Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid

?Ford?s 2011 Fusion Hybrid still most fuel efficient U.S. mid-size sedan?

The popular 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid continues to reign as the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in America. Propelled by a powertrain system that blends the positive attributes of a gasoline engine and electric battery-driven motors in delivering optimum levels of driving performance and fuel economy. The system automatically transitions between gas and electric power sources in an efficient and seamless manner. The new Fusion Hybrid is capable of operating of operating up to a speed of 47 mph exclusively inn a purely electric mode ? nearly twice as fast as some competitive vehicles. In addition, the city driving range on a single tank of fuel is in excess of 7800 miles.

The Hybrid system consists of a 2.5-liter Duratec, DOHC, 16-valve inline four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle HEV with electronic sequential multi-port fuel injection and a 40 hp, 275V maximum Permanent magnet AC Synchronous motor. The gasoline four-cylinder delivers 156 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, while generating 136 pound feet of torque at 2,250 rpm. Power is transmitted to the front wheels via an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The engine is positioned up front in a transverse? orientation.

The driver can connect personally to the hybrid driving experience through Ford?s SmartGuage? with EcoGuide, which is a unique instrument cluster display that helps to coach owners on optimizing the efficient performance of their hybrid. SmartGuage with EcoGuide consists of two high-resolution, full-color LCD screens on either side of the analog speedometer. The screens may be configured to indicate different levels of information, including fuel and battery power levels, as well as average and instant miles per gallon. EcoGuide utilizes a multilayered approach in guiding the driver toward maximum fuel efficiency. There is a tutorial mode integrated into the display that assists the driver in learning about the instrument cluster and the Hybrid operation in a non-overpowering and whimsical way. ?Efficiency leaves? grow, along with vines to indicate and reward drivers for efficient operation of their Fusion Hybrid. EPA mileage estimates rank the Ford Fusion Hybrid at 36 mpg in city driving, and 41 mpg on the highway.

The 2011 Fusion Hybrid enjoys the same standard safety features as its conventionally-powered stablemates, including: AdvanceTrac? electronic stability control; dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags and side air curtains;?Ford?s Personal Safety System?; Tire Pressure Monitoring System; SOS Post-Crash Alert System? that flashes signal lights and sound the horn in the event of an accident; and LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tether Anchors for Children).

In terms of it physical exterior appearance and appeal, the Fusion Hybrid is styled identically to its conventionally-powered siblings ? only the Hybrid-leaf badging indicates its uniqueness. Conventionally, gas-powered Fusions come in four Series: S; SE; SEL; and the Sport, which exhibits a sportier look with its ground effects treatment, unique lower grille, decklid spoiler and large beveled, dual, bright-tip exhaust outlets; specific Sport badging and its larger, more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine, aggressive 18-inch wheels and upgraded suspension tuning.

The Fusion Hybrid showcases the same bold frontal appearance and sleek overall form with sculpted character lines and contours as all other Fusion models except the Sport version.

My Test 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid sported a Red Candy metallic tinted clearcoat exterior, complemented by a Charcoal Black leather interior with chrome and machined trim accents. The base price was set at $28,100 while optional extras, which included: the voice-activated Navigation system, driver?s vision group, BLIS with cross traffic alert, rear view video camera, rain sensing wipers, Moon & Tune value Package with power moonroof and SONY 12-speaker sound system and heated front seats; the metallic, tinted clear-coat paint; and the Destination and Delivery charge, bumped the final sticker price to $34,490.

SUMMARY: The 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid drives and handles like its gas-powered counterparts, except for shutting down when stopped, and when running exclusively on electric power up to its limit.

The ride quality is quite comfortable and the interior ambience is inviting and appealing. Handing attributes are agile and responsive, and the regenerative braking is both sensitive and instantly reactive.

The ability to select and program from the four data screens available to attain the desired level if informational feedback is a most worthwhile feature. The screens are to: Inform ? displaying fuel level and battery charge status; Enlighten ? displays electric vehicle mode indicator and tachometer; Engage ? displays?engine output power and battery output power; Empower ? displays power to wheels, engine pull-up threshold and accessory power consumption.

The Fusion Hybrid also features all of the usual Ford connectivity systems such as; SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment system with Traffic, Directions and Information; SIRIUS? satellite radio with an initial six-month subscription; EPAS with Pull-Drift Compensation; MyKey; and more. Hybrid models also feature an 110V AC power outlet.

I really found only one negative issue to nit-pick about ? my long legs and the left side of the center stack were not in a pleasant union. A more rounded or padded surface would have been appreciated.

Aside from the console/leg issue, I found the Ford Fusion Hybrid to be enjoyable and pleasant to drive in both city and highway scenarios, and the price certainly seemed reasonable, considering the equipment and feature content level. The Fusion Hybrid is built at Ford?s Hermosillo, Mexico Stamping and Assembly Plant.