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.


BMW 535d is elegant way to save fuel, have fun

2014 BMW 535d
2014 BMW 535d

OK, I’m hooked and I admit it. Yes, I love diesel cars.

Hybrids are fine but they cost a bit more and don’t deliver quite the fuel economy claimed, at lest some don’t. Every diesel, however, has met or even exceeded claimed gas mileage. Yep, Each one I’ve tested.

One of my favorites is the BMW 535. It’s already a car to long for, but add diesel technology and it’s nearly irresistible.

The 535d has the same equipment as the 535i except the six cylinder engine is a turbocharged diesel which makes a so-so 255 horsepower, but – wait for it – 413 pounds-feet of torque. Yes, you could pull stumps out of the ground if this were a truck. It’s not. It is a luxury sedan that can hit 60 miles per hour in 5.8 seconds and achieve 26 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. That’s 30 mpg overall. Oh, and it has x-Drive, BMW’s all wheel drive system.

The engine is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission that can shifted like a manual from the steering wheel. It is buttery smooth, acting as if it’s not there at times. You can downshift quickly if you need to pass or cruise effortlessly in eighth gear. Yes, it’s quick for its size, but BMW has taken a bit of the sport out of the 5-series. It’s more comfortable and luxurious than before, but not as attitudinal. You can get that in the M or even the 550i with a V8, but I still think this 5 strikes a great balance between sport and comfort.

Driving this automobile is really a pleasure. There is enough feedback from steering and the road feel from the tires to know what’s going on. You can still find twisty roads to conquer but a tad bit more care is necessary. Don’t worry, this is still a sports sedan, despite the fact it’s as quite as Grant’s tomb.

Can’t say enough about the car’s iconic styling. The double kidney grill still screams BMW. The overall shape is sleek and eye pleasing. Still one of the best looking cars on the road.

There’s plenty of technology, some optional. Intelligent cruise control, blind spot detection, antilock brakes, LED headlights, bunches of air bags, stability and traction control and navigation were present. The ubiquitous high end stereo with terrestrial and satellite radio was also present.

My turn in the Bimmer didn’t allow me to test the x-Drive system. The weather was perfect. I’m still not sure if I’m sold on i-Drive, although it gets better with every new update. X-drive controls most of the car’s functions with a single knob. I’m not bothered by many buttons so long as each feels good to the touch or offers an easily definable function.

How much for the goodies. Well, my test car was around $60,000 with options and destination. That’s about average for cars in this class. Love the gas mileage with the diesel engine (which of course does not smoke nor makes much noise per diesels of old). Couldn’t ask for much more.

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XV Crosstrek is one make-sense hybrid

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Subaru has always been thought of as a quirky car marker since it hit these shores decades ago. I don’t know if that thought is still accurate. Subaru offers a full line of cars that are, well, different, but fit into a variety of lifestyles. The XV Crosstrek offers all the Subaru stuff – all-wheel-drive, boxer engine, continuously variable transmission – but pushes the envelope by adding hybrid technology. It’s useful technology. Instead of bolting a hybrid drive to a small car which should get great gas mileage, the Crosstrek is a roomy crossover. Said hybrid drive allows 33 on the highway and 29 city. That’s an overall average of 31. Just average you say? Remember this is something that can haul five people, stuff in the back, on top and has all wheel drive. Little more impressive don’t you think? The hybrid’s total horsepower output is 160 with 163 pounds-feet of torque. That’s OK because it’s enough to move the vehicle about without much hesitation. It’s not fast – or even quick – but it does do the job. Driving this is like driving most other Subarus. I’m a fan of its all wheel drive system which I especially like using in the rain. It gives the car a stability you feel in an Audi but at far lower a price tag. It’s also unobtrusive. You don’t really notice till there’s a need. What you will notice is the gas mileage. Yep, trips to your local petrol station will be fewer. It’s also good to know this is a partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV). That means it’s clean enough to drive in California which is saying much. My only gripe with the Crosstrek is the continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s not just Subaru. I’ve found most of them to be noisy. The five speed manual would be my pick but the art of driving a stick is fading. Automatic transmissions are more efficient and get nearly the same gas mileage. The hybrid touring model comes with many features. Traction control and stability control are standard, as are antilock brakes, seven airbags, premium sound system with HD/Sirius/XM radio, power package, voice controlled navigation and split-folding rear seats. The decked out hybrid will run you into the mid $30,000. The 2.0i premium starts at under $22,000. You can check out stock at your local dealer or build your own at (then find it at your local dealer). The XV Crosstrek isn’t flashy nor will it make you pine to own one. Once driven it will leave a lasting impression and make you seriously consider owning a Subaru. You would be one of several million that likes the fact they made that choice.








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Turbo diesel Beetle is great hybrid option

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

Volkswagen’s Beetle was in need of a makeover, a style update. The “new” Beetle was getting long in the tooth and sales were beginning to fade. How could the company keep the car’s originality and give it an update that, well, updated the car?

Easily, apparently. The current new Beetle is more handsome, more practical and just more better.

Bad grammar aside, the Beetle has been lengthened and widened. The fenders have been sliced off somewhat to give the car a more masculine look. The front bumper has been notched and the longer roofline has shades of a Porsche 911. This reworking is working.

The Beetle’s interior get’s a huge upgrade as well. There is a little more room than before. The comfortable front seats are more comfy and more supportive. Rear seat room is better, but it’s only good for four people. I’m sure some adventurous college students can cram many bodies in this, but that’s another story.

The dash has been reworked and it’s a job well done. Volkswagen used expensive looking stuff to dress this Beetle convertible. Every button, switch and knob looks and feels good. I really like he big touch screen which gives the car an even more upscale look.

My favorite part of this Beetle is the engine. The two-liter, turbo diesel engine cranks out 140 horsepower with 236 pounds-feet of torque. This gives the car a lot, and I mean much low-end grunt. There’s a throaty sound to the engine that gives a sporty sensation.

The best attribute of the engine is the gas milage. This is a diesel and it gets that glorious diesel extended range. Being a bit larger and heavier than the last model, this Beetle convertible gets 41 miles to the gallon on the highway and 28 in city.

That’s 32 miles overall. Who needs a hybrid? Well, there is this thing about zero emission, but there’s no battery to worry about and the fuel is more available than ever. I think this is the technology we should be thinking about. Chevy has a diesel Cruise coming shortly, which is big for an American car company. Will others follow? They should.

Clean, uncluttered interior

As a convertible the Beetle has always worked fine. This car works better. The longer wider look makes this much more handsome and masculine without alienating women, which are a huge part of the convertible market. The top drops in about 9.5 seconds and can retract safely at speeds up to 31 miles per hour. The new top folds flatter and is less noisy.

This is a fun car to drive, top up or down. Acceleration is good while handling, braking and steering all have benefited from the makeover.You can get a sportier feel if you go for the gasoline turbo but you may feel the guilt of not getting 41 miles per gallon.

The six-speed manual starts at $27,895. Add the great Fender stereo, navigation and a few more bits and you go to $29,195.

Volkswagen had me at turbo diesel. I find little fault with this car. More rear seat room would be good and 40 or more horses under the hood would be great. Yet, I’m totally sold on this package the way it sits. Job well done Volkswagen.



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The Lexus LF-LC concept car should wow Detroit Auto Show

A stunning concept that should see the light of day

Lexus is really trying to pull its designs into this century.

The new GS is a great start. It incorporates a little of the LFA’s super car looks. Is that enough? Maybe not, but this LF-LC Hybrid concept might do the trick.

This may be the design language needed for all Lexi to come. Heck, this should be the successor to the SC 400. The grille is out there – way out there and that’s what the franchise needs. The interior is sleek and tight looking (in a good way). CALTY studios were given the go ahead to do this from scratch but, according to president and CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, it had to have the “wow” factor.

Interior is fabulous

This has that and them some. Lexus plans to show this at the North American International Auto Show (Detroit) this week. If reaction is good – and I’d be hard pressed to believe it will not be – the project should be given the green light.

If so, will the company be able to make the car affordable? The LFA isn’t, not at $385,000, but it is desirable. Put in the under $100,000 bracket – and I mean waaaaay under – and this could be the start of something big for Lexus.

Please. Build. This.

Want more info? Pick up Road & Tracks January issue or visit it’s Facebook page or website

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2012 Honda Civic tries to keep up with competition

2012 Honda Civic Sedan

So what’s up with all the bad press about the 2012 Civic?

Some dealers don’t like it because it’s not as distinct as the new crop of Hyundais and Kias roaming the planet. Others have said it’s more of an evolution than a revelation.

And? Why mess up a good thing. My time with the 2012 Civic Hybrid and the HF was well spent. Didn’t find much wrong with either but I was confused a bit. The gas mileage for both looked close but upon further review I found that the hybrid’s mileage was the SAME for city and highway. Impressive. Very impressive.

Heck, I found the Civic to be impressive overall, especially the HF. It had everything that I like about Hondas: quick reflexes, strong four-cylinder engine, comfortable ride and a well done interior.

I will admit, there are cars that do at least one of the aforementioned better but not the whole package. Hyundai and Kia come the closest, but Honda still does it a tad better overall. The looks of the Civic don’t bother me, either. I will admit the 2012 looks much like the outgoing car.

That’s probably why you will see a refresh next year instead of 2014. Honda has taken the criticism to heart and will speed up the car’s cycle.

Still, this model has a lot to offer. The interior feels a bit more spacious even if it’s not. The dash is handsome, but Honda is beginning to favor many buttons over simplicity. Again, nothing wrong, but for so many years this company was the leader in ergonomic interiors.

Interior design fine, but low grade plastics hurt.

Honda still gets kudos for its balance between a comfortable ride and good handling. The Civic still knifes through traffic without much fuss and will give you good acceleration when needed. The 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine is quiet enough and puts out enough torque for most urban driving situations.

Honda does have to worry about prices, just as it’s Japanese rival Toyota. Both were hit by pipeline foulups because of last year’s tsunami. Less product to offer meant a slower than hoped rollout for the Civic and higher than expected prices which is what the Big 2, Hyundai and Kia needed to push their competing models forward. Each has gained market share on the Civic but Honda still has a reputation for building a great car which lasts – regardless of the warranty length.

The Civic HF I tested was $20,225. It didn’t have navigation, Bluetooth or a snazzy stereo system. It had all the basics plus a five speed automatic transmission, tilt and telescopic steering column, driver’s seat height adjustment, auto headlamps, keyless entry and a USB port. All of that’s standard. No options included. None needed, or missed.

The combined gas mileage was 33 (29 city/41 highway). Go for the hybrid and you get 44 city and highway. You will spend a few grand more but if you want to go green you still pay a premium.

I’d buy a Civic because I like small, well built cars. The problem is it’s no longer the only game in town, and for some, no longer the best. Time will tell.


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Toyota’s 100 Cars For Good Rewards North Carolina Non-Profit With Hybrid Highlander

Charlotte, NC – Scott Clark’s Toyota City on Sept. 16  presented a Highlander HV Limited hybrid to Cindy’s Hope Chest (CHC) as part of the Toyota 100 Cars for Good program. The non-profit organization, which provides services and resources to women battling breast cancer, will use the new vehicle to transport these women to doctors’ appointments, pick up prescriptions and deliver resources to those they are helping quicker and more efficiently.

The impact this vehicle will have for clients of CHC is tremendous, according to Cindy Summers, the organization’s founder and breast cancer survivor. While overcoming the disease, Summers made a vow to establish a nonprofit ensuring other women would not have to endure their battle alone.

“Toyota is doing more than giving us a car, they are giving us the opportunity to make the lives of these women a little bit easier, to lessen the everyday stresses they have to juggle,” Summers said.  “I’ve been where they are, I didn’t want anyone to have to go through this journey alone. Seeing the votes of the community come together to support our mission and get our organization this Toyota has been amazing.”

The Toyota 100 Cars for Good program has awarded 100 vehicles over the course of 100 days to 100 deserving non-profit organizations nationwide based on votes from the public. 100 Cars for Good was launched as a Facebook-enabled philanthropy initiative which engaged supporters of these charities through its Facebook application. Each day for 100 days, five organizations were profiled on the Facebook page and the one with the most votes at the end of the day was awarded a car.  The 400 runners-up each received $1,000.

Chris Cady, general manager of Scott Clark’s Toyota, said the dealership is a strong community supporter of CHC and encouraged its 10,000 Facebook fans to vote for the nonprofit during the 100 Cars for Good program.  Additionally, the dealership has sponsored several CHC fundraisers and plans to continue its support.

“Cindy’s Hope Chest does such a great job supporting the women who are fighting and surviving their battles with breast cancer,” Cady said.  “We are so happy to see them receive this vehicle, and we look forward to working with them more to help them carry out their mission.”


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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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