Review: Ford Fusion Energi Titanium 2014
By Kathy Chin Leong

fusion-march14-4.jpgI wasn't sure.  While test driving the Ford Fusion Energi Titanium hybrid four-door sedan to pick up Vicky to go to Ojai in Southern California, I was not sure what was in store for our seven hour ride from Sunnyvale.  My experience driving hybrids before consisted of going on trips that were about two hours away, not this long.

My main concern was whether the Fusion would have the power and oomph to go the distance.  I'm pleased to report that not only did it go the distance, this newest model is able to safely take care of driver and passenger with comfort and ease of driving.

STATS

This car, priced at approximately $44,515, with many bells and whistles, is a hybrid.  This means that you can run on both gas and electricity. For the electricity and gasoline combined, you get 100 miles per gallon. On gas only, you still get 43 miles per gallon, not too shabby.  

On the exterior: this cobalt blue version came with 17-inch aluminum wheels, halogen headlamps, a spoiler, a capless fuel tank, keyless entry keypad, and power mirrors that had memory and heat functions.  Inside: leather seats, ten-way seat positioning with memory, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, leather wrapped steering wheel with matching leather shift knob, premium audio system by Sony, and rear A/C ducts, Sirius satellite radio, and a touch screen GPS. The Fusion seats five comfortably with a rear center armrest that comes standard.

The electric part is interesting in that the car comes with a 120-volt cord in the trunk storage compartment under the carpeted panel.  You can plug the car into a standard, 12-volt, grounded three-pronged home outlet. This takes about 7 hours.  And you can also plug it in a 240-volt charging station for a full charge in 2.5 hours. The GPS system tells you where you can go to charge up the car.  

The electric aspect of this car operates best when you drive around the city. It taps into your gas tank when you go on the freeway and higher speeds.  So for this car, it gives about 43 miles per gallon on gas and 100 miles per gallon when combined gas and electricity.   

OPERATIONAL MINDSHIFT
fusion-march14-3.jpgOperating a hybrid can be tricky as it takes getting used to.  Further, the switches and buttons are in different places compared to a typical car.  Using a keyless remote, you also have a keyless ignition.  To activate the car, you must keep your foot on the brake and depress the tiny parking brake button downwards. I was a little confused at first.  

The parking brake is not on your left by your foot. Nor is it a conventional stick hand brake in the central console on your right side.  Instead, the "electric parking brake" is a tiny flat lever on your right that you press downwards to release.  After releasing the brake, you press the ignition button.  Instead of waiting to hear the engine to start, you must realize that the car is in electric mode upon starting and it is completely silent. This feature is called Silent Key Start. You know the car is ready when you see the car icon turning green on your dashboard.  Once your car is on, it is silent for awhile and, if it is in Automatic EV mode, it will decide whether electric or gas power is best for you.  

Once I got the hang of starting the car, the fun really began.  The dashboard is very interesting with plenty of messages to keep you on track.  A feature called Driver Alert detects whether you are getting drowsy or off kilter in your driving based on how well you stay within the markings of the lane.   If it detects this, a series of beeps emits.  A text message on the dashboard warns you to take a break from driving with a little icon of a steaming cup of coffee appearing below.  

If a car is entering your blind spot or if a car is coming across the street, the appropriate side mirror will flash a yellow alert indicator.  

When you stop the car at a signal or stop sign, the car stops relying on the engine and goes totally silent. At first you think the car died, but now it shifts into electric mode, and that can be scary as a hybrid newbie owner.  Like anything, you have to get used to it.  

DRIVING QUALITY
Handling is excellent, and this cutie can make the smallest moves a breeze. Speeding up and slowing down the vehicle accordingly on the freeway was smooth and quiet.  I don't want to sound trite or obvious, but the wheels really did feel as if they were hugging the road, so I felt extremely secure and protected on this serene ride.  

The accelerator is not too sensitive, but just right to the touch. I also feel that way about the brake.  In its ability to dominate the road and move from one lane to another, the Fusion glides effortlessly and gives the driver excellent control.    

And when you must refuel the car, the fuel cap button release is not on the left side by the door or the steering wheel.  I was a little panicked when I didn't find it.  Looking in the manual, I discovered that the button is closer to the gearshift on the central console closer to the passenger than the driver.  It also takes up to 15 seconds to pop open.  And when I went to fuel the car, I was taken aback when I saw there is no gas cap.  The capless fuel system means that you simply plunge the gas pump into the circular fuel inlet and release the gasoline. When you are done, you are supposed to wait ten seconds before removing the nozzle so all the gas drips into the 14-gallon tank.

SPACE AT A PREMIUM
fusion-march14-2.jpgAnd here is another thing you have to get used to when you drive this model.  When you pop open the trunk, you will probably be as surprised as I was. The trunk is very tiny because the electric battery takes up half the trunk space.  I was able to load my small luggage on wheels about 30 inches wide, but my friend was not able to put in her luggage carry-on the same size.  That went into the back seat.  Hence, this is a great commuter car and a good one for long drives, but not for moving a kid from the dorm or for camping or for vacations where you must take a lot of luggage. 

MANY SENSORS
Truly this is a car for the 21st century. There are plenty of electronic gizmos that memorize your driving habits and seat preferences, outlets to support your cell phones and smart pads, and screens to tell you what to do and when.  One option on this car is a pair of rain-sensing wipers that will operate faster and faster when the rain pelts harder and harder.  The reserve sensing system will beep if you are too close to something or someone in the back.  The rear view camera is a complete help when backing up. 

fusion-march14-1.jpgOne thing that is important for every driver is to understand basic things like how to operate the keyless remote.  On this version, the "intelligent access key" allows you to remotely turn on the car so that the climate control is activated and can warm up or cool down the car just in time for your arrival.  Like others, you can click it two times to pop open the trunk, click on the horn icon to activate the alarm, and click on the lock and unlock buttons to open and close the car.  While in your pocket, the access key automatically can open your car when you pull on the handle once.  And if you accidentally lock the vehicle and then realize you have left your key inside the car, the car will scan the interior and notice you left it inside. Then the car will unlock and honk to get your attention.  

BOTTOM LINE
Ford has come a long way since the Model T.  With all the luxuries on this automobile, you will come to rely on the Fusion Energi as your trusted friend. It remembers your preferences, communicates to you when you leave your key inside, kindly turns on the A/C to chill the interior before you enter, it does everything but drive you to your destination.  It may be even smarter than you are!

****

DETAILS:
Ford Fusion Energi Titanium
Starting price: $36,500
www.ford.com

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