daughter for a spin around Glasgow, out to the Erskine Bridge and then back into the West End. My mum loved the seats and reckoned they were more comfortable and padded than in our car.
Being an engineer, the technology in the Outlander really appeals to me. I studied civil engineering at university and became a chartered engineer with the Institute of Civil Engineers and I’m preparing to apply for my fellowship. Engineering underpins all of the work we do with KCP, handling waste materials for clients and using our technological know-how to solve problems for them.
Although it was a warm day when I took it out for a test drive, I know that the heated steering wheel would be a real bonus in the winter. Pieces of technology like that can make a real difference for drivers. One innovation that I found really useful was the assisted parking system. Without resorting to stereotypes about women drivers, I hate parallel parking – I’d always prefer to reverse-park or pull-in nose first. What made the 2016 Outlander really interesting was its 360-degree parking-assist – so instead of just having cameras at the back, it gave a view on its console screen of everything around the vehicle and overlaid guide-lines so you knew when to make your turns for parallel parking.
Returning the car to the showroom after the test drive, something else caught my eye. The top-of-the-range Outlander PHEV GX5 comes with two-tone Nappa leather and a spoiler. The Outlander may have changed my driving style, but the thought of a spoiler appeals to the speed-freak in me. Perhaps we won’t be waiting the usual three years before we upgrade.
Wendy Pring is managing director of KCP, a Cumnock-based specialist in waste management, material transfer and environmental maintenance.
The car Wendy drove was a Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), starting from £36,004 on the road. Supplied by Park’s Mitsubishi, Coatbridge, ML5 4RX, 01236 352029.