The Toyota Prius may finally have a worthy competitor in the 2013 Ford C-Max hybrid.
In a classic case of one-upmanship, Ford rolled out its interpretation of the hybrid and their vision is impressive.? I had a chance to spend a few hours in Ford?s first dedicated gas/electric hybrid driving through the hills north of Los Angeles and it was clear that Ford engineers had done their homework.
Rather than re-inventing the wheel, they have Americanized and hybridized the successful European C-Max.? For reference, the new C-Max is about the same length as the last generation Ford Escape or the Toyota Prius.?? It?s a five-door hatchback wagon-style configuration, which many people are calling a mini-minivan, but I say it falls more in the crossover category, similar in concept to the Mazda5.
The driver?s space emulates an airplane cockpit with the center stack protruding out toward the console more than in most vehicles and giving the driver close access to the controls and an up close view of the eight-inch display screen which is the focal point of the latest version of the SYNC? with MyFord Touch?.? The close proximity not only makes it easier to see, but easier to touch without a stretch.? The system controls communications, navigation, entertainment, and climate through a series of redundant voice commands, menus controlled by steering wheel controls, touch screens, buttons and knobs.? The system is still a bit confusing to me, but I think I just need more exposure.? It?s obvious, though, that Ford has been working hard to make the system more user-friendly.
The heart of the 2013 Ford C-Max is the new design 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and electric motor that combine to produce 188 horsepower, topping the Prius v by more than 50 hp.? The pair drives the front wheels through an electronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) delivering EPA numbers of 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway. ?That gives the C-Max a ?real car range? of about 570-miles.
An easy launch and gradual acceleration of the 2013 Ford C-Max on flat ground will keep it in the electric mode up to 62 mph.? When exuberance takes over or a hill comes into play, the gas engine starts, but you probably won?t notice.?? Even when cruising, the gas engine would occasionally shut off and the car would just ?motor? along like an electric.? Regenerative braking recharges the battery.
What?s most interesting is that the 2013 Ford C-Max drives like a regular car.? It?s quick with 60 mph arriving in just 8.2 seconds, and when you ?step on it? to pass, the car moves out briskly. ??In the corners, it stays well planted and feels more like a sporty little hatchback than a hybrid.
The C-Max has some interesting tech features that really set it apart from many other cars.? For example, a hands-free liftgate — simply walk up to the rear hatch with the key in a pocket or purse, wave your foot under the center of the bumper and the rear hatch opens.? Another swipe of the foot and the hatch closes.? There is no more struggling to free the key fob to push the button while your hands are full.? Of course, a button on the center console can also open it.
Another ?must have? feature is the active park assist that uses an ultrasonic-based sensing system to help locate a suitable parallel parking space, and then steer into the spot with the driver just operating the pedals. ?Some other great available and standard features include rain-sensor wipers, push button start, HD radio, MyKey teen safety feature, voice-activated navigation and SYNC with MyFord Touch?.? Although we?d prefer to have an active blind sport warning system, the double angle mirrors do a good job of helping ?to see? when another vehicle enters the blind spot.
The C-Max is arriving at Ford dealerships now and it will soon be joined by the C-Max Energi, a plug-in hybrid, which is able to go up to 82 mph on the electric motor alone, and it?s listed by the EPA as having a combined miles per gallon equivalent of 100 MPGe.
Ford didn?t just react to the Toyota Prius; they planned and developed the new C-Max vehicles and they have about 500 new patents to show for it.