Ford Fusion Energi is stylish

2017 Ford Fusion

With the number of hybrid options growing yearly, it’s hard to choose the right car. Do you go straight electric, plug in or gas/hybrid combo? Depends on how green you want to go and what your size need are.
I’d like to suggest the Ford Fusion Hybrid Energi. It’s stylish, roomy and gives you a bit of all electric vehicle as well.
The Fusion Energi looks exactly like its gas sibling so you have to look at at the cars badging. It is .2 inches lower than a regular Fusion and has a smaller truck because of the batteries. The fuel tank is two gallons smaller as well. Thee is a door for the plug-in cable.
The Fusion is a striking car, designed alongside an Aston Martin when for owned that company. The interior is one of Ford’s best with seating for five – and that’s comfortable seating for five. The dash is very modern, accommodating a large touch screen for many of the car’s functions. The Titanium version has very firm, but comfortable front seats that fit snuggly. The driver gets a 10 way adjustable power seats with two memory settings. The passenger has to live without the memory settings.
Let’s get to the engine. The Energi gets a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder coupled with an electric motor powered by lithium ion batteries. You can plug the car into a regular 120v outlet (7.0 hours to charge) or a special 220v outlet for faster charging (2.5 hours). The 35 kw engine can power the car for about 20 miles at speeds up to 85 miles per hour.
The four-cylinder isn’t a slouch. Combined with the electric output you get 141 horsepower. That’s not quite enough for a near 4,000 pound car but it gets the job done. It delivers an impressive 41 miles per gallon overall. Nice. The car has no problem obtaining highway speeds, albeit a bit slower than most gas cars but on par with hybrids of its size. Noise is suppressed fairly well but engine noise under hard acceleration can be harsh.
The Fusion Energi delivers a smooth ride over most surfaces. I’’m impressed by the handling because that’s not what I expect from a hybrid. Steering is as good as on any Fusion but you will have to get adjusted to the brakes. Braking can be very abrupt, even when that’s not your attention. That’s about par for the course on any hybrid. It took me a day to get the feel for the right amount of pressure.

Interior has modern flare

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try recharging the electric motor. We don’t have outlets on the outside of the house and extension cords are not recommend. I did drive it in the EV mode and I was impressed with the whisper quiet operation. It’s almost eerie.
The Energi Titanium starts at $32,120. Standard equipment is generous, including auto climate control, push to start, SiriusXM, anti-lock brakes, LED lighting, 10-speaker Sony stereo system and leather seats which are heated.
Options on the Energi included blindspot warning, upgraded stereo with SYNC Connect, voice activated navigation system with traffic and travel link, adaptive cruise and heated steering wheel.
My test car topped out at about $38,000. There is an SE version which starts at more than two grand less but with less equipment of course. You got room to play so you can configure the Energi as you like. You could also opt for the regular Fusion Hybrid if the pug-in option doesn’t move you.
I do think you should give both a look. The Fusion thumbs its nose at gas stations and is hard to empty while looking chic in the process. Ford you’ve done nicely.


Ford’s Expedition still good option for SUV buyers

Shopping for an SUV can be a problem. Do you get a crossover that will give you car-like ride and handling or do you get a real truck that can haul a lot of people and a bunch of stuff?2015_ford_expedition_4dr-suv_el-xlt_dps_evox_1_300
That depends on the amount of people and the amount of stuff. It also depends on what you want to pay, fuel economy, yada yada yada. I said it could be a problem.
Remember the Ford Expedition? Yeah, I know, a big blast from the past. It’s actually still around and has been upgraded for 2015. It’s a true truck that can haul a lot of people and a lot of stuff.
The Expedition is a traditional body on frame truck that comes in two flavors, standard and extended EL. The EL is 15 inches longer than the regular vehicle. Considering the standard wheelbase is a beast, the EL is an absolute monster that can be configured to hold nine people. That means you lose the captain’s chairs and even get a bench seat up front. Otherwise, go for the captains chairs and easy fold third row seats.
Need storage? There’s 18 cubic feet with the seats up. Lower the middle and rear seats and you have 108.3 cubic feet of space.
The 2015 upgrades include a much nicer interior and a nip and tuck done to the exterior. Some may find the greatest change the most troubling. Ford has dropped the V8 engine and replaced it with a turbo charged V6.
There is no need to worry, however. The V6 makes 365 horsepower and 420 pounds-feet of torque. Those are better numbers than the outgoing V8. It can achieve 22 miles per gallon on the highway and 16 mpg in the city. There are smaller V8 vehicles that can’t do that.
Here’s a fun fact: the Ford Expedition with a turbo V6 can sprint to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds making it one of the quickest big trucks on he market. That’s outstanding for a vehicle that can tow 9,200 pounds. The transmission is a slick, six-speed automatic that works very well.
Nearly as outstanding is this big beast’s ride quality. You would expect a couple of tons vehicle to be smooth and comfortable. The Expedition lives up to those expectations. This Platinum model was equipped with an adjustable suspension that had comfort, normal and sport modes. The four-wheel independent suspension makes great use of those modes.
Does this truck have a downside? Yep, its sheer size. Yes, its agile for its size, but its size is pushing the limits. This is a very large vehicle that has a lot of blind spots. Thankfully, the Platinum edition is equipped with blindspot detection and a backup camera. Once you get adjusted to the size, you should be fine.
The Platinum designation means this thing is loaded to the gills. Let me say what it didn’t have, first: a kitchen sink, fridge and a microwave. At the moment none of those items are options. Not yet, anyway.
You do get Ford’s improved Sync system that allows you to do nearly everything by voice command. I favorite is being able to ask for a specific song or artist on my iPhone and it starts to play. Sometimes the simplest things are your greatest pleasures. You also get automatic climate control, power seats, massive sunroof, three rows of seats, lane departure warning, abs, traction and stability control, enhanced towing, satellite radio, leather seats and keyless entry.
Throw in delivery charges and the as-tested price was well north of $68,000. Some of you are thinking luxury brands but most would be smaller. There are Yukons, Escalades and even Land Cruisers to be considered but think higher price. The Expedition is still a viable option.

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Toyota Yaris does duty as really reliable small car

Toyota has made some of the finest small cars in automotive history. People bought them in huge numbers because these cars were dependable, well built and would last for decades if need be.
The Japanese giant still makes great cars but has been under massive pressure lately because of recalls, missteps and increasing competition from Kia and Hyundai. Even Chevy and Ford have stepped up their compact game.

Sparse, yet appealing interior.
Sparse, yet appealing interior.

For 2015, Toyota’s compact entry is the Yaris, an interesting little hatch that has a lot to offer but also has a great deal of competition to fend off.
The Yaris can be had in either three or five door hatchback configuration. My bright red SE was a five door with distinctive styling. It has a variation of Toyota’s corporate face that’s pleasing to the eye. I’m not a fan of red but at least I never lost it in the parking lot.
The interior is nicely done with the ubiquitous touch screen as the center of the dash. It controls the entertainment system that includes HD radio, CD player and Toyota Entune apps that work with your smartphone. There was no navigation (it is optional) or SirirusXM (optional as well).
The Yaris SE also comes with ABS, air conditioning, power door locks, cruise control, body colored power mirrors, 16-inch machine tooled wheels and LED running lights.
The interior materials felt good to the touch. The shift knob is leather wrapped but the steering wheel did not tilt. The seats are comfortable and despite the car’s small footprint there is a generous amount of room for four adults. You can push it to five but that guy in the middle is not going to want to be that guy.
The Yaris is powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 105 horsepower with 103 pounds-feet of torque. Doesn’t sound like much on paper but I found it to be adequate in the real world. Passing attempts must be planned well in advanced. It takes this car a little over 10 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour from a standstill. Even while moving the car can be a bit lethargic. The culprit is the old school four-speed automatic. Toyota can do better and has better but to keep cost down this is what you have to deal with if you go for the five-door SE hatch. There is a five-speed manual standard on the three-door.
Gas milage for the four-speed is good at 32 miles per gallon overall. City milage is 30 while highway is 36. Gives this thing a five speed automatic and I’m sure those figures would improve greatly.
By checking the SE box on your wish list you get a sports tuned independent front suspension as well as sports tuned electronic steering, both of which work very well. Put the little Yaris in a corner and you will not be screaming for help. It sticks there and feels stable coming out and on its way down the road. Sporty might be a stretch but I’d say the Yaris has solid handling. The ride comfort was surprising as well.
Does the Yaris have any other draw backs? Yes. The level of competition is high and the field is crowded with good, tiny cars. Ford’s Fiesta is a blast to drive and comes in some tasty trim levels. The Kia Rio looks a lot like this car but I think it’s less expensive with more equipment. The Nissan Versa is, well, the cheapest new car you can buy. The Hyundai Accent comes in both hatch and sedan.
There may be a few others but you get the idea. None of that is a deal breaker, however. Toyota still has a great track record for little cars. The Yaris is one of those cars. At $18,445 some might find it expensive but I found it to be moderately priced. I’ve seen many of these on the road so Toyota is doing something right.

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Ford bullish on 2013 Taurus restyle, options

2013 Taurus Limited AWD

Ford set the automotive industry on its collective ear when it introduced the 1986 Taurus sedan in late 1985.

The chiefs at the other car companies dismissed it as being too radical and the public wouldn’t go for it. Wrong. It was a huge hit, so much so that others tried to follow too quickly and came up with messes and misses.

By the 2000s every company had gotten it right and the Taurus was an afterthought. It was clunky, chunky and oh so not funky anymore.

Not to worry. Ford revamped the sedan some years ago, moving it from midsize to full-size and the Taurus is back on buyer’s radar.

The 2013 Taurus has been tweaked with several goodies to make it more desirable.

If you want fuel efficiency go for the new turbo four-cylinder with 225 horses and 250 pounds feet of torque. That will get you 31 miles per gallon on the highway.

Want more oomph? The SHO has 365 horses and 350 lbs-feet of torque.

Or you could go with my test car, the all wheel drive limited with the 3.5-liter V6 which has 290 hp and 255 ft-lbs of torque. That’s the engine most will get and it’s a good one. It’s smooth and efficient and hooked to an exhaust system that sounds great. It returns 18 mpg city and 26 on the highway. Not bad numbers for a large car.

The AWD system, the engine and the six-speed transmission work well together. The car does, at times, feel as big as it is. Ford has taken care most of the problems this year, keeping the car from lumbering around drifting. The SHO kills even more of that feeling, but the limited is still all most will ever need.

The exterior has a new grill, front and rear fenders and taillights. The grill is larger with smaller slats. Wheels are new as well. The overall look is more grown up and handsome.

Upgrades to the cabin are welcomed, thank you

The cabin has been spruced with better looking and feeling materials. The door handles, center console and dash are more elegant, while the seats are really comfortable and cool – literally. The front seats are heated and cooled.

There’s much tech. The Ford MyTouch system has been improved greatly, though it can still be tricky. I’m still sold on the SYNC system which lets you voice command your way through the nicely done infotainment system. An optional package gives you blind-spot warning, cross traffic warning and adaptive cruise control with pre-collision warning. The ubiquitous backup camera is standard on the limited.

On the highway the Taurus proves to be a champ at offering a comfortable and compliant ride. It doesn’t float, but there is the feel of luxury. The V6 offers good passing power and will move you down the highway with authority. Again, that big-as-I-am feeling creeps in from time to time, but it doesn’t spoil the party.

Would I buy a new Taurus? If I needed this much space, sure. It’s a good-looking, well rounded sedan that will seat five and hold all the luggage on a trip (there’s 15 cubic feet of trunk space). If you need more space and have fewer passenger, the 60/40 split rear bench gives you even more options. It’s stylish but not short on substance.

The Taurus limited starts at $34,850. With the mountain of options added my test car, finished in a nifty kodiak brown with charcoal leather interior, was tested at $41,135.

That’s a little on the hefty side but you can trim some of the options or step down to the SEL if you don’t need AWD. If this is in your ballpark, go for it. The Taurus is well done.



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North American Auto Show debuts Fusion, Dart, Accord

2013 Ford Fusion

The North American International Auto Show (or Detroit Auto show as it was once known) ends this weekend with a plethora of new vehicles introduced by nearly every manufacturer.

Didn’t make it. Neither did I, but here’s a few things of interest. Some you’ll see soon at your favorite dealerships, others, well, if you scream loud enough, may be produced someday.

Ford introduced the 2013 Fusion to oohs and ahhhs. The outgoing Fusion was handsome, but this new sedan is stunning. Ford seems to be knocking the ball back into  Hyundai’s court with a resounding take that! There will be a hybrid, turbo engine options  and a V6. The interior is said to be as pleasing to look upon as well as functional. Ford Mytouch is said to be vastly improved.

Lincoln MKZ concept

Lincoln is finally injecting life into it’s aging lineup with a stylish MKZ concept, said to be the face of all future Lincolns. The company has addressed all of the car’s vices and improved its virtues. The grille may not be for everyone but the car certainly has more style.

Smart, the maker of tiny winy cars, introduced what I thought to be a convertible (and it was) but turns out to be an SUV. Yep. The Smart-For-Us has a 75 hp electric motor that has much torque which Smart says will help propel the car to 60 in the five-second range. That could be anywhere from 4.9 (doubtful) to 7.0 (probable) seconds. Green is in, but will Smart buyers go for this? Aren’t SUVs the antithesis of what Smart’s about. Jon Lovitz introduced the car. Remember the Pathological Liar from Saturday Night Live? Maybe not the best choice if you are trying to persuade someone to buy your product. It’s still only a concept.

Honda showed off the Accord Coupe Concept which is supposed to look very close to the 2013 Accord. So why not show the actual car? It’s Honda. That’s what it does. The actual car will be smaller than the current Accord which was classified as a large car, not midsize. Honda thinks the car’s girth hurt sales. It will be at least as roomy as the current Toyota Camry, offer four, six and turbo engines and a hybrid version. There will be a coupe as well. Look for many options and more standard equipment available.


Dodge will try its hand at small cars again with the Dart, which, thankfully, doesn’t have anything to do with the old Dart. It’s a stylish, thoroughly modern take on the small car. Expect 3 different four cylinder engines with lively performance, ranging from 164 hp to 184 hp. The interior is for the young or young at heart, featuring a configurable dash display, piping, a multi-touch screen and a high-quality looking finish. Dodge says it has midsize room in a compact. If Dodge CEO and designer Ralph Giles had a hand in this I’m sure it will.

And yes, I have to mention the comely Lexus LF-LC concept which won the Eyes On Design award at the show. This is a concept but scream VERY loudly. I want Lexus to make this and bring it in under $100,000.

Lexus LF-LC and designers











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MKX Is Bright Spot In Lincoln Line

This is the Lincoln MKX, not the Ford Edge.

You may have guessed that by the larger grill and the slightly different shade of red. These cars are essentially twins. As always, Lincoln does upscale versions of Ford product.

Lots of people question this. Why pay more for the same vehicle just because it has a few more toys. Don’t we always pay more for essentially the same vehicle with a few more toys?

Sure we do, But Lincoln isn’t just giving a copy as it has in the past. Like it’s lower sibling Fords, Lincoln’s now have a distinct family profile, That big, kinda bulldozer (Lincoln says “winged”) grill  is on every car, crossover and SUV. I like it. A bit bold for some tastes, but I like it.

MKX interior is nicely finished, spacious

What the MKX offers is copious amounts of luxury. The vehicle has been reworked from exterior to interior.The dash has leather (which is becoming very popular in some cars) as well as on all the seats which are very comfortable. Mechanics are raising, lowering, sliding and moving about everything in the vehicle. Wood, aluminum, and other expensive materials line the cabin. The center stack has a few soft-touch switches but is dominated by a touch-screen by which the user controls MyLincoln Touch. This is the Sync system which has been enhanced to control telematics, audio and climate settings. The dash is a mix of analog and digital which allows you to select certain gauges and view certain functions.
The MKX has 309 horsepower with 280 pounds-feet of torque. This makes the car a bit on the athletic side. What saps some power is the slow to shift six-speed transmission. It’s not like that all the time, just in spots. Like most other Ford derived cars, the MKX is also a tad heavy. Still, you’ve got enough power to pass and zip through traffic at highway speeds with no problem.

Be careful, the MKX doesn’t drive as much as it floats. It’s not the old barge-type Lincoln feel, but it is soft and cushy. My all-wheel drive version did track straight and handle curvy roads well, but I wouldn’t call it sporty. It gets the job done nicely, however.
Now if you got the base vehicle you would be satisfied. It’s stocked with everything you want and possibly need. That’s already over $40,000 for the AWD version. Add a premium, elite or limited package and you will push the upper 40s with ease. I believe I was given the elite, which gave me panoramic sunroof, THX certified sound system, 20-inch wheels, blind spot warning system and a 10 gig music storage system. That’s on top of the Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod interface which is a smattering of the standard equipment.

Certainly, the Edge can offer much of this at a lower price, as well as a few other crossovers. The Lincoln is more stylish and with the revamped body and interior is as upscale as some higher priced crossovers. Yes, there are several that cost more. I’d say  Lincoln got it right. There are few misses but the hits stack is much higher than the misses. Nice going, Lincoln.

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Ford, Toyota to team up to build large hybrids

I would really love to drive a hybrid, but I don’t want a small car with a tiny engine (I know this is a little counter intuitive).

Yes, you can buy a $50,000 Lexus or Toyota model, but I’m talking about a hybrid that won’t require a mortgage.
That’s why I am excited about Ford and Toyota’s announcement today that the auto giants have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (whatever that is) to work together to build new hybrid platform for light trucks and SUVs.

And let’s hope other manufacturers jump in (Hear us Honda?).


Here is the press release:

“Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor Corporation – the world’s two leading manufacturers of hybrid vehicles – today announced they will equally collaborate on the development of an advanced new hybrid system for light truck and SUV customers.

Ford and Toyota have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the product development collaboration, with the formal agreement expected by next year.
Both companies have been working independently on their own future-generation rear-wheel drive hybrid systems. The two now have committed to collaborate as equal partners on a new hybrid system for light trucks and SUVs. This new hybrid powertrain will bring the full hybrid experience of greater fuel efficiency to a new group of truck and SUV customers without compromising the capability they require in their vehicles. Ford and Toyota believe that their collaboration will allow them to bring these hybrid technologies to customers sooner and more affordably than either company could have accomplished alone.
“This agreement brings together the capability of two global leaders in hybrid vehicles and hybrid technology to develop a better solution more quickly and affordably for our customers,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “Ford achieved a breakthrough with the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and we intend to do this again for a new group of truck and SUV buyers – customers we know very well.”
Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota executive vice president, Research & Development, said: “In 1997, we launched the first-generation Prius, the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid. Since then, we have sold about 3.3 million hybrid vehicles. We expect to create exciting technologies that benefit society with Ford – and we can do so through the experience the two companies have in hybrid technology.”
The two companies also agreed to work together on enablers to complement each company’s existing telematics platform standards, helping bring more Internet-based services and useful information to consumers globally.
Under the MOU agreement, the two companies will bring the best of their independently developed hybrid powertrain technology and knowledge to a new co-developed hybrid system, which will be used in rear-wheel-drive light trucks arriving later this decade. Specifically, Ford and Toyota will:
  • Jointly develop as equal partners a new rear-wheel drive hybrid system and component technology for light trucks and SUVs
  • Independently integrate the new hybrid system in their future vehicles separately
For years, both Ford and Toyota have been working independently on similar new rear-wheel-drive hybrid systems aimed at delivering higher fuel economy in light trucks and SUVs. When the two companies began discussing this potential collaboration, they discovered how quickly they were able to find common ground.
“By working together, we will be able to serve our customers with the very best affordable, advanced powertrains, delivering even better fuel economy,” said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally. “This is the kind of collaborative effort that is required to address the big global challenges of energy independence and environmental sustainability.”
Toyota President Akio Toyoda added: “Toyota is extremely proud to join Ford in developing a hybrid system for pickup trucks and SUVs. Not only is this tie-up clearly one aimed at making automobiles ever better, it should also become an important building block for future mobility in the U.S. By building a global, long-term relationship with Ford, our desire is to be able to continue to provide people in America automobiles that exceed their expectations.”
This rear-wheel-drive hybrid system will be based on an all-new architecture to deliver the capability truck and SUV customers demand while providing greater fuel economy.
While the rear-wheel-drive hybrid system will share significant common technology and components, Ford and Toyota will individually integrate the system into their own vehicles. Each company also will determine the calibration and performance dynamics characteristics of their respective light pickups and SUVs.
In addition, as telematics plays an increasingly more important role in the in-car experience, both companies have agreed to collaborate on standards and technologies needed to enable a safer, more secure and more convenient in-car experience for next-generation telematics systems.  The telematics collaboration relates only to standards and technologies, and each company will continue to separately develop their own in-vehicle products and features.
“Ford has made tremendous progress in the area of telematics,” Kuzak said. “We have unique and very good solutions today with SYNC and MyFordTouch. Working together on in-vehicle standards can only enhance our customers’ experience with their vehicles.”
Uchiyamada added: “Toyota has also invested heavily in telematics in various countries around the world, with services like the G-BOOK and G-Link. In the U.S., we have just introduced the accessible, easy-to-use Entune. By sharing our know-how and experience, we would like to offer even better telematics services in the future.”

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