By Barbara Schaffer
San Jose, Calif. ? As a California expatriate who fled to the Northwest many years ago, I still find I need to go back on a regular basis to keep up with friends and family, but more important now, is my grandson playing football. I hadn?t seen him play yet, but was told by friends and family that he is one of the stars of his high school junior varsity team.
Being an enthusiastic grandparent, I felt the need to see him play, and perhaps embarrass him in front of his teammates with a big hug and kiss after the game and tell him how cute he looked in his uniform.
So I flew back to Central California for a long weekend and borrowed a new Ford Fusion Energi to drive from the San Jose airport to the Monterey Bay area where all my family still lives and where my grandson plays football for Monte Vista Christian School.
There are several roads leading over the Santa Cruz mountains to Santa Cruz County, but my favorite is go south on U.S. 101 toward Gilroy and when I smell garlic, turn right onto Highway 152 and go over Hecker Pass toward Watsonville?s strawberry fields. This is a fun drive especially down the west side of the pass which is one turn after another with several hairpin turns as it descends into the Pajaro Valley.
As a plug-in hybrid, the Ford Fusion Energi is designed to be economical, running on a combination of electric and gas power, but I was also impressed by how well it handled on the twists and turns of Hecker Pass. Even when pushed, a little, it went right where I wanted to with no tire squeal or body sway.
All new in 2014, the Ford Fusion Energi is powered by a 141-hp 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 118-hp permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor. Combined, Ford rates the total sustained system power at 188-hp. The engine is coupled with an efficient Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The electric motor is fueled by a 7.6 kWh Lithium-ion battery which can propel the Fusion on electric-only power for about 21 miles. I quickly ran out of battery on my drive to the coast, but did see the battery was charging when I was braking or backed off the accelerator as I descended down the pass.
Staying with a friend, I didn?t have access to a 120-volt outlet to charge the battery, but the car doesn?t seem to care if it gets that extra boost or not and it still charges using the regenerative braking system. A full charge with the built-in charger takes about seven hours and gives it a longer initial range . Where the fuel economy peaks is when you are staying relatively close to home, where it can almost use the battery exclusively instead of having to rely on the gasoline engine.
The Fusion Energi is fairly peppy, making a 0 to 60 mph run, according to buff magazine testing, in 8.6 seconds in the combined hybrid mode and 14.6 seconds in the electric only setting. Ford lists the top speed at 102 mph or 85 mph for electric only, but I confess I?m a ?speed limit only? kind of driver, unlike my husband Bill who still tends to push beyond the limit, until I object.
The EPA rates fuel economy at 95 mpg city and 81 mpg highway using a combination of gasoline and electricity. The combined gasoline only fuel economy city and highway is estimated at 43 mpg. I did quite a bit of around town driving during my four day visit, and averaged 43.6 mpg. On a full tank of gas and with a full battery charge, the Energi has a potential range of 620 miles.
One of the things that sets the Ford Fusion Energi apart from other high-mileage cars is the styling. This is a car that turns heads because it looks good, not because it?s weird. Meet one on the street or highway, and the first thing that comes to mind is a grille that has a strong resemblance to an Aston Martin, and after you get past that stunning grille, the rest of car looks pretty good, too, with the swept back roof line, strong character lines and sculpted rear fascia.
The Fusion Energi may be a full-fledged ?economical? car, but the interior says sport sedan with bolstered seats and the driver-focused cockpit that feels more like something out of an aircraft than five-passenger sedan. The center stack angles out from the dash to give the driver easier access to audio, climate and communication controls and flows into a higher console which further contributes to the cockpit feel. The area also has extra available storage space.
Using clever design features like moving the instrument panel closer to the windshield, designers were able to open up the interior space. It?s interesting to note that the Energi model has the largest interior space of any of the Ford sedans, 103-cubic feet. On the down side, the Lithium-ion battery takes up about eight cubic feet or half of cargo space.
For 2015 Ford has dropped the price of the Fusion Energi by $4,000 so the Fusion Energi SE I drove has a base price of $35,495 including the destination charge. The upper level Titanium trim is $1,800 more. Other Ford Fusion models start as lows at $22,705 for the gasoline-powered S and $26,780 for the Hybird S.
The Ford Fusion Energi is impressive. It looks good, is enjoyable to drive, roomy, comfortable and gets really good fuel economy ? sounds like a winner to me.
By the way, my grandson made two touchdowns and the team won the game?he?s my hero.