Ford’s Fusion Energi has entered its 2015 model year with only trim and feature updates, and since launching February 2013 has offered a solid balance among the growing crop of plug-in hybrids.
It shares its powertrain with the C-Max Energi, and shares its five-passenger, mid-sized exterior and interior design with a stable of Fusion variants.
As the top of the Fusion range, the Energi compares favorably against the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid which together use the same non-plug-in powertrain. The plug-in Energi actually uses the same powertrain too, but its trunk-mounted propulsion battery enables an EPA-rated 19 miles of all-electric range.
Competition among PHEVs is yet scarce, however. The closest rival could be the 13-mile e-range, limited-market, mid-sized Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid. There’s also the (arguably) 11-mile mid-sized Toyota Prius plug-in, the 38-plus-mile compact Chevrolet Volt, or Ford’s own identically rated C-Max Energi.
As it is, the Fusion’s e-range makes it viable for half of all Americans who commute less than 20 miles daily. The whole idea with a plug-in hybrid is to use cheaper and cleaner electricity to propel the car instead of the gas engine.
Despite a reduction this year in its EPA-estimated range and mpg in both plug-in and regular hybrid drive modes, the market is positively responding. Helped no doubt by a $4,000 price cut for 2014, sales have increased, with an all-time record set in June.
As a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Fusion Energi uses a third-generation hybrid system that shares design features and patents – but not components – with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. The Energi powertrain claims over 200 patents out of Ford’s almost 500 hybrid system patents.
The heart of it is the aluminum head and block 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle engine built in Chihuahua, Mexico. It generates 141 horsepower and 129 pounds-feet of torque and works in conjunction with a 118 horsepower AC permanent magnet electric motor that delivers 118 horsepower, 117 pounds-feet of torque.
Combined total for the front-wheel drive five-seater is 188 horsepower and maybe 200 pounds-feet torque although Ford doesn’t publish this. When the battery is charged, the system can deliver up to 195 horsepower and presumably more torque since its the e-drive that’s adding extra oomph.
A 7.6-kwh battery dominates the trunk space. This big battery pack enclosed in a step-shaped safety oriented carpeted box halves the conventional Fusion’s 16 cubic feet to 8.2 cubic feet.
Recharge time from house current is up to 7 hours from empty. From a level 2 charger it can be done in 2.5 hours. Overnight charging is thus no worries with just 120-volt current. The charge port is a standard SAE J-1772 and a neato blue LED light ring is one feature that looks cool, and distinguishes the nearly indistinguishable plug-in from its family members.
An in-house-designed electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT) delivers power which can be switched to several modes, including Eco cruise, and EV.
The Fusion Energi’ unibody chassis is assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico and shares with all other Fusion siblings the now-quite-common design statement that’s put them into greater consideration among new car buyers – including conquest sales.
Its bold aerodynamic styling still looks fresh a few years into it, and is sporty and contemporary.
Underpinning it is a four-wheel independent suspension with stabilizer bars. Up front are Macpherson struts, in back is a “Control Blade” multilink arrangement. Brakes which can regenerate up to 90 percent of kinetic energy are 278mm diameter vented units in front, and 280mm sold discs in back.
The car is jam packed with safety and convenience features including stability control, a bunch of airbags including for knees and side curtains, tire pressure monitoring, SOS post-crash alert, and Ford’s proprietary inflatable seatbelts.
Other available safety features are adaptive radar-utilizing cruise control, forward warning system with brake support, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross-Traffic Alert, lane keeping assist, active parallel park assist, and back-up camera.
Ford’s Energi as well as the entire Fusion line are five-star safety rated by the U.S. government.
Hybrid-specific features include a plethora of energy and powertrain data provided by a center 8-inch screen, and dual 4.2-inch LCD screens to either side of the center instruments. The car also has SYNC with MyFord Touch infotainment, MyFord Mobile App and Web Site and last year it was awarded ‘Connected Car of The Year’ at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show.
Oh also, it’s a nice comfortable car with room for adults front and back – though rear seat headroom is compromised for taller folks by the sloping rear roofline.
The Titanium edition’s leather heated sport seats we experienced are especially nice, as is the Sony HD audio system upgrade.
Driving the Fusion Energi
Aside from a pleasant little chime, pushbutton start up in default EV mode is characteristically quiet as is the drive in electric mode which continues for around 15-22 miles – the latter we confirmed under easy going conditions – assuming fully charged battery.
Acceleration is OK, but don’t go picking any stoplight drag races if you wish to keep it in all-electric operation. Zero-to-60 time with full 188 or 195 horsepower with battery charged may be in the lower to mid eight-second range, but you can tack on maybe another five-six seconds when it’s doing its part-time EV imitation.
That said, this is no turtle. Ford doesn’t specify torque, but in in hybrid mode its horsepower is easily sufficient for the 3,913-pound car. In EV mode, it can go to 85 mph and it’s not a big deal keeping the gas engine from inadvertently turning on.
Ride quality is on the firmer side, but mainly pretty smooth. The suspension soaks up most bumps well. Around bends, it feels controlled and quite-brisk driving is of no concern. Despite 486 extra pounds from the big battery assembly, the vehicle is quite manageable.
Braking feel also is reasonably linear, and not juddery with percentage of regenerative energy being scored on the left-side 4.2-inch instrument panel when selected. The car tries to coach drivers to better efficiency and the right LCD screen says “Thanks for driving a hybrid!” after every shutdown.
But without a doubt, in addition to battery state of charge, how you drive makes all the difference in actual mpg returned.
Officially, the EPA rating – downgraded in June – is for battery enabled MPGe of 95 city, 81 highway, 88 combined. This is the worst MPGe of all comparable PHEVs, but redeeming it is the range.
The Fusion’s 19 rated miles all-electric range splits the difference between the low-range Accord and Prius plug-ins, but falls short of an effective 40 miles for the 2015 Volt with 17.1-kwh battery.
In regular hybrid mode, once the battery is depleted, it morphs back to the base hybrid it’s based upon.
Drive it like a race car, and lower 30s or worse is possible. Drive it with average care and 38-40 mpg is not hard to do. With some care, and you can match or even exceed the now-rated 40 mpg city, 36 highway, 38 combined.
We’ve heard of some folks who’ve netted the full $4,007 federal tax credit, plus a healthy state credit, and with negotiated price from the dealer claim they made out better than if they’d bought the Fusion Hybrid.
Also helping things could be if you have access to charging – preferably free – at your destination to increase effective daily range.
People also like to mention astronomical “mpg” but by omitting actual electric costs, it’s misleading to unequivocally say a car got 335.5 mpg (pictured). Unless you tap into a no-charge charger, the juice isn’t free, and real costs are a qualified number, even if electricity really is cheaper and cleaner. One useful cost calculator is found at EPA.gov.
But with its array of tangible and intangible attributes, the Fusion Energi’s roughly $35,000 starting price can be attractive. Next to pure internal combustion Fusion variants, total cost of ownership for most people will be higher over five years, but again, this depends on particular situations.
Analyzing 2014 model year cars (latest available), the cost-of-ownership calculator operated by unaffiliated Web site Intellichoice shows a $34,700 MSRP Energi SE costs $43,018 in five years. A $27,280 Fusion Hybrid SE is $33,763, and a $23,935 non-hybrid Fusion SE rated 25 city, 37 highway, is $34,521.
These admittedly generalized numbers reveal a regular Fusion Hybrid has a better chance of paying back, but the Energi, as mentioned, may.
Also, those wanting to assess the real worth to them can – as applicable – factor in the benefit of reducing emissions, potentially cutting a lot of gasoline use out of their lives, and solo access to HOV lanes in California, and possibly other states.
Next to the PHEV competitors, it’s a solid alternative but all are first-generation efforts that need a close look at your personal situation to decide between.
Certainly the Fusion Energi is awesome in many respects, including that it’s handsome, well appointed, roomy, quick and agile in its class.