The Upscale Hybrid Sedan
Jim Powell, Fri, 22 Mar 2013 05:51:07 PDT
The look of the new 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is stunning. The lines of the sedan are long, elegant, sweeping, and indicate that Ford has taken their successful hybrid sedan and stretched its interior and market appeal. It struck me immediately when I saw the new Fusion lined up on a track day a long side the Fisker Karma electric supercar, the Mercedes S-Class sedans, and the Austin Martin DB9, that this car has a look of pedigree. As an international platform that Ford brings from Europe, the 2013 Fusion will cross "the Pond" with greater appeal. But is this car all show and no go?
Not really. The new hybrid has decent pickup when left in normal mode. The 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four cylinder engine matched to Ford's proven electric motor hybrid system has a reduced displacement from the 2.5 liter and now has a combined horsepower (188 hp) and torque. I was able to get into traffic from a dead stop without hesitation. Ford has all but eliminated the slight pause found in some hybrids that are computing as to which power source to use in that instant. The sedan reacts seamlessly and feels like an electric "turbo" is always at the ready when the driver wants some extra speed.
The permanent magnet AC synchronous motor generates 118 hp @ 6,000 rpm which is 88kW @ 6,000 rpm for the engineers out there. But the 117 lb.-ft. is what is felt instantly. The maximum speed under electric-only power is noticeable and carries the Fusion up to merging speed quickly; previously 47 mph up to 62 mph for 2013.
The real update is a set of new lithium-ion batteries which are lighter in weight and generate more power. Battery weight-to-power ratios are the Achilles Heel of all hybrid and electric cars. Lithium-ion is the best combination of quick charging capacity and weight-per-kilowatt power output on the market today. Also, Ford has placed this battery pack in such a way that a large trunk is still very usable in everyday driving and for long road trips.
My drive at the Auto Club Motor Speedway revealed Ford's new platform rigidity that has been strengthened by 10 percent (high-strength steel). This gives the Fusion a heavier-feeling ride. Uneven pavement is navigated much like the larger and heavier Taurus sedan, which is a good thing. But the weight is only perception because the overall curb weight has been reduced. High cross winds have been handled with new aerodynamics and a longer wheelbase.
Meanwhile, journalist from all over the world drove the Fusion Hybrid hard all day long and we still averaged 37.2 mpg. So Ford maybe overselling the EPA mileage numbers but we were driving a preproduction vehicle. The expected mileage is 47 mpg in city driving and 44 mpg on the highway. This is impressive for a larger sedan, considering current gas prices. The fuel tank holds 13.5 gallons so the cruising range of this Fusion Hybrid is estimated at 594 miles.
The driver's seat reveals a more substantial interior along with a very solid sounding door closing. This is simply more of a car for the money and the price has not increased substantially so it has better value as well. The materials are smooth to the touch and the simulated brushed aluminum is not cheesy. Things like padded arm rests and good seat side bolstering give the new Fusion a more substantial feel in the front and back seats. Unfortunately, the rear seat has lost headroom and corner edge support for outboard passengers.
Most new cars are receiving some technical stuff like active noise controls using the audio system to cancel out unwanted powertrain noise. Ford has done this beautifully and the cabin is quiet enough to whisper to passengers and be heard. For every road noise that enters the cabin, there is an equal "counter noise" that is emitted by the audio system to cancel that noise. Just think of it as a large pair of noise-cancelling headphones for your car's interior.
Other "helps" include Ford's lane drifting warning systems that detects drowsiness or erratic lane-keeping and gets the driver's attention. I experienced Infiniti's lane departure systems recently in their new JX-35 which actually uses the brakes and electronic steering to move the vehicle back into the lane in spite of the driver's control. Fortunately, Ford has not become this invasive into the driver's space... yet.
The adaptive cruise control has been perfected over the years and the Fusion's system works well on the freeway. The collision warning system and emergency braking assist are state of the art. Thankfully, some of these beeps can be deactivated for long trips.
The blind spot information systems can be helpful around town and in crowded parking lots. Ford's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert warns of traffic in a driver's blind spot, or oncoming traffic when backing out of a parking space with obstructed views.
Starting at just $32,995, Fusion Hybrid Titanium is available for the same price as the 2.0-liter EcoBoost Fusion with all-wheel drive. The newest Ford Fusion model (sold alongside the Fusion Hybrid SE) will be priced $1,575 less than the outgoing Fusion Hybrid. This 2013 model comes with more content, more interior space (although the rear seat headroom is reduced due to the sloping roofline) and definitely better looks.
Ford claims that the Titanium edition became available due to consumer demand with more luxury items for the hybrid category. "Traditionally, car buyers have had to compromise when selecting between class-leading efficiency, premium amenities and value," said Samantha Hoyt, Fusion Marketing manager. "The new Fusion Hybrid Titanium lets customers have it all."
So to set the Fusion Titanium model apart, Ford has added things like standard front fog lamps, some chrome accents, rear deck spoiler, and shinny 18-inch alloy wheels. Interior upgrades include nice touches like power-adjustable front seats with 10 adjustments on the left side. Leather covers all the seating surfaces, the steering wheel, and the ever-important shift lever. I found the SE to be pleasant enough and but the price difference is small enough that even the most budget-minded person could step up to the Titanium without too much guilt. "With Fusion Hybrid Titanium, going green no longer means having an austere ride," says Hoyt. "No guilt, no pain."
Electronic amenities do not overwhelm the driver and I did not feel like it would take a year to learn this vehicle's tricks. Ford has continued to push the MyFord Touch voice command software that has been annoying in other applications. However, improvements that can be downloaded, even after the purchase of the Fusion. We will see.
Titanium models get a 12-speaker Sony audio system with HD Radio, SYNC connectivity system, MyFord Touch , rear view camera, push-button start and one touch door locks, auto-dimming electrochromic rearview mirror, and their Reverse Sensing System already mentioned.
Construction: Unitized steel body
Final assembly location: Hermosillo, Mexico; Flat Rock, Mich.
Powertrain and Chassis Engines:
2.5-liter inline four-cylinder
1.6-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder
2.0-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder with hybrid system
Aluminum block and head
Fuel capacity: 16.5 gallons FWD, 17.5 gallons AWD