The Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid sedan shows that US automakers can still rival the best that Europe and Japan have to offer, combining great looks with nearly 100 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency.
An ultra-green sibling to the “regular’’ Fusion Hybrid (which is itself an eco-friendly version of Ford’s gas-powered Fusion), the Fusion Energi boasts special rechargeable batteries that will propel the car for 19 miles or so on electric power only. That means the midsize sedan will essentially run as an all-electric car if all you drive is roughly 10 miles each way to work.
Drive more than 19 miles and the car will automatically flip over to a mix of gas and battery power, basically operating as a traditional hybrid. The sedan’s batteries will partially recharge through regenerative braking, so you can go as far as you want without plugging the car in (so long as you occasionally buy gas).
It’s the perfect cure for anyone with range anxiety, a fear of running out of battery power and being stuck in the middle of nowhere. But because the Fusion Energi runs on battery power alone sometimes, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the vehicle’s fuel efficiency at the equivalent of 95 mpg/city and 81 mpg/highway.
Best of all, the car manages to post these phenomenal mpg figures while looking sharp and handling great.
On the outside, the Fusion Energi looks a whole lot like a sexy $48,000 Jaguar XF. The car’s sleek hood sits atop a debonair-looking grille and shiny 15-spoke aluminum wheels. From there, the Fusion Energi’s aerodynamic roof slopes back to the car’s abbreviated trunk area.
Inside, even the base Fusion Energi SE that I tested came standard with a wide array of upscale finishes, from chrome accents to stitched-leather seats.
The SE also features a great touch screen that controls the vehicle’s standard climate and audio equipment: Bluetooth, a six-speaker AM/FM/Sirius/CD/USB stereo, and dual-zone climate system. (The touch screen also ran my test car’s optional $795 navigational system.)
Nearby, an extra display shows you all sorts of great fuel-efficiency information. For instance, you’ll get a readout at the end of every trip as to what your mpg was, how many miles you ran on all-electric power, and how efficiently you applied the car’s regenerative brakes.
As for comfort, the Fusion Energi’s power front seats offer both driver and passenger plenty of headroom, legroom, and hip room. In back, split fold-down rear seats provide good headroom and hip room as well, although legroom might be a bit tight for adults during long trips.
All the way back, the Fusion Energi’s trunk offers a diminutive 8.2 cubic feet of cargo space, as the vehicle’s big battery pack eats up lots of room.
On the road, the sedan’s standard automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive, and 195-horsepower gas/electric power plant team up to provide a quiet, refined ride.
Putting the Fusion Energi through its paces recently along Routes 9 and 128 in Boston’s Metrowest suburbs, the first thing I noticed was that the car made absolutely no noise when I turned it on.
You’ll hear either complete silence or a quiet electric whir when driving in all-electric mode, as well as when the car has switched over to hybrid operation but is going at low speeds. The Fusion Energi’s gas engine does kick in at around 25 mph when you’re in hybrid mode, but the car runs very smoothly and quietly even then.
Ford says completely recharging your Fusion Energi should take around seven hours using a standard 120-volt electrical outlet or 2-1/2 hours at 240 volts. (I needed about five hours to juice up my test car using 120-volt power.)
Of course, the whole beauty of plug-in hybrids is that if you fail to charge them up, they’ll still run great as traditional hybrids. I didn’t plug my test car in for the first few days I had it, but still enjoyed an impressive 37.5 mpg in combined city/highway fuel efficiency.
Unfortunately, all of that greenness will cost you plenty of greenbacks.
Even a base Fusion Energi lists for $35,525, including destination charges, vs. $22,795 for a traditional gas-powered Fusion and $27,095 for a regular Fusion Hybrid.
It’s debatable whether the Fusion Energi is worth the extra money, as the Fusion Hybrid offers an excellent 44 mpg/city and 41 mpg/highway and even gas-powered models get a decent 22 mpg/city and 34 mpg/highway.
That said, Fusion Energi buyers do qualify for special $4,007 federal tax credits, while the EPA estimates charging up your car will only cost around 5 cents per mile for electricity. That’s like paying about $1.75 a gallon for gas. All told, the agency projects that you’ll save $6,250 over five years driving a Fusion Energi vs. the average car.
2014 Ford Fusion Energi
Price, base/as tested (with destination): $35,525/$40,585. Fuel economy: EPA estimated: 95 city/81 highway/88 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 37.5 in hybrid mode, approximately 94 in all-electric mode. Drivetrain: 2.0-liter inline-4 plug-in hybrid, continuously variable automatic transmission, front-wheel-drive. Body: 5-passenger midsize sedan.
Horsepower: 188 in all-electric mode, 195 in hybrid mode. Torque: 129 lb. ft. Overall length: 191.8 in. Wheelbase: 112.2 in. Height: 58 in. Width: 72.9 in. (excluding mirrors). Curb weight: 3,913 lbs.
Good looks, incredible fuel efficiency, none of a pure electric car’s range anxiety.
Small trunk due to large battery pack, high price relative to both the gas-powered Fusion and the non-plug-in hybrid version.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re willing to pay the extra price for a plug-in hybrid, the Ford Fusion Energi is a lovely, eco-friendly, midsize sedan.
Chevrolet Volt, Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.