Ford Fusion Hybrid

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is the best car in the entire fleet market. Outrageous statement? Fact: The American “affordable midsize car” market is the most competitive vehicle segment in the world.

The affordable midsize car is defined as a sedan priced under $30K. Fact: The Fusion Hybrid ranks number 1 out of 20 affordable midsize cars based on U.S.News analysis of 47 published reviews and test drives, and a review of safety and reliability data.

The Fusion Hybrid outranks all the other midsize sedans: Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Optima. So, the Fusion Hybrid is the highest rated car in the toughest car segment. Doesn’t that make it the best overall choice for a police admin sedan? And the second place car out of those 20 midsize cars? The non-hybrid Ford Fusion.  

Separate question: What is the best of all the “green” hybrid cars? The Fusion Hybrid has the highest ratings among 18 different hybrids of all types. It is better than Toyota Prius, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, VW Jetta Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, Honda Insight.


Gasoline Plus Electric

The Fusion Hybrid is powered by a 141 hp 2.0L I-4 gasoline engine mated to a 118 hp electric motor. The 2.0L gasoline engine is downsized from the 2.5L engine in the previous Fusion Hybrid. The result is better gas mileage with the same performance.

The electric motor and gas engine work back and forth the entire time, at all vehicle speeds and throttle positions. That said, the electric motor is the most efficient, the best choice, at lower speeds. This is a shock to tree huggers, but the gas engine is the most efficient, the best choice, at higher speeds.

The early (full) hybrids used the battery-powered electric motor to take off from a stop under light to moderate throttle, and to power the car up to urban speeds. Then the gas engine took over and the electric motor disengaged. It was either gasoline or electric.

Not so with today’s Fusion Hybrid. At virtually all speeds and all throttle positions, the gas engine and electric motor work together (are both running) in varying degrees, sometimes a little electric motor, sometimes a lot electric motor.

Under light throttle, the Fusion Hybrid will run all the way up to 60 mph on just the electric motor. Under mid-throttle while cruising, the Fusion Hybrid will operate on only the gas engine. At cruising speeds of 60 mph and above, the gas engine provides all the power.

When you accelerate with more than 25 percent of the throttle, the gas engine kicks in. The electric motor may or may not activate during moderate acceleration. However, during heavy acceleration, both the gas engine and electric motor are fully engaged. The electric motor generates its peak torque faster than the gas engine, but the gas engine produces more peak torque. The two work together for a perfectly acceptable throttle response.

The default powertrain is the battery-powered electric motor, not the gasoline engine. During stop and go, light throttle driving, the Fusion Hybrid will operate in electric-only mode until the HV battery is depleted enough to need charging by the gas engine.

The Fusion Hybrid is constantly trying to revert to electric motor-only status, especially at speeds under 35 mph. In fact, a slight lift off the throttle at most speeds under 60 mph will put the Fusion Hybrid in pure Electric Vehicle status. An easy throttle return will keep it in cruising at 55 mph EV mode almost indefinitely.

At a stop, the gas engine shuts off and the electric motor stops drawing current. HVAC and power steering are all operated from the high-voltage battery. The HV battery is charged two ways. First, it is directly charged by the gas engine. The HV battery is also recharged by regenerative braking. Every time the brakes are applied, some of the energy from the braking is recovered and stored in the HV battery.


Infinite-Speed Automatic

The Fusion Hybrid uses a Constantly Variable Transmission, CVT. Introduced on the 2005 Ford Five Hundred, the CVT does not have distinct “gears” and it does not “shift.” If you floor the gas pedal, the engine will rev up and the Fusion Hybrid will accelerate quite well. However, with no shifts, it feels like you have a 1-speed transmission. Instead, it is an infinite-speed trans, constantly changing gear ratios. It has a lowest gear ratio lower than any first gear and a highest gear ratio higher than any double-overdrive 6-speed.

With most drivetrains, the engine controls the transmission, i.e., the trans is up-shifted or down-shifted based on the engine speed. The exact opposite is true of the CVT drivetrain: The trans controls the engine. The engine runs at a more or less constant speed, at the optimum rpm for fuel economy and torque. The trans then changes drive ratios by moving a link belt back and forth across two, opposing diameter, cone-shaped input and output shafts.

That means the engine speed has almost nothing to do with the vehicle speed. The gas engine rpm may even fall as the vehicle speed increases. Add to that the all-speed input from the electric motor and it can all be quite confusing. Don’t give it a second thought. Just give it however much gas you want to go whatever speed you want and the I-4 engine, CVT trans and electric motor will smoothly, transparently do the rest.


Economy with Performance

One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid drivetrain is not fuel economy. Install a tiny gas engine and any car will use less fuel. The reason for a hybrid drivetrain is to get 4-cylinder fuel economy but also 6-cylinder performance when wanted. The 6-cylinder performance from a 4-cylinder engine comes from the big electric motor. The Fusion Hybrid accelerates to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds, just one second slower than the V8-powered Ford CVPI. The Fusion Hybrid reaches 100 mph in 24.4 seconds, again almost identical to the Ford CVPI. The acceleration is perfectly acceptable for any admin use.

You technically can’t add the 141 hp from the engine to the 118 hp from the motor to get a 259 hp drivetrain. As proof that the two horsepower values cannot be added together, the 178 hp 1.6L I-4 Fusion SE is a little faster to both 60 mph and in the quarter mile than the 141 hp plus 118 hp, 2.0L I-4 Fusion Hybrid. Of course, the Fusion Hybrid gets 50 percent better fuel economy than its non-hybrid sister.


Driving Impressions

You start the Fusion Hybrid by inserting the ignition key and turning it, as if you are going to crank the engine. However, the engine will probably not start…and it doesn’t need to start. The Fusion Hybrid is equipped with Silent Key Start. That means the electric motor is instantly ready to drive the car, so the engine doesn’t need to start. Look on the instrument panel for either the “Ready to Drive” light or the green double arrow icon.

Expect the engine to start soon after you start to drive the car simply to warm up the engine. Of course, the engine may start at any time…and it may shut off at any time. The Fusion Hybrid driver information center defines the drivetrain as either Electric Drive (electric motor only) or Hybrid Drive. The Hybrid Drive is not gas engine-only because the gas engine and electric motor almost always work together, i.e., hybrid.

The Fusion has outstanding handling. It is sporty and nimble and responsive. The real irony here is that the Fusion is a toned-down version of the European Ford Mondeo. They are the same car but the domestic Fusion has actually been given a softer suspension. Softened suspension or not, the Fusion has some of the best accident avoidance and evasive maneuver response of a police admin-oriented sedan. As for ride comfort, it feels identical to all of the full-size sedans, and better than some.

The Fusion Hybrid feels as roomy as the Taurus, the smallest of the full-size police sedans. We actually found the Fusion easier to enter and exit than the Taurus. Once inside, the Fusion appeared to have gobs of head, shoulder, elbow, hip and leg room.

The otherwise excellent sedan had two ergonomic issues. The minor one was the tilt-telescope adjustment lever. It is hidden near the instrument panel under the steering column. It is profoundly awkward to find and use.

The other more serious issue is the switchblade key fob. It sticks so far out of the steering column that our knee hit the fob every time the brake was applied. If your 6-foot, 4-inch, 225-pound detective brings the fob to you in two pieces, it is not his fault. This is not a knee splay issue—it is an ergonomic, human-machine interface mistake.

The visibility out the Fusion is excellent, far better than the larger Taurus. The forward-intersection and rear-quarter visibility is especially good. The A-pillar cutouts by the outside rear-view mirrors really make a difference in pedestrian-heavy environments, where hybrids are used the most.

The Fusion Hybrid has a long list of standard and optional driving aids, alerts and warning signals. Driver Alert, Collision Warning System, Lane Keeping System, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) plus Cross Traffic Alert, Rear-View Camera, and Front and Rear Sensing System.


Realistic Fuel Economy

The Fusion Hybrid has EPA estimates of 47 mpg City, 47 mpg Highway, 47 mpg Combined. That is one of the worst estimates since the EPA changed their testing protocol a decade ago. In nearly 2,000 miles of driving, we averaged 36.3 mpg. This was an even mix of urban, rural, stop-and-go rush-hour, interstate and suburban driving.

We never got less than 33 mpg no matter where or how we drove. Running down the interstate at 75 mph, we got 39 mpg. While idling at a stop, while decelerating and while creeping in stop-and-go traffic, the gas engine was not running, so that means unlimited mpg.

What mileage number can you bank on? The Fusion Hybrid we drove for three weeks was a fleet pool car, a demo unit driven by a wide variety of drivers and under a wide variety of conditions. The Fusion Hybrid has on-board software that tracks lifetime mileage. Based on a lifetime of about 4,500 miles, this particular Fusion Hybrid recorded a weighted average of 34.7 mpg.

Trunk space in any full hybrid is a problem. That is because the regenerative, high-voltage battery pack takes up a lot of the trunk. The Fusion has a 16-cubic foot trunk. The Fusion Hybrid has a 12-cubic foot trunk. Fortunately, trunk volume is not a priority, not even a second thought, in most police admin sedans. The Fusion Hybrid has a mere 13.5-gallon gas tank. Don’t let that fool you. With a full tank, it has a driving range over 450 miles.

Bottom line? That is easy. The Ford Fusion is America’s best midsize sedan. The Fusion Hybrid is the best hybrid car of any kind sold in America. It has more than acceptable performance, gets a totally legit 35 plus mpg, and is easily big enough for two adults. And it fills both the letter and the spirit of any departmental “green” initiative. Put some Fusion Hybrid sedans in your admin fleet. Many of your police fleet management peers have already done so.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2013

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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