Let's get straight to the point: I really like the 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium Energi. It's a handsome sedan that's efficient to boot. The dashboard tech is good but not great, but the available driver aid tech -- including automatic parallel parking -- is quite good for the price.
However, the Energi raises more questions about your personal driving habits than answers and hard numbers when compared to its non-plug-in counterpart. That's because though your mileage may have always varied, it's likely never been so dependent on not just how you drive, but also when and where.
A large part of what's likeable about the Fusion Energi can be found beneath its hood. The hybrid sedan is powered by a combination of 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine and an 88 kW permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor. The gasoline engine is good for 141 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque, and the electric motor supplies 118 horsepower and 117 pound-feet of torque. However, because they make peak power in different ways, total system output adds up to only 188 horsepower.
The EPA estimates that the hybrid is good for 40 mpg in the city, 36 highway mpg, and 38 combined mpg. However, with a relatively light foot, I never finished a trip with the instrumentation indicating below 42 mpg.
That's before you factor in the J1772 plug-in port located on the front driver's side fender. Plug into a 240-volt charging station for 2.5 hours (or a 120-volt wall outlet for 7 hours) to add up to about 20 miles of electric range to the beginning of any given trip. The Ford's 20 mile EV range is only about half that of the Chevrolet Volt, but double the 11 mile EV range of the Plug-in Prius. According to the EPA, the fully electric miles are stated at 95 city mpge, 81 highway mpge, or 88 combined mpge.
Your actual mileage will probably end up somewhere in that ludicrous range between 38 and 88 mpg. That's because, depending on your driving habits and charging rituals, those 20 gasoline miles could only add a slight boost or make a huge difference in the Fusion's efficiency. Traditionally, it's how you drove that determined where you landed on the Your Mileage May Vary scale. With a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), where you drive and how far plays an even larger part.
My daily commute, for example, from Oakland to our offices in San Francisco is only about 11 miles each way. With a 20-mile EV range and the ability to plug in during the day at CNET's offices, it's conceivable that I could get to and from work all week using only a minimal amount of fuel -- if any. However, you may be a driver who commutes 80 miles round-trip, so the EV range become a smaller percentage of your total drive time -- even less so if those are highway miles, when the electric engine isn't at its most efficient. So, your efficiency numbers may start to drop back down into the 40-mpg range by the end of the day. But if your office installs a charging station that you can use during the day, then you can bump up the vehicle efficiency for the drive home. As is the case with the Plug-in Prius and the Chevy Volt, the efficiency math gets very complicated when you factor in the human element and availability of places to plug in.
One of the trade-offs for this electric range is trunk space. The Energi's larger 7.6 kWh lithium ion battery pack takes up pretty much the entire trunk, reducing the volume to 8.2 cubic feet -- down from the hybrid's 12 cubic feet and almost half of the nonhybrid's 16 cubic feet. Because of the battery, the Fusion loses its rear seat pass-through, making transporting long items tricky, and it gains a good deal of weight. The Energi tips the scales at 3,913 pounds, but thanks to its torque-rich powertrain and well-tuned suspension, it feels significantly lighter on its toes.
It may be an efficient mill, but the Fusion Energi's engine sounds just terrible. Under hard acceleration, it hums loudly and tunelessly. Flatten the gas pedal and the Fusion will surge forward, but the engine won't start up until about a second or later. Then, for a moment, the revs and acceleration built together, but at a certain point the engine just hangs at a fixed speed, even as the vehicle speed continues to build. This disconnect between the engine sound you're hearing and the acceleration you feel is a bit off-putting.
Despite the sound, the combined efforts of the gasoline and electric motors can create respectable amounts of acceleration when called upon. Zero-to-60 happens in a hair under 8 seconds, which isn't bad for a vehicle that weighs this much and posts such high efficiency numbers. And though the engine's revs bounce around, rise and fall, the electric-assisted acceleration is constant and confident, and the transitions between gasoline and electric power is smooth and seamless.
The MyFord Touch cabin technology suite has always been a bit of a mixed bag. The Fusion Energi is no exception. The system can be slow and laggy for some functions, but smooth and responsive for others. It baffles me that the map loads so slowly that you can watch the chunks of data pop onto the screen, yet the voice command is nearly instantaneous and extremely accurate.
Some functions are organized logically, following the quadrant shortcut system that puts quick links to the phone, navigation, audio, and climate controls in the four corners of the screen. Other functions, such as the charging options that let the driver schedule the plug-in hybrid's charging, are hidden under tiny, difficult-to-hit buttons at the bottom of the screen.
On one hand, the Ford's list of audio sources is impressive, including Bluetooth, USB, HD Radio, and more. On the other hand, it's weird that MyFord Touch is not compatible with the automaker's well-established Sync AppLink smartphone connectivity suite. Sync AppLink is one of the brand's best technical achievements, so to see it missing on what should be the automaker's most technologically advanced cars is disappointing. It's like for every mark in the pro column, there's an equal and opposite con. The Ford giveth, and the Ford taketh away.
One area where MyFord Touch wins back a lot of goodwill is the excellent dual-screen digital instrument cluster. Flanking a large physical speedometer, these two customizable displays make a tremendous amount of information available at a glance and within the driver's line of sight. The right screen is where you'll be able to toggle between showing navigation, audio source, and phone information, essentially mirroring and simplifying the information that can be shown on the larger touchscreen. The left screen is where a wide range of information about the fuel economy and hybrid systems is shown.
I said that Ford's digital dashboard was one of the best looking in the business when it debuted, and it still is. It's also one of the most customizable, allowing the driver to quickly adjust the display to show as much or as little information as they want. I personally liked to have all of the hybrid system information displayed on the instrument cluster to help maximize my use of the regenerative braking and getting the best fuel economy, but you may prefer a simpler Eco Leaves setup that is less distracting.
I also like that, by using voice commands and steering wheel buttons, you could conceivably operate all of the major infotainment functions (setting a destination, initiating a phone call, choosing an audio source) using just the instrument cluster displays and without even using the central touch screen.
Driver aid tech
Our example also featured the automaker's Active Park Assist option, which adds the ability to automatically parallel park to the Ford's bag of tricks. Ford's system was one of the first to get automatic parking right, and the technology is still awesome in this 2015 model. You simply press the Park Assist button and drive along slowly. While you do this, the vehicle's sensors scan the cars parked along the side of the road, measuring for spaces large enough for the Fusion to fit into. When a space is found, an onscreen prompt will alert you to stop, place the transmission into reverse, and then control the throttle and brakes while the computers take over the electric power steering rack to guide the car into position.
Ford's Active Park Assist is simple, quick, and quite good, but I noticed that Chrysler's automated parking system -- which we saw on the new 200C -- is just as simple and even a bit quicker when measuring and sensing spaces. It's only a small difference for certain, but every moment matters when you trying to quickly get into a curbside parking space before the car behind you tries to swoop in on it. That Chrysler's system can also perpendicular park makes it more useful in parking lots, as well.
The Ford featured a lane-keeping-assistance system that would help prevent the vehicle from unintentionally drifting across lane lines at highway speeds, but it seems to use the brakes to help pull the vehicle back in line -- newer systems use the electronic steering system to greater effect. We also have adaptive cruise control, but that doesn't operate below 20mph, so you can't use it in stop-and-go traffic. Speaking of stop-and-go, I also experienced an issue with the parking proximity sensor system beeping alerts when I got too close to the car ahead in slow, heavy traffic.
Toss in blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, and a forward precollision alert system as part of the Driver Assist package, and you have a tech loadout that is still sharp but maybe not on the bleeding edge. My memory's not so short that I don't remember that it was Ford that pioneered many of these technologies. You should also note that the issues that I'm pointing out are but tiny nits picked from an excellent assortment of amenities. However, I'm interested to see how Ford will evolve these features and options in the next generation to stay ahead of the rapidly improving competition.
The 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium Energi is flexible, fuel efficient, and even pretty peppy when you need it to be. However, there's a lot of fuzzy math required to decide whether plugging in is worth the extra upfront cost and complexity. How much benefit you get out of the $4,330 price premium over the standard Titanium Hybrid depends on a variety of factors including the length of your commute, whether you're driving urban or highway miles, and how often you'll plug it in.
The 2015 Ford Fusion Energi starts at $34,700 in the US and is unavailable in the UK and Australian markets. Our Titanium model adds a few creature comforts, increasing the price to $36,500. We've also added the Driver Assist Package and the a la carte Active Park Assist and adaptive cruise control options bringing us to an as-tested price of $40,355 including destination charges, but before any available incentives.
|Model||2015 Ford Fusion Energi|
|Powertrain||2.0L, four-cylinder plug-in hybrid, eCVT, FWD|
|EPA fuel economy||40 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, 38 mpg combined|
|Observed fuel economy||45.6 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes, audio streaming, hands-free calling, messaging|
|Digital audio sources||2x USB, Bluetooth, HD Radio, Satellite Radio|
|Audio system||Sony premium audio|
|Driver aids||Blind spot monitoring, rear camera with cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise, forward pre-collision alert, lane keeping assist, active park assist|
|Price as tested||$40,355|