Ford Fusion Hybrid offers a livable version of technology |

Ford Fusion Hybrid offers a livable version of technology

Getting its act together: The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid combines performance with great fuel economy.

With at least one of the Big Three now apparently poised to crater next week, despite spending a lot of your money on the way down, perhaps it’s a good time to focus on the positive efforts of the U.S. automaker which apparently had its act together.

The non-federally-sponsored Ford Motor Company has done an impressive job of fast-tracking hybrid technology into a number of its vehicles; its latest effort, the 2010 Fusion Hybrid, takes a pleasant, mid-sized car and turns it into a magnificent mileage machine.

EPA figures for the new Fusion are impressive enough (41 mpg in stop-and-go city driving, and 36 on the highway), but in reality, the numbers can be much higher.

I got a chance to briefly drive the new Fusion, and the Ford staffer who’d had the car all day was generating more than 45 mpg; as a PR stunt this weekend, a group of Ford engineers and NASCAR driver Carl Edwards will attempt to extract 1,000 miles from a single tank, averaging 57 mpg over a 43-hour marathon.

As those of you who’ve already joined the hybrid revolution have found, extremely high mileage is a combination of both the new gas/electric technology and driving like you’re aiming for efficiency, with smooth stops and starts, slower overall cruising and a more measured approach to your automotive experience.

Even for non-hypermilers, the Fusion’s new-generation hybrid system is a much more livable and seamless experience that will very easily produce gas-saving results. The herky-jerky transfer of power and yawning gulps in action (not to mention all of the weird electrical and fan noises) of earlier hybrids have disappeared, and the machine’s a much more pleasant and easy-to-manage machine.

Engineer David Gabriel, one of the team who helped develop the second-gen hybrid technology, says a big part of the smoother feel is intake variable cam timing, which makes the hand-offs between electric and gasoline engine power virtually unnoticable.

This allows the 2.5 liter Duratec four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine to more pleasantly shift between fully electric mode (a 106-horsepower AC motor) and the 156-hp gasoline engine, producing a not-insubstantial 191 combined horsepower.

On the road, the Fusion is dead silent at start and can be driven short distances in fully electric mode; when you do apply enough pedal pressure, the gas motor kicks in but … frankly, unless you’re checking out the cool but initially overwhelming set of electronic instruments, you might not even notice.

Efficiency geeks will go crazy for all that info, however, with instant fuel economy, battery charge levels and even displays showing how much juice your heater, AC and other accessories are drawing from the system; for normal drivers, a colorful image of a vine grows longer and longer the more eco-minded you are with your motoring.

Fusion’s hybrid form is also built into a practically identical chassis and package as the standard Fusion, a comfortably-sized machine with a full-sized back seat and trunk, and a nice feel on the road.

Gabriel says the Fusion’s hybrid form was also tested in the middle of winter in frigid Thompson, Manitoba, so the automobile is predicted to be totally acceptable for high country’s wintertime worst.

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