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Car Tech Video: 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

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Car Tech Video: 2013 Ford C-Max Energi

7:50 /

Ford's C-Max Energi is a plug-in hybrid that marvels in its fuel efficiency and tech, but good luck hauling stuff in the trunk.

It's part of the complicated world of cars today that even Ford's humble little C-Max comes in two versions and not everybody understands; there is the Hybrid and then there's this one, the Energi, which is a plug-in hybrid. Which one makes sense for you and what's the big difference? We'll check that out now as we drive the 2013 C-Max Energi and check the tech. Let's begin with a refresher on what a C-Max is in the first place before we even get to its variants. It's bigger than most compact cars but smaller than any crossover. Think of it as a head-on competitor to Toyota's Prius v, which is kind of an odd little category into itself. It's a compact with a [unk] room as they used to say about Sansabelt trousers, so it's ideal for Americans. Now, a couple of quibbles on this car, it's got an electric foot activated power rear hatch, it's a Ford thing, and also a four-segment LED ring around the charging door to tell you where to charge that when you plug it in. Those are cool but they seem to me in an electrified car, highly-electrified that should treat everyone as precious; they're kind of a weird thing to put in there, kinda wasteful. Familiar Ford design inside the C-Max, you've got a head unit here you've seen before, we'll talk about that in a minute. The other ergonomics are very Ford, you could be in a Fusion, you could be in a number of their cars, now SYNC is in here along with MyFord Touch as you can see, and that's gonna be standard on your Energi, you don't have any kind of low-brown non-SYNC, non-LCD head unit going on, but navigational is optional, you don't have that as a standard feature. And the Ford apps I've shown you before, not available in this car interestingly. Your media choices are well understood, AM and FM, satellite radio, single slot optical up here, USB; two of those and the console, actually as well as an SD card slot, streaming Bluetooth stereo and RCA jacks here. Now, the rest of the interface is over here on the left where you've got the two wing screens, you've seen those before. I want to call your attention to the one on the left of the speedometer which Ford has done some changes to. You've got these different modes, you have Engage, and you've got Empower and as you can see depending on where you are-- oh there's also Enlighten, you have varying bands of information. To be honest it's just too damn complicated, it should basically be telling you how to drive efficiently or not and give you your battery and fuel level. It does the last two well, but telling me if I'm driving efficiently it doesn't get that across simply. I just want a light that goes on, it's just that simple. Look at the recent Honda Accord we did which has a couple of big old green lights, when they're on you're driving efficiently, when they're off you're not, end of story, but I do like the brake coach, it gives you an example of how gradual, forward looking braking puts more energy back into the car than stabbing the brakes at the last minute. It's a very good point to get across, and that coach does it like no other vehicle. In terms of parking, rear camera is part of a package that's not standard on this car, and as you can see you've got some trajectory lines there as well. Also, optionally is Ford's outstanding Park Assist which is one of the better if not the best self-parking technologies on the market for a pretty modest price. Now, the energy part of the name on this C-Max spell disturbingly like Snooki, means that this car has got a much bigger battery than a standard hybrid, and here it is, say hello to your new best friend folks, that is a big old lithium ion battery. To charge that you have to plug this car in, you couldn't begin to charge it on the usual regenerative breaking that a standard hybrid uses. The benefit is you get a lot of additional miles of pure electric driving which we'll detail in a moment. The downside is as you can see, it's not going anywhere, it's like you're traveling around with a very large suitcase or two, every day. Now of course the reason that big battery lives in here at all is to help this power plant let you run more electric more often. The Energi C-Max can run 15 to 20 miles on pure electric power before the gas engine ever kicks in at up to 62 miles per hour in that range. Once that charge is depleted you go back to a traditional hybrid mode, 2 liter lean-burn in line, four cylinder engine, setting side saddle driving the front wheels only through a CVT gear box. The numbers are 188 total horsepower, electric and gas combined. Ford doesn't publish a torque number, I'm gonna guess somewhere in the low 200s based on the horsepower figure and how this thing drives. Zero to sixty happens in 8.1 seconds, which isn't exactly sporty except this guy weighs somewhere pushing 3,900 pounds, kinda porky. So, it's actually a very good number. So, is the MPG, it's rated at 44, 41 EPA, or 100 MPG-e because it has the ability to run pure electric for a substantial amount of time. Now, the C-Max is Jekyll & Hyde depending on whether you plug it in or not. If you have, off you go with eerie silence and electric power for like I said, 15 to 20 miles, even up to freeway speeds. Then once it gets all petered out, it goes into hybrid mode, it'll still creep electric only at low speed but not much more than that once the battery is down to hybrid level. See this EV button down here, if you push that you can roll through three different modes that will put the car in either an automatic, forced or no-EV mode, you can decide if you wanna go electric or if you don't within the parameters of the battery having enough juice. It's not magic, you can't just make an electric car by pushing a button, but regardless of what mode you're running in, electric or hybrid, I find the C-Max a fun a little car to drive, it's not a performance car money stretch but because it's highly-electrified you've got good torque when you dig in for it, the CVT transmission those are normally not a driver's favorite but this one is pretty good, I don't get a lot of rubber bandy elasticity out of it which is their Achilles heel. The C-Max is one of my favorite Ford's to drive, it doesn't feel so light as they're smaller cars can sometimes like Fiesta, nor does it feel as big and kind of all consuming as that giant Taurus that we've had recently. And I think for the everyday driver, this is a nice everyday car. I am a little concerned though about that reduced rear cargo capacity. I want to take a few things down to the dump today in the recycle center, I couldn't fit them all in, so I didn't do it at all because I didn't wanna pay two fees to get in. Those are real-world decisions you can get stuck with when you're just a few cubic feet shy of the capacity you need. Okay, let's price our C-Max Energi, now this guy struts off about $33,700 delivered. Once you add in package 303A which is all the CNet tech stuff, HD radio, navigation, back-up camera, power lift gates, Sony audio and more that's $24.95 extra. Power sun-roof I would like that for $1,200. Now, we're somewhere around $37,004 or roughly $4,300 more than a comfortably equipped non plug-in C-Max. So, how do you justify that money? It comes down to two things; what kind of a community do you have? Is it within the universe of this car? Is it electric only range? A lot of people's are. And you have the discipline to make sure you're always running EV and charging, if so this guy could pay off its delta rather quickly and put you in a very green space.

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