By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
San Francisco – Earlier this year we had a chance to drive the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport and experience the faster side of the Ford midsize sedan. We felt the Sport went to the head of its class with its good looks and the excellent performing 325-hp 2.7-liter twin turbo V-6 engine.
Ford makes extensive use out of the Fusion producing 11 models with it from basic family sedans, to hybrids, to plug-in hybrids and a performance model. We think that makes great use out of one of the most attractive mid-level sedans in the business.
On a recent trip to California we decided to try the other side of the Ford Fusion menu and borrowed the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi, which is the antithesis of the Sport, as the Fusion economy champ.
As tourists, the down side of the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid, was that we were never at a place we could plug in for the night, so we were not able to take advantage of its full electrical benefits. The plug-in hybrid efficiency is best used by someone like a commuter, who can plug the car in when they get home from work and drive it the next day using the electric motor only, and not having to have the gas engine start. A full charge of the lithium-ion battery only takes seven hours on a 120-volt outlet or 2.5 hours for a 240-volt charger. The batteries also charge using regenerative braking when the driver brakes or coasts.
The EPA rates the Energi at 104 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) city, 91 MPGe highway and 97 MPGe combined. Running on gasoline without the benefit of the charge it’s rated at 42 mpg. We averaged 42.1 mpg during a week of mixed driving in the Bay Area. Just because it’s a plug-in hybrid does not mean it has now power, the Energi accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds according to buff magazine testing.
The Fusion Energi interior is quiet, especially when running on electric only. Depending on driving conditions, it can go about 21 miles on the electric-only mode. Ford says the electric motor can propel the Fusion Energi up to 85 mph. The larger battery required for the Energi takes up about half the trunk space, dropping it to 8.1 cubic feet, as compared to the 16 cubic feet of the gasoline powered version. By arranging the luggage, we could get two carry-on bags in the trunk and a few other little things tucked into the remaining spaces.
A 141-hp 2.0-liter Atkinson-Cycle four-cylinder engine powers the Energi. It is linked with an 88kW Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous motor. Combined the pair is rated at 188 hp to drive the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The transmission is shifted by a large rotary dial on the center console. In the center of the dial is a button labeled L which help keep the transmission in a lower “gear” setting which allows the driver to have better control through engine braking and to add more regenerative braking charge.
Now in its third year of production the Fusion Energi has been changed to include 59 percent more storage space inside than the two previous model years. Most of the extra space is in the console. The new Fusion Energi Platinum edition we drove is decorated with leather-lined and quilted door trim panels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather dashboard and LED headlights.
Other changes for 2017 include SYNC® 3 with Siri Eyes Free® capability, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Enhanced active park assist, which adds reverse perpendicular parking to existing parallel parking functionality. We are fans of active cruise control and the system in the Fusion Energi worked great on the California Freeway stop and go traffic we experienced. Not only does the system maintain the speed at a safe and adjustable distance behind the vehicle ahead, it also takes the car to a complete stop as traffic stops. If traffic stops only second or two it automatically accelerates with the vehicle ahead, or if the stop is more than a few seconds it requires the driver to tap the resume or accelerator.
The four trim levels of the 2017 Ford Fusion prices range from as low as $23,085, including the destination charge, for the S trim level and the top-level Platinum starts at $37,625.
The four Fusion Hybrid trims range from $26,170 for the Hybrid S to $38,005 for the Hybrid Platinum. The three Fusion (plug-in hybrid) Energi models range from $31,995 for the Energi SE up to $39,995 for the Energi Platinum.
We enjoyed driving the Fusion Energi, it is quiet, comfortable and attractive, and who can argue with 42.1 mpg — imagine what we would have averaged if we could have plugged in? The only thing we didn’t care for was the CVT transmission which, like most CVTs feels kind of mushy. You accelerate, the engine roars, and eventually the car’s speed catches up. However, the CVT is one of the features that helps produce the good fuel economy, so you need it.
For someone who wants to give the environment a break and is concerned about fuel economy, looks and comfort…the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is a great choice.