Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Flash Drive: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

A Practical, Functional Plug-in Choice

Let’s get the disclosures up front on this. I like the Ford Fusion Energi enough that I’m putting my own money into a lease on a 2016 model already. So to say I’m predisposed positively to a look at the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is a given. That said, I’m also aware of the shortcomings of the car from extensive experience.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

2017 Ford Fusion Energi drips style and squeezes out fuel economy

The key question for this review is what changes the 2017 model offers compared to the previously solid offering.  The answer is—not much, which is a good thing. Ford appears to be sticking with its winning hand. Winning as in its non-plug-in hybrid version that has challenged the venerable Toyota Prius for the sales lead of hybrids during 2017. The plug-in Fusion has not had as strong of a year, though it’s still a strong third after the Toyota Prius Prime and Chevrolet Volt in the plug-in hybrid category.

The Good

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is, to my eye, one of the best-looking mass market sedans available. The current design was stunning when it first appeared in 2013 and still looks fresh today. It’s due for a change soon, but for now this midsize sedan can hold its own style-wise with anyone in the pack.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The nameplate says mainstream, but the interior swims upscale

The car delivers fuel economy as advertised, but the 2017 model bumps up the numbers from the previous year by about 10 percent. If you’ve got a short commute of about 20 miles and a place to plug in at home and work, you could run all-electric all the time. It continues to be eligible for a coveted solo HOV lane sticker in California. It also qualifies for federal tax credits and most state incentives.

The interior of the Fusion matches the upscale exterior. Leather trimmed, comfortable, but supporting seats are standard throughout the line. Technology abounds from Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system to available advanced driver assistance tools like lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and cross traffic alert.

The Bad

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is not a purpose-build vehicle and all you have to do is look in the trunk to see that. What should be a spacious storage space is gobbled up by the 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery. Next generation this should be solved, but the current models have spacious interiors for five adults, but are challenged in trying to carry luggage for more than a couple passengers.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

In back the Energi comes up short

Even at 22 miles (in the 2017 model), all-electric range is not the Energi’s strong suit. The relatively small battery can be charged in 2 ½ hours (on 240-volt, Level 2 charging), but if you travel like I do, you’ll be running in hybrid mode most of the time (still not bad at 43 mpg).  

The Ugly

Sorry, I’m coming up blank in this category for this car, except maybe pricing. The MSRP for the Energi has been stable over the years and even dropped for 2017. It starts at just above $32,000 and tops out with the Platinum model I tested at just a shade under $40,000. I’d recommend going for the high-end model because it has all of the advanced technology standard (it’s optional at the lower levels, but will then take the price up almost to the Platinum level. In addition, I’d recommend leasing rather than buying the Energi—or virtually any plug-in model. Technology is advancing so rapidly that even it is isn’t cheaper in three or four years, it will be much better for the same money.

The Real World Test

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Fusion is Ford’s best-selling car. Besides being good-looking, it’s functional (with plenty of room for passengers at least) and delivers good performance and great fuel economy.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Inside you could mistake this for pricier digs

After spending time in smaller all-electric or plug-in sedans, the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi feels positively spacious. You can fill it up with five full-size American adults and not feel cramped (remember my caveat if they’re bringing luggage, though).

On the road, the car drives as good as it looks. Ford continues to respect its drivers by giving them good road feel, responsive and supple handling and enough power to hold their own on the open road. The long wheelbase of the Fusion helps deliver a luxury-like ride while the low-profile 17-inch tires and aluminum wheels (upgradable to 18-inchers) allow you to tackle challenging roads without disclosing you’re driving a fuel-efficient vehicle.

The 2-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four is augmented by an electric motor and they operate quite well together, straining only when asked to perform high-speed passing tricks. Such maneuvers point out the limitations of this size normally aspirated engine and also its continuously variable transmission.  It gets the job done, but will let you know it’s not happy.  

I plugged in the Fusion whenever I could (I don’t have a home/work charger but there is one in the neighborhood) and managed an average of 53.2 mpg for my week in the car. EPA says you’ll get an average of 42 mpg in hybrid mode and 97 MPGe counting the battery energy. That wonkish number doesn’t mean much in the real world, where you can run 22 miles on electricity and then default to hybrid mode unless you plug in. I still found when handled with a light foot, the Fusion was capable of running at freeway speeds with the air on and still delivering almost 50 mpg.

Some of the credit for good fuel economy goes to Ford’s instrument panel programmers. The readouts for fuel economy, braking, etc., are great teaching tools. The instant feedback from driving in an eco-friendly mode was good reinforcement.

Bottom Line

I’ve got to say Ford just keeps making the Fusion better. It’s not perfect, but it’s an incredibly fuel-efficient car you can live with every day. Most important is because of its internal combustion engine, it doesn’t have the limitations of most pure electrics.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The displays and info are a big help

Here are the price points for the three trim levels (I recommend aiming high because all of the advanced technology you want is included), including destination and delivery charges:

  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi SE $32.180
  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium $33,180
  • 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Platinum $40,180

A full complement of safety equipment is standard, but as mentioned earlier, some of the advanced driver assistance technology is optional on the lower trim levels. Opt for the Platinum level and the only options left are some paint and floor mat upgrades.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The ring tells you how charged up you are

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is not alone in the marketplace. Its main competitors are the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Prime and the Hyundai-Kia twins—the Optima and Sonata Plug-in Hybrids.

All are worth a look, but you’ll find the Chevy is a smaller package and a hatchback. The Toyota also is smaller, though it does bring Toyota’s solid reputation along with its badge. The midsize Optima and Sonata are the closest in size and intent. We’ve tested them both here and here, but recommend you take a look for yourself. There are no bad choices among this group—and expect more coming soon.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Comparison Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid & Eneergi

Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

Comparison Test: 2016 Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid & Hybrid

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Comparison Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Energi

Comparison Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Energi

Green and Greener

Ford’s Fusion has taken over a traditional role at Ford—that of the best-selling car. For those who don’t savor driving a crossover or SUV, the midsize sedan segment remains popular and includes such perennial bestsellers as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

2017 Ford Fusion

For 2017, your shifter’s round

The Fusion remains attractive, so I assume that Ford realized that when they doled out only modest midcycle updates. Outside, the front end gets sharpened while the taillamps become connected by a chrome bar, but otherwise things remain about the same. Inside, the transmission control is transformed into a finely rendered disc, like a small, thick hockey puck, much like the one in Jaguars and Land Rovers, but without the clever rising effect found in those luxury makes.

This American-brand car, built in Mexico, comes in a variety of flavors, but let’s look at the two greenest ones—the Hybrid and the Energi.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion

Not a Leaf, but leaves to help you drive more economically

The 2017 Fusion Hybrid combines a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for a total of 188 horsepower and 129 pounds-feet of torque. Like a good hybrid, the Fusion moves between these two energy sources automatically, depending on driving conditions and driver input. Take it easy on the accelerator and you’ll find the Hybrid remains more in electric mode. Climb a hill and you’ll hear the engine kick in. On downhill descents, the battery charges silently.

This behavior nets you EPA numbers of 43 city/41 highway/42 combined. Compare these with the Toyota Camry Hybrid’s 38 mpg and Honda Accord Hybrid’s 48 combined scores. My Blue Lightning test car averaged 41.0 mpg during its test week.

The Ford Fusion Energi

Choosing the 2017 Ford Energi model adds a major new element into the picture. With its 7.6 kWh battery, this Fusion can run as a pure electric vehicle for an EPA rated 22 miles. That meant that when I took my 18-mile-each-way commute in the Energy, I made it just about door-to-door without using a drop of gas.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

The plug is the main difference between the Hybrid and the Energi

With the variety in traffic conditions, on a few days I pulled up to the charger at work with a little juice left. The Energi’s EPA ratings, for MPGe this time, are 97 MPGe, or 35 kWh per 100 miles (compare this with other plugin hybrids). The gauge in my Magnetic Metallic (gray) test car read 101.4 MPGe at the end of my test week, and the gas gauge had hardly budged from full.

What’s the Same; What’s Different

Driving the cars feels about the same, except that the Energi is smoother and quieter longer, since an entire trip may not use the gasoline engine at all. The Energi weighs 298 pounds more than the Hybrid (3,913 vs. 3,615 pounds), and its trunk is shortened to accommodate its larger battery (the Hybrid’s smaller battery, without charging ability, has only a 1.4 kWh capacity).

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

An all-electric trip

EPA Green ratings are a very good 8 for Smog and 9 for Greenhouse gas for the Hybrid and 8 and 10 respectively for the Energi. More numbers: the CO2 grams-per-mile output of the Energi runs about half the Hybrid—110 vs. 210.

When you drive the Hybrid, you can set the center screen to show you one of the car’s three driving modes. Under the right conditions, you’re in Electric Drive mode, using no gasoline. When the engine engages, you’re in Hybrid Drive mode, where the engine and motor work together. If you’re generating electricity, you’re in “Recharging High Voltage Battery” mode. These switched back and forth as I drove.

Both cars’ instrument panels provide a bar chart of driving behavior, including acceleration, braking and cruising. Depending on road and traffic conditions, sometimes one or the other metrics dipped into the negative “yellow” condition, but normally they showed the desired blue.

The Levels and Their Costs

Fusions come in different equipment levels, ranging from S to SE to Titanium to Platinum. You can get a regular non-hybrid version, too. My Hybrid wore the Titanium nameplate while the Energi flaunted the top-level Platinum badge on its tail. The Platinum level borders on the luxurious, featuring soft, quilted leather on the seats and doors, among other upgrades.

Ford Fusion

All the tech is here

With $3,760 worth of style and safety options, the Hybrid came to $35,155, including destination and delivery. The Energi, with no extras and with the “Fusion Energi Discount,” rolled in at $39,995.

Interestingly, the annual fuel cost on the window stickers was $900 for the Hybrid and $800 for the Energi. So, your benefits here become less financial and more about environmental impact. There is no pure electric Fusion for sale now, but if industry trends pan out, there could be in the future. For now, if you’re a commuter, you may find the extra cost of the Energi really pays off.

If you want an attractive, comfortable sedan with a little greener perspective, try one of Ford’s two greener Fusions.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Honda Accord Hybrid

First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid

Two, Two, Two Cars in One

As a plug-in hybrid, the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is essentially two cars in one—a battery electric vehicle and a hybrid vehicle. Driving in EV mode, the Energi performed quite well. Thanks to the instant-on torque from the electric motor, acceleration was rather brisk when needed, but that action can devour electrons rapidly. It cruised city streets in quiet fashion and easily keeps up with the flow of traffic. Considering the 38-psi inflation pressures for the P235/50R-17 low-rolling resistant tires, the ride was quite smooth.

With the Fusion, Ford brought to its American buyers the same world-class road manners that overseas owners of the Mondeo have long enjoyed. While most hybrids drain the fun out of driving, the Fusion Energi has responsive steering, a nimble chassis and taut body control that make for an enjoyable drive. You can hustle the car down a back road and actually get a smile on your face. The all-independent suspension provided a compliant feel that makes it ideal for long trips as well as daily commuting.

The Fusion Hybrid History

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

A big year for plug-in Fords

As part of its commitment to sell a broader selection of fuel-saving hybrid and electric-powered vehicles, Ford launched the 2013 no-plug Fusion Hybrid and plug-in Fusion Energi. Since then, Chevrolet’s Volt is the plug-in hybrid sales leader by far, but the Fusion Energi has second place locked in. Ford sold 15,938 Fusion Energis in 2016, a whopping 63.5 percent increase over 2015.

Attribute the increase to a freshened 2017 Fusion lineup and a consumer buying trend that enabled a best-ever annual sales result for plug-in vehicles in 2016, though that ended up as less than one-half of one percent of the 17.5 million unit market.

For 2017 Ford not only gave the Fusion new looks for the exterior and interior, but also added a new luxury Platinum model as well as giving the car a slight increase in electric driving range and an increase for the combined gasoline and electric range.

The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi’s pricing starts at $33,995 for the SE, $34,995 for the Titanium trim, and $41,995 for the new loaded Platinum model. Those prices average about $4,000 to $5,000 higher than those of the non-plug-in Fusion Hybrid, but local and national EV incentives can narrow the gap or, in some regions, even eliminate the price differential altogether.

EPA ratings for the 2017 Fusion Energi when using both gasoline and electric power are 95 MPGe city/81 MPGe highway/88 MPGe combined. (MPGe, or Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, measures the distance a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as in one gallon of gasoline.) The total electric range is 22 miles, a boost from 20 miles last year.

When operating as a hybrid, once battery energy has been depleted, the Energi is rated at 42 mpg combined, earning it a spot in Clean Fleet Report’s 40 MPG Club. That compares to the 38 mpg combined rating for the 2016 model.

The car’s combined gasoline and electric driving range has risen to 610 miles from last year’s 550 miles. To that I will tip my hat to anyone who can drive more than 600 miles without stopping.

Ford’s Hybrid System

The 2017 Fusion Energi and the less-electrified Fusion Hybrid both employ a lean-burning Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Without delving into details, an Atkinson-cycle engine gives up a little power output in exchange for improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.

Ford says the four’s output is 141 horsepower and 129 pounds-feet of torque. Working in conjunction with the engine is a 118 horsepower AC electric traction motor that supplies 117 pounds-feet of torque. Since they make peak power in different ways, total system output adds up to only 188 horsepower.

Ford’s hybrid system is a powersplit architecture design. In a powersplit hybrid, the gasoline engine and electric motor can work together in blended mode or individually to maximize efficiency.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

A touch of luxury inside

The engine also can operate independently of vehicle speed, providing power to the wheels or charging the batteries via regenerative braking as needed. The motor alone can deliver enough power to the wheels to silently whisk the Fusion Energi to a speed of 85 mph or be driven up to 22 miles on electric power alone.

Ford attributes the 2017 fuel economy increase to changes in the car’s powertrain control software and regenerative braking algorithms.

A planetary gear set transmits power output of the engine, motor or the combination of both to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) that directs the power to the front wheels.

The Fusion Energi exchanges the standard hybrid’s 1.4-kilowatt-hour (kwh) lithium-ion traction battery pack with a much larger, 7.6-kwh battery pack located in the cargo area. The battery provides the juice for electric propulsion and draws its charge on the go from a second motor/generator driven by the engine and from regenerative braking. Using a standard 120-volt outlet, recharging a depleted battery takes seven hours. Thus, there are no overnight charging worries with just a wall outlet. From a 240-volt Level 2 charger the Energi can be fully charged in 2.5 hours.

Still A Pacesetter For Artsy Design

The Fusion is essentially a Ford Mondeo sold in European markets, with styling penned by Ford’s European design group. Five years into it, the Fusion’s bold aerodynamic styling still looks fresh.

For 2017, Ford gave the Fusion its most significant update since its model-year 2013 redesign.  The already handsome nose has a wider and more angular grille flanked by new LED headlamps that sweep gracefully into muscular front fenders. The hood and front-fender sheet metal is unchanged, while thin roof pillars and a slopping roofline suggest a sense of lightness. On the backside, the deck lid has been lowered and features LED taillamps.

The only attribute that distinguishes the Energi from its non-plug sibling is the round “filler door” on the left front fender. A four-element LED light ring surrounds the perimeter of the charging port, lighting up in segments as a visual cue to let the driver know the battery’s charge status upon parking the vehicle and plugging it in.

The Inside Story

Hybrid specific energy and powertrain data is provided by a center eight-inch screen, and dual 4.2-inch LCD screens on either side of the center instruments. Included is Ford’s latest version of EcoGuide, which helps drivers maximize fuel economy though a series of novel interactive displays. To prevent sensory overload, the system allows the driver to decide how much information to see, and what can be ignored.

2017 Ford Fusion Energi, gauges, Brake Coach

The Coach is in!

My favorite feature is the clever Brake Coach; Ford has filed patents for the algorithm and display function. It coaches the driver in a manner that maximizes the energy returned to the battery pack through regenerative braking — brake early and lightly.

Ford has done a commendable job with the Fusion Energi’s interior. The mostly leather cabin of our Platinum test car with its metal accents gave a true luxury feel. The touch points are soft and every inch of the cabin uses high-quality materials that projected the high-end look and feel.

The conventional center-console-mounted transmission lever is replaced with a rotary dial that you turn to select a gear. Accompanied by a neat little lever to operate the electric parking brake, it’s a clean, contemporary arrangement and makes it easier to reach the console’s bins and cupholders.

Front quilted leather seats were firm, yet comfortable and infinitely adjustable. Rear seating can accommodate three adult passengers with good legroom, although the rear sloping roof cuts into headroom. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

As a family car, what could be a deal breaker is the small trunk. The large battery limits cargo space to just 8.2 cubic feet—four cubic feet less than the hybrid version and nearly half of what’s available on standard Fusions.

Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system with navigation, standard on Energi models, synced up easily with my iPhone and was intuitive as I negotiated my way through entertainment, climate control,

2017 Ford Fusion Energi

Join the rotary club

navigation and communication screens.  The system enables Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 4G LTE and other essential apps. Siri will help iPhone users retrieve maps and messages should they prefer not to use the touchscreen.

The new Fusion Energi beefs up its tech arsenal, which now features adaptive cruise control, automatic collision-avoidance braking, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning and features automatic parking.

Driving The Fusion Energi

As I said, the Fusion Energi is essentially two cars in one—a battery electric vehicle and a hybrid vehicle. The acceleration was rather brisk when needed, but it also cruised city streets quietly and easily kept up with the flow of traffic. The ride was quite smooth.

When the battery charge depleted, the hybrid powertrain delivered more than sufficient acceleration to give it enough oomph to quickly merge onto freeways, and passing on two-lane highways was accomplished with ease. The transition from electric drive to the engine was a non-event, such that I often had to look at the instrument panel to confirm the car had switched to gasoline power.

With the Fusion, Ford brought the European Mondeo, giving the Fusion Energi responsive steering, a nimble chassis and taut body control that make for an enjoyable drive. The all-independent suspension provided a compliant feel that made it ideal for long trips as well as daily commuting.

During our week with the Energi we clocked 359 miles, which were tallied on city streets, two lane highways and freeways. The fuel economy readout indicated 44.3 mpg, slightly more than two mpgs better that the EPA number. As for electric driving range, with a fully charged battery the car was nearly spot on with 21.7 miles before the juice ran out. The readout display indicated 99.3 MPGe, again better than the EPA estimate.

In The Market Place

2017 Ford Fusion Energi,technolgoy

Ford keeps upping the technology equation–parking assistant

Competition among plug-in hybrid vehicles was scarce when the Fusion Energi arrived; it’s not anymore. In addition to the Chevrolet Volt with a class-topping 53-mile driving range, direct competitors now include plug-in hybrid versions of the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Honda’s Accord and the Toyota Prius Prime.

While the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima and Honda Accord plug-ins are four-door sedans, the Chevy Volt and Prius Prime are five-door hatchbacks.

If you can live with four functional seats rather than five, the Chevy Volt boasts more than twice the electric driving range of the Energi. Similarly, if cargo space and overall efficiency is more important than all-electric range, then the Prius Prime might be the best choice. The Accord Plug-in compares the closest to the Fusion with a plug. It’s more expensive than the Ford, but has better fuel economy.

All things considered, though, the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is an excellent green-oriented family hauler and commuter vehicle. It also offers handsome styling, a quiet cabin, nimble chassis and smooth ride. And, if your round trip commute is around 40 or so miles with the opportunity to plug-in at work, it’s a very pleasing electric car.

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

Road Test: 2017 Chevrolet Volt

Road Test: 2016 Chevrolet Volt

Top Ten Best-Selling High-MPG Cars

Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Top 10 Electric Cars

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in

Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.