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2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE review: Here's your plug

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The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE is smooth, far smoother than anyone might expect. That’s under full electric power, however, and with the battery of the plug-in hybrid fully charged, that’s for 20 miles—Ford says about 21 miles—before the Fusion Energi changes full electric to electric/gas hybrid mode.

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Perhaps “smooth” isn’t what one might expect from a review of a hybrid, even a plug-in hybrid like the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi. The topic should gas mileage, plain and simple. For anyone commutes less than 20 miles round trip, or has access to a plug-in while at work, the fuel economy gauge will show 999.9 average mpg. Ford says a full charge via a 240v outlet takes 2.8 hours, on 120v takes 6.5 hours, all doable during most people’s work day.

That said right up front, our average fuel economy for a tank of gasoline was 53.1 mpg of gas…and an unknown quantity of electricity. How that breaks down cost-wise depends on exactly how much electricity was used, and at what charge per kW. We’d like to think we saved a buck or two, but either way, we can’t sure. And depending on your cost per kilowatt, your results would vary. Just as the cost of operation—sorry, California—depends on your cost of gasoline.

One thing is for certain. The purchase price for a Ford Hybrid Energi is steep but not excessive, even without subsidies or tax breaks—which are really just a way of transferring your cost of purchase of a hybrid to someone else while you reap the benefit of improved fuel economy. The price tag for our 2014 Ford Fusion started at $38,700, plus $795 delivery. But the options drove the final price up quickly, including Active Park Assist (self-parking) at $895, Reverse Sensing System at $295, Adaptive Cruise Control for $995, Navigation at $795, Rear- view Camera adding $295, proximity key with pushbutton start for $320, rear inflatable seatbelts for $190, and the Driver Assist Package which includes a lane keeping system, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert totaling $1,140. Altogether, options come to $5,125, for a grand total of $44,620.

That compares, for example, a 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE a base price of $27,200. A 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3, on the other hand, had a base price of $49,300 and in true BMW manner is easy to option up over $60,000; the EPA fuel economy estimate for the ActiveHybrid 3 was 25/33 mpg city/highway.

That’s a lot of money all the way around. But the Fusion seems high for the market only because it has a blue oval on its nose, rather than a blue and white roundel. The Fusion is that good. It’s just not a sport sedan. Call it a Lincoln, anyone?

The Fusion Energi we drove was the SE trim level, and if you didn’t know better, you’d think—especially with the option list—it’s top of the line. Standard equipment includes heated leather seats with 10-way driver and four-way power seats. The list also includes dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio with CD and MP3, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Ford’s Sync with MyFord Touch, including hands-free telephone, Wi-Fi and voice recognition, is standard as well, and it even comes with floor mats, which some more expensive nameplates have as a costly extra.

The Fusion Energi SE, however, is topped by the Energi Titanium, which along with certain color trim packages adds ambient lighting, sport seats, Sony 12-speaker audio with HD radio and automatic high beams.

That’s frosting, however, with the Fusion Energi's sophisticated drivetrain as cake. Typical of hybrids, the Energi has an Atkinson-cycle engine for the gasoline half of its hybrid. In this case it’s a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 141 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque. It’s complemented by 118-horse electric motor that has a torque rating of 117 lb-ft, and is incorporated into the continuously variable transmission (CVT). Under “normal” operation and with charge remaining in its high-voltage battery, the Fusion Energi runs solely on the electric motor, the gas engine kicking in only for maximum acceleration. Fusion Energi is capable of 85 mph is possible on electric motor/battery alone.

As expected with an electric vehicle/hybrid, the Fusion Energi has regenerative braking, which Ford claims can recapture 95 percent of energy normally lost to braking. However, unlike some regenerative braking systems, the Fusion Energi’s doesn’t betray its conventional/regen status, usually felt as a surge as the regenerative part shuts off just6 before a full stop. The braking system, by the way, has a readout that displays your braking efficiency, in case you wanted to know. And rather than a conventional engine vacuum powered brake system—which wouldn’t work when the engine wasn’t running—the Fusion Energi’s power brake boost is provided by yet another electric motor.

That the gasoline engine may not, for those with a short commute or the availability of frequent recharge, run at all, which requires what Ford calls a Fuel Freshness mode. Long periods of the engine not running—Ford defines that as 18 months, though that seems really long to us—can cause fuel to become “old,” which can damage the engine and fuel system. If that time is exceeded, the vehicle will operate in standard hybrid mode until one gallon of the old fuel is left, at which time electric vehicle mode can be resumed.

The charging point for the Fusion Energi’s lithium-ion battery is on the left front fender under a door that pops open, and it’s surrounded by a light ring that makes plugging in the power cord easier when it’s dark.

The battery shrinks the Fusion Energi’s trunk. Located between the rear wheels--and it’s big, large enough to claim almost half of the standard Fusion’s trunk--the battery takes the trunk from 16.0 down to 8.2 cubic feet. The battery, plus all the extra bits and pieces of the powertrain takes the regular curb weight from about 3,400 lbs, depending on model and trim, to 3,913 lbs. That’s a significant increase in mass.

The interior of the Fusion Energi isn’t all that different from the standard Fusion, albeit with a few differences, such as the EV button for activating the electric vehicle mode when in normal hybrid mode. The instrument panel also differs from the standard i.p. To the right of the speedometer is a color screen that can display energy leaves, which graphically displays how energy-friendly the car is being driven. Just leaves on this screen, however, no flowers. Perhaps Ford didn’t like the Fusion Energi being deflowered by hard driving.

To the left of the steering wheel is a reconfigurable screen that can show a variety of data, including average fuel consumption, not only overall but with columns to show recent performance. There’s enough data for the serious hyper-miler to get the most out a gallon of gas, or no gas at all.

We didn’t have the Fusion for enough time or travel in predictable route for the hybrid system to record GPS data and apply it to a driver’s normal driving route, optimizing the hybrid system’s operation over the usual path.

What won’t be changed, then, is the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi’s smooth running, something indeed that can be changed by running out of charge. The 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine is coarse, and the Fusion Energi’s smoothness suffers in comparison to its battery EV operation. The Fusion Energi also suffers, if that’s the word, from being “just a Ford,” as well as differing little from the standard Fusion, a model with a base price of $22,400. That’s not how you impress the neighbors, at least not without standing at the end of your driveway shouting “It’s a plugin hybrid, fer chrissakes!”

Anyone who can afford it, and with the emotionally security to own it, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi is a good way to go smooth.

2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE, price and key specifications as tested

Body style/layout: 4-door sedan, front engine/front-wheel drive

Base price: $38,700

Price as tested: $44,620

Engine

  • Type: 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC Atkinson-cycle I4
  • Displacement, cc: 1999
  • Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
  • Compression ratio: 12.3:1
  • Horsepower: 141 @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 129 @ 4000 rpm
  • Recommended fuel: regular unleaded

Electric Motor

  • Permanent magnet synchronous motor
  • Horsepower: 188 @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 117 lb-ft
  • Battery: 7.6 kWh
  • Fuel economy, EPA est, gasoline only.: 43 mpg gasoline only
  • Fuel economy, EPA est. combined: 100 mpg
  • Fuel economy, observed: 53.1 mpg and 999.9 mpg (all electric)

Transmission: eCVT hybrid powersplit transaxle

Chassis/Suspension

  • Suspension, front/rear: McPherson strut / multilink
  • Wheels: 17-inch alloy
  • Tires: 235/50R17
  • Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 12.4-inch dia. front/12.4-inch dia. rear
  • Steering: electric power rack-and-pinion
  • Turning circle:37.6 ft

Dimensions

  • Wheelbase: 112.2 in.
  • Length: 191.8 in.
  • Height: 58.0 in.
  • Width: 75.2 in.
  • Curb weight: 3,913 lbs
  • Trunk volume: 8.2 cu. ft.
  • Fuel tank: 14.0 gal.

Safety

  • Airbags: Front, front side, front knee, side curtain, inflatable rear seatbelt (option)
  • Anti-lock brakes: Yes Traction control: Yes Stability control: Yes Electronic brake-force distribution: Yes Brake assist: Yes
  • Other: post-crash alert system

Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper; 5-year/60,000 –mile powertrain; 5-year/60,000 safety restraint system; 5-year/unlimited-mile corrosion, 4-year/50,000-mile scheduled service, 5-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance

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