2014 Ford Fusion Energi PHEV First Test
For the Jaded Hybrid Enthusiast
Hybrids have come a long way since the 2001 Toyota Prius took 13.2 seconds to reach 60 mph in Motor Trend testing. When that Prius sedan arrived in the U.S., Toyota carefully noted in ads that the efficient sedan never needed to be plugged in. Since then, plug-in hybrids have emerged as technological flagships that shine a green light on the rest of an automaker's fleet. To see just how bright the 2014 Ford Fusion Titanium Energi shines, we tested the sedan on the track and in the real world to determine how it compares to the Toyota Prius and Honda Accord Hybrid plug-ins as well as the more advanced Chevrolet Volt.
The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi not only is more efficient overall than its non-plug-in counterpart, but it's quicker, too. Combined power is rated 188 hp from a 141-hp, 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 and 118-hp electric motor, and the big battery filling much of the trunk is a 7.6 kW-hr lithium-ion unit. Despite weighing 3981 pounds as-tested in high-end Titanium trim, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi is slightly quicker in stoplight sprints to 30 mph, at 2.9 seconds to the 3.1 seconds of the Toyota Prius PHEV, 2012 Chevrolet Volt, and non-PHEV Fusion Hybrid SE. When the engine and electric motor are working together, the Fusion Energi never feels sluggish. From zero to 60 mph, the Fusion Energi's 7.9-second time beats the non-PHEV Fusion (8.5 seconds), Toyota Prius PHEV (9.8 seconds), and 2012 Chevrolet Volt (8.8 seconds).
Of course, no one buys plug-in hybrids or so-called extended-range electric vehicles for swift acceleration, but with the Fusion it's nice to know you can have respectable pick-up and efficiency. As with other PHEVs, the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi has multiple drive modes. In the Ford, you can use all of your EV power at once, let the car determine the most efficient combination of EV and engine power, or save your full EV charge if you know that later on you'll be somewhere the car's partial EV powertrain can be maximized.
Crucial to the Fusion Energi's appeal, the Ford's EPA-rated 21-mile EV range before the gas engine turns on is far less than the 2013-2014 Volt (38 miles), but more than the Prius (11 miles) and Accord Hybrid (13 miles). Though no mainstream automaker has been as ambitious as Chevrolet with the Volt, the Ford's real-world EV range is still more useful than the Toyota or Honda's. It's worth noting that although the Fusion Energi has a class-leading EPA-rated EV-and-gas driving range of 620 miles, the Accord Hybrid and Prius PHEVs are more efficient once you've depleted the charge, at 47/46 mpg city/highway for the Honda, 51/49 mpg for the Toyota, and 44/41 mpg for the Ford.
For buyers jaded by normal hybrids, plug-ins such as the Fusion Energi can be fun. By driving at reasonable speeds with the eco-friendly adaptive cruise control setting and the climate control off, I managed a few trips of just under 23 miles solely on EV power, with a couple of those miles thanks to regenerative braking. While you don't have nearly as much power in full EV mode, there's enough to get you moving in the city, or up to 85 mph on the highway before the engine wakes up. A full recharge takes about seven hours at 110V, or 2.5 hours at 240V.
While you're experimenting with how hard you can apply the accelerator pedal before the engine turns on, the Ford's many displays tell you what's going on under the sheetmetal. The central display screen depicts a Fusion in profile view, showing if you are in EV mode, if you're using regenerative braking, and whether the engine is on and why. Then there are the instrument cluster displays describing how much energy you're expending with climate control use, estimated EV range, and more. One smart feature: The instrument cluster screen on the left resets a trip computer after every trip, displaying total miles traveled, how many miles were on EV power alone, the number of miles from regenerative braking, and the total number of gallons and kW-hr used. It sounds overwhelming, but once you find your favorite info screens, the only one you might find annoying is the one that appears when you stop the car and says, "Thanks for driving a hybrid!"
No thanks are necessary, since the driving experience is actually pretty good. If you throw the 2014 Fusion Energi around a few corners, you might feel that extra weight bulking it down as the efficiency-oriented tires complain a little, but the car never embarrasses itself. A couple staffers liked the weight of the steering, and the brakes performed nearly as naturally as a non-hybrid. The most significant issue we had might have been an issue with our test car -- sometimes, after the engine turned on to help the battery, a distinct vibration could be felt through the brake pedal.
On the track, the 2014 Fusion Energi came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet, compared to a 2013 Fusion Hybrid SE's 116 feet, the Toyota Prius Plug-In's 130 feet, and the Chevrolet Volt's 119 feet. The Fusion Energi went around the figure-eight course in 28.6 seconds at 0.58 g (avg), just about even with the Fusion Hybrid SE (28.7 seconds at 0.58 g) and the 2012 Chevrolet Volt (28.5 seconds at 0.59 g), while the Prius Plug-In turned in a time of 28.8 seconds at 0.56 g (avg).
The number on the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi that really shocked Motor Trend staffers was its $46,600 as-tested price. While that might have been accurate when our test car was built, we discovered that Ford has since dropped the price of its plug-in hybrid, following the price-slash pattern set by the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-In. Before regional incentives or tax credits, our Fusion actually carried a $42,630 price. When you're spending that much on a Ford-badged midsize sedan, you get the automaker's neat self-parking system, navigation with a slightly slow-loading map display page, heated leather seats finished in a garish bright red, a lane departure warning system that can nudge you back into your lane, and an adaptive cruise control with an eco setting.
It's a lot of money, but remove the $595 White Platinum paint, $695 red interior package, $995 for the adaptive cruise control, and $895 for the parking system and you're below $40,000, which is comparable to similarly equipped Chevrolet Volts, the Toyota Prius PHEV, and the Honda Accord Hybrid PHEV. On the Ford, you can't get LED headlights like on the Toyota or Honda, or the Toyota's head-up display, but nothing in this burgeoning class looks as good as the Fusion Energi -- that's a real selling point.
So is the Fusion's interior space -- the Volt only seats four, and although the Prius seats five, it's not as big inside as the Accord and Fusion. If you'd rather have more cargo capacity than people capacity, then the Volt and Prius deserve another look. What distinguishes the Fusion Energi and Volt from the Prius and Accord Hybrid is the willingness of Chevrolet and Ford to sell the cars in more than just a handful of states. You're not limited on the Fusion or Volt to just a handful of colors, either. Other than the PHEV price premium and the small 8.2-cubic-foot trunk, the Ford Fusion Energi requires no significant compromise. The non-PHEV Fusion Hybrid has 12.0 cubic feet of cargo capacity and the regular Fusions kick it up to 16.0 cubic feet when the practical Ford C-Max Energi PHEV isn't a part of the picture.
If you want to recapture the eco-thrills of driving a hybrid but live in a state that doesn't offer the Accord Hybrid or Prius PHEVs, for below $40,000 your choice is Ford or Chevy. Then it's a question of priorities -- do you want class-leading EV range or the interior space of a midsize sedan?
|2014 Ford Fusion Titanium Energi|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$42,630|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/141-hp/129-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont. variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3981 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.8 x 75.2 x 58 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.1 sec @ 88.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.6 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||44/41/43 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||77/82 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.46 lb/mile|