Mountain Wheels: Ford’s Fusion Energi goes a long way on a little charge
March 15, 2014
2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE
MSRP: $38,700; as tested, $44,620
Powertrain: 195-HP net 2.0-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine/hybrid battery system, electronic CVT automatic transmission
EPA figures: 100 mpge (electricity/gasoline); 43 mpg gas only
Having been burned in a nearly Biblical fashion by hybrid enthusiasts a couple of years back when I got to drive the Chevy Volt — I got in and used it like it was a car, not a complicated science project, and they didn’t like that — I thought I would mix up my Ford Fusion Energi experiences and see if I might get better overall results.
And in a way, it did work (the driving part, at least): I started my day in Ford’s largest plug-in gas-electric hybrid with an uncharged battery. I then tried a mixture of stop-and-go urban driving and freeway cruising mostly using the Energi’s 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder as the car’s sole propulsion device — as you will have to do if you exceed the car’s approximately 21-mile electric-only range. Later, I plugged ’er in and tried to see what all the fuss was about.
The overall idea with the Fusion Energi (and the Volt, as well as the plug-in version of the Toyota Prius), is to allow you to be the most efficient and futuristic, low-emissions urban driver possible, but still have the ability to drive the car as far as you please without stopping to recharge the battery. Even the Tesla Model S does need to be plugged in, after all.
In Fusion’s case, the car’s small gasoline engine — rated for 43 mpg on its own — can help extend the car’s 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack to take you considerably more than the 21-mile mark. Charged up and driven efficiently, Ford claims you can actually roll along for 620 miles between gas stops.
Fusion, as has been previously noted, is also a solid, comfortably sized and well-rounded automobile, which means you get a platform that’s already light-years ahead of Prius and Volt in terms of roominess and what one might call “regular car-ness.”
Aside from a power-charging port on the side panel just ahead of the driver’s door (which also glows bluer and bluer to indicate the charging process), Fusion Energi looks absolutely identical to the regular car. Minus a considerable chunk of the trunk space being used up for the battery pack, that is.
And in my somewhat backwards but real-world journey with the car, it also pointed out what might be the Energi’s primary drawback, something it shared with the other plug-in hybrids I’ve driven: That little 2.0-liter engine is not the most subtle or quiet of powerplants, producing a more-than-palpable buzzy throbbing when it kicks in.
Should you need lots and lots of power — heading up the hills without a fully charged battery, for instance — the car’s electronic continuously variable transmission can also be a little slack and slow to respond, meaning you’ve got to rev the heck out of it to pass someone or maintain speed headed up a steep grade.
This is in complete contrast to Fusion Energi when traveling with a fully charged battery, during which times the car is completely and utterly silent, with quick and seamless electronic torque and the ability to bomb along at up to 85 mph in all-electric mode.
The entire combined package is rated at 188 horsepower, but if you really need a full burst, a battery-reserve-draining overboost gets you 195 horses, taking full advantage of the 88 kW electric traction motor.
I finally plugged the car in and the battery went from having no available driving reserve to being about 40 percent full in just 45 minutes — and indicating a 16-mile all-electric range. Ford’s materials suggest a full charge takes about two and a half hours with a 240V outlet or a more leisurely seven hours with a regular 120V plug; both of those are acceptable for drive-it-to-work and charge-it scenarios