2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE review: Plug-in smoothie

2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE

2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE

What we were not expecting with the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE was just how smooth it would be. It was, Steppenwolf notwithstanding, what a magic carpet ride really should be. That’s under full electric power, however, and with the battery of the plug-in hybrid fully charged, that ride will last about 20 miles—Ford says about 21 miles—before the Fusion Energi switches over from electric to electric/gas hybrid mode.

Perhaps that’s not what a review of a hybrid, even a plug-in hybrid, should be about. We’re supposed to talk gas mileage. OK, for anyone commutes less than 20 miles round trip, or more if access to a 120v electric socket is available 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.

2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE socket

The plug-in hybrid 2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE plugs into this socket on the left front fender. (click to enlarge)

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, Rea- 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.

2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE instrument panel

The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi instrument panel can be reconfigured for different needs and requirements. (click to enlarge)

Compare that to the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE with a tested-by-us price of $35,885 (base price for the Hybrid was $27,200). On the other hand, the 2013 BMW ActiveHybrid 3 we tested had a base price of $49,300 and an as-tested $61,420; the EPA fuel economy estimate for the ActiveHybrid 3 was 25/33 mpg city/highway with and observed fuel economy of  29.4 mpg.

Well, OK, 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, the the Bavarian alternative differing primarily in sports orientation.

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.

2014 Ford Fusion Energi badge

The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi badge can be identified by plug-in disc on the left front fender, and by a discrete badge on the trunklid. (click to enlarge)

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.

Which is all frosting, for which the Fusion Energi’s sophisticated drivetrain is the cake. As with most hybrids, the Energi relies on an Atkinson-cycle engine for the gasoline half of its hybrid, in this case 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.

Unlike the traditional gasoline engine, smaller pumps complement the main coolant pump, which is powered via an electric motor rather than running off the engine. The smaller pumps move coolant through the electric power inverter, and through the heater core to provide heat while the engine is not running. The coolant is also heated electrically, specifically for electric vehicle operation.

2014 Ford Fusion Energi engine

The 2014 Ford Fusion Energi drivetrain crowds the underhood area. (click to enlarge)

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.