Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Road Test: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Ford’s Everything Car — Super Mileage, Style & Functionality

Clean Fleet Report had two chances to test the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi — the plug-in hybrid version of Ford’s best-selling car — and came away from both with a clear view of why this model is so popular. It hits on all of the key metrics that make a car great, starting with its looks. The Energi version of the Fusion is the supermodel doppelganger who has just done an IPO with a cleantech startup. When the restyled second-generation Fusion first came out in 2013, it was a head-turner. It took a pedestrian midsize car and turned it into something that could easily be mistaken for a more exotic car costing two or three times as much. Two model years later the Fusion still looks fresh.

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in hybrid,mpg

Looking like something else

Beyond looks, the 2014 Ford Fusion represents another strong approach by the company to fuel economy, showcasing its EcoBoost turbocharged smaller engines throughout the lineup, optional start-stop technology as well as offering a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid version. That lets them give a choice of fuel economy ranging from a minimal of 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25 mpg combined in the all-wheel-drive based model (which can max out at 25/37/29 with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost in the front-wheel drive version) up to 108 MPGe city (miles per gallon equivalent, which accounts for the miles running on electricity) in the Energi version that Clean Fleet Report tested. In between is the Fusion Hybrid that delivers 44 mpg city/41 mpg hwy/42 mpg combined. Using EPA numbers you should be able to get 550 miles on a tank of fuel, but, of course, if you plug in more and take short trips, that range can extend exponentially.

Finally, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi and its siblings represent the epitome of the monstrous midsize car market. Along with the style and fuel economy the car will comfortably seat five adults. It has all the bells and whistles available and many of them are standard features, including leather heated front seats, Sirius/XM radio and SYNC with MyFord Touch. The only engine available is the 2-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine mated to a 118 horsepower electric motor and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT). The power system’s final component is its 7.6 kWh lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery (with 35 kW of peak power), which will supply power to drive up to 21 miles under electric power alone.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2014 Fusion Energi drives like it looks — smooth and stylish. The front independent MacPherson strut and rear independent multilink suspensions, both of which have stabilizer bars, deliver a stable on-highway ride and solid

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,mpg,styling,plug-in hybrid

Strutting its stuff

cornering, aided by the added weight of the batteries in the bottom of the trunk. Braking is as you’d expect from a best-selling contemporary sedan, straight and true from the four-wheel discs with ABS and integrated regenerative braking, which convert the kinetic energy of braking into electricity and store it in the Li-Ion battery. A “Brake Coach” feature in the instrument cluster teaches you how to maximize your regen effectiveness by giving you instant feedback on how much energy you were able to store.

Driving Experience: Interior

The range of electronic gadgetry available on the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi is extensive. Standard features include a rear-view camera and optional are active park assist (which will park your car for you), a reverse-sensing system, adaptive

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,storage

Storage-your luggage shares with electrons

cruise control, blind spot/cross-traffic alert and a lane-keeping system.

Inside all of the usual power equipment is standard, including a 10-way driver’s seat with power lumbar support and a six-way passenger seat. The standard audio system includes an AM/FM stereo with CD player, MP3 capability and six

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,interior

Trimmed in luxury

speakers. The optional Sony-branded audio system doubles the number of speakers and adds HD Radio technology.

Ten airbags round out the interior, which also includes a trunk pass-through and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats. Luggage space is compromised with the battery taking up a good portion of the trunk. We found when traveling with three adults that we ended up having to use the back seat in order to carry all of the luggage.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Fusion has been accused of borrowing its exterior style extensively from a former Ford stablemate, Aston Martin. We don’t see anything wrong with that since we find it a truly exquisite design. The aerodynamics are there and we feel it’s got more street presence than its two main plug-in competitors — the Toyota Prius Plug-in and the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid.

Standard wheels are 17-inch painted aluminum with 18-inch ones optional. The whole package looks fairly svelte for weighing in at just under 4,000 pounds.

Charging is through a port in the front fender. A lighted ring around the charge port glows to indicate the state of charge, a handy an aesthetically pleasing touch.

Pricing & Warranties

Though we tested a 2014 model, here are the latest prices on the just-release and virtually identical 2015 models of the Fusion. The prices do not include the $825 delivery charge.

Fusion S                               $21,970

Fusion SE                             $23,935

Fusion Titanium                 $30,600

Fusion Hybrid S                 $26,270

Fusion Hybrid SE               $27,280

Fusion Hybrid Titanium  $32,600

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,styling,mpg

Looking ready to move

Fusion Energi SE               $34,700

Fusion Energi Titanium  $36,500

The Energi models come with a higher level of standard equipment to accompany their higher initial price tags so true apple-to-apple price comparisons need to be made with the SE and Titanium models, and even then it’s not strictly comparable. The indicated “step” between the basic Fusion and the Hybrid is about $2,500-$3,500 and the “step” between the Hybrid and Energi models is roughly $4,000 to $5,000. Ford has been lowering prices on its hybrid models during the current generation and claims the payback through reduced fuel costs is roughly three-and-a-half years.

The Energi has a few extra warranties to cover its unique electronic components. Those warranties vary between California and some of the other 49 states that follow California’s emissions regulations.

Bumper-to-bumper         3-years/36,000-miles

Powertrain                         5-years/60,000-miles

Safety Equipment             5-years/60,000-miles

Corrosion                            5-years/Unlimited miles

Electronic Components   8-years/100,000-miles

California Warranty         15-years/150,000-miles

2014 Ford Fusion Energi Overview

Ford has come a long way since introducing its first hybrid, the Escape SUV, 10 years ago. The hybrid systems have become more sophisticated, more powerful and more integrated into the overall vehicle. Ford now assembles its own batteries from cells purchased from Sanyo, which has helped both in cost reduction and vehicle integration.

2014,Ford,Fusion,Energi,plug-in hybrid

A clever light

The choice for a car buyers looking for a plug-in hybrid boils down to three basic contenders with some options around the edges. In addition to the Fusion Energi, Toyota has a plug-in version of its Prius hybrid and Honda offers a plug-in version of its best-selling Accord. Slightly smaller is the Chevy Volt and slightly larger is the Ford C-Max Energi, which shares the Fusion propulsion system but is built more like a wagon. Rounding out the plug-in hybrid universe are three high-end luxury cars — the Cadillac ELR, Porsche Panamera SE-Hybrid and BMW i8. The group will be growing in the coming years (next to join will probably be the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid), but it has the distinction of presenting electrically-enhanced models of three of the best-selling cars on the market.

Compared to its head-to-head competition from Toyota and Honda the Fusion has more power, more electric-only range and comparable EPA mileage ratings. We think it’s got styling that puts it beyond those two and pricing that’s comparable when you look at equipment. The Fusion has the biggest gas tank and thus the longest range, offers the most variety of colors and equipment. The Accord is slightly longer overall, but the interior volume is almost the same; it’s is priced higher than the Fusion. The Prius is smaller and also the least expensive of the three and has the most cargo room because of its hatchback configuration.

It’s hard to go wrong with any of these, but we lean toward the Fusion because of its capability of being an all-electric driver (for 20-mile trips) combined with the versatility to take on longer stretches. We like its styling, handling and high-tech features. We like that it seems to get better every year. When given the option of beauty and brains, we’ll take that option every time.

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First Drive: 2015 Audi A3 2.0-liter TFSI Quattro

First Drive: 2015 Audi A3 2.0-liter TFSI Quattro

A Great Redesign for the Audi A3, But I’m Waiting for the TDI and e-tron

Audi, in the thick of the battle for luxury car supremacy with BMW and Mercedes-Benz, has launched its latest weapon, the all-new 2015 A3 compact sedan, and aimed it directly at its target audience, the millennials.

As Audi told the media at the A3’s launch, the A3 is the starting point for the brand. With a starting price just under $30,000, the new A3 was designed for the U.S. market according to Reinhard Fischer, director of strategy for Audi of America. While the longer, wider (than the preceding A3) sedan will have two all-new gas engines (1.8-liter and 2.0-liter 4-cylinders) to start, it will eventually have seven variants, including four body styles and five engines.

Though the gas A3s are impressive in performance while still boasting a PZEV (partial zero emission) designation, two upcoming

Audi,A3,quattro,mpg,fuel economy

Audi makes it simple-more is better

models (the TDI and e-tron) are the ones we’ll be waiting for at Clean Fleet Report. The 2.0-liter TFSI (for Turbo Fuel Stratified Injection, clearly translated directly from the German) pumps out a very accessible 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from its cast-iron block, aluminum head double overhead cam (DOHC) engine. According to Audi, and we have no reason to doubt this based on our field tests, the 2.0-liter A3 is capable of hitting 60 mph from a stop in 5.8 seconds.

All-Wheel Drive More Efficient Than 2WD

What’s most impressive, though, is that the power is delivered so efficiently that in EPA tests this engine with all-wheel drive delivered slightly better fuel economy than the 1.8-liter front-wheel

drive model. Both had 27 combined mpg and 33 highway, but the quattro (Audi’s designation for all-wheel drive) gets 24 mpg

Audi,A3,quattro,mpg,handling,fuel economy,

The new A3 grips and grins

around town while the front-drive chalked up only 23. That stands conventional wisdom on its head when a larger, more powerful engine driving all four wheels is more efficient than a smaller one driving on the front wheels. It’s a testament to the engineers at Audi and its parent Volkswagen organization.

Handling in the Audi Quattro is what you would expect from a sporty small car. In a drive through the Santa Cruz mountains of Northern California, the Audi hugged the road admirably, easily capable of taking corners at twice the posted speed limit. The direct injection engine and turbocharger seems in perfect sync with the needs of the car accelerating up twisting mountain roads.

Lightweighting Key

The new A3 has dropped 100 pounds compared to the previous generation, according to Beth Wykes, the A3 product manager. Lightweighting, which plays a critical role in performance, was accomplished through use of high-strength steel and aluminum, resulting in an improved vehicle weight/horsepower ratio that is evident on the road.

The stylized Audi look, while conservative, delivers a .30 coefficient of drag, which aids higher speed performance. My personal

Audi,A3,quattro,mpg,performance,fuel economy

The view many will see of the new A3

preference is both the five-door hatchback featured in the previous generation, but the sedan has a good look.

The A3 comes loaded with technology and has even more as an option. Standard on the sedan are leather seats, a panoramic sunroof and xenon headlights (with optional LEDs). Other technology includes dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows and driver’s seat, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, a retractable thin MMI screen hi-def/wheel input w/touch, LED DRL/rear lights, Audi side assist, active lane assist, and adaptive cruise control , drive select modes for steering, throttle and transmission shift.

While the sedan is enticing, we at Clean Fleet Report will await the arrival of the diesel TDI (fall 2014) and e-Tron (plug-in hybrid Q1 2015). As nice as the TFSI engine is, we believe the new diesel and the plug-in hybrid will take this model to new efficiency heights while diminishing none of the styling or performance that draws one to the Audi.

The Competition

The A3 does have some serious competition. The Mercedes CLA-just out, available for approximately the same price as the A3, but in front-drive models only initially. The CLA, which also has an AMG version to go head-to-head with the A3’s coming S3 model, offers 26/38 mpg in the city/highway and horsepower and performance slotted right between the two A3 gas engines.

BMW’s 1-Series is another competitor; it has a redesigned model coming soon. It currently uses a six-cylinder engine that delivers more horsepower and torque, but at the expense of fuel economy. Of course, if they drop a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel like the one available in their X3 model, this could be a real contender. Expect some moves along those lines as BMW moves all of its models to more efficient modes.

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2015 Audi A3 2.0L TFSI Quattro

 

 

 

 

 

 

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