2017 FORD FUSION ENERGI

IS THE PLUG-IN HYBRID WORTH IT?

The Ford Fusion is a standout midsize sedan. In a class that is dominated by the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord, the Fusion makes its mark with style, a host of high-tech safety features, and a choice of drive trains.

To start with, the Fusion looks more expensive than it actually is. Take away the Ford logos, and it could easily pass for a European luxury sedan. For 2017, the Ford designers made the Fusion sleeker than ever with a narrower grille and slender LED headlights.

Moving inside, the Fusion impresses with its spacious, well-appointed cabin that seats five. My top-of-the-line Platinum model test car was nothing short of luxurious. Its cushy leather seats with contrasting piping and quilted panels would be right at home in a Jaguar. There was even leather trim on the dash. The seats up front come with power adjusters with up to 10 settings. Passengers in the rear are well-cared for with plenty of head-and legroom. Trunk space ranges from eight to 16 cu-ft. depending on the power train selected.

A rotary gear selector now replaces the traditional shifter on the center console. The center command panel on the dash features a large touchscreen and logically placed buttons and dials. However, all is not perfect. This year Ford replaced its MyFord Touch infotainment interface with its new Sync 3 system. I found the Sync 3 frustrating, and no more user-friendly than the old system.

Ford offers the latest safety features on the Fusion, either standard (top-of-the-line Platinum), or optional on SE and Titanium models. Buyers can order a blind spot monitor, cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and much more. This is in addition to available luxury features, like a 12-speaker sound system, a memory function for the driver’s seat and voice-activated navigation.

However, what makes the Fusion nearly unique is the availability of three different drive systems. Most buyers will choose the conventional gas-powered model. Here, the popular power train is the 2.0-liter, turbo-four engine teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. It generates 245-horsepower and gets 25 mpg.

Those seeking greener transportation can opt for the gas/electric hybrid with a total output of 141 hp. and a fuel economy of 42 mpg. Greener still is the plug-in hybrid, called the Energi, with 195 hp. It will get up to 21 miles on electricity alone, plus 42 mpg on gas.

My test car was an Energi, and quite frankly, it was disappointing. Although the fuel economy was impressive, the additional batteries for the plug-in system added 300 more pounds over the hybrid model, and a whopping 500 lbs. over the gas-powered version. This had a negative effect on performance and handling.

The Energi accelerated from stop well enough, but ran out of steam quickly, so passing on the freeway required careful planning. The extra weight also effected the way this Fusion behaved on the road. The Energi felt heavy, and slow to respond when asked to change direction. Furthermore, the brakes were grabby, and required some practice to stop the car smoothly. Add to that the fact that the luggage space is only eight cu-ft. which is hardly enough for a family car.

The Fusion was designed originally as a gas-powered sedan, and my previous experience with a traditionally powered model was very satisfactory. So, if you are interested in a Fusion, that is the one to look for.

Fusion pricing starts at $23,485 for the basic gas-powered “S” model, and ranges up to $41,995 for the top-of-the-line Energi Platinum. However, the high price of the Energi is mitigated by a federal tax credit of $7,500 that reduces its overall cost.

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