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.


WRX grows up without losing youthfulness

2015 Subaru WRX
2015 Subaru WRX

Subaru’s WRX has been known for it’s all-out raw performance at a somewhat budget price. It’s the kind of car that enthusiasts love because it is so raw.

So what happens when Subaru decides to give it a good ride along with all that performance. Heresy? Not quite. The 2015 (yes already) WRX has gained acceptable road manners while keeping most of its wild child attitude.

The WRX is still wild. There is much horsepower, handling capability and, well, bad attitude to suit anyone’s taste. What it does not have is a hatch. That’s gone. All will have to be satisfied with the four-door sedan. It’s roomy enough for five, four will be the most comfortable.

Back to that in a moment. There are 268 horses coming out of the 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged Boxer direct-injected four-cylinder. Torque peaks at 258 pounds-feet but is available from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. It’s connected to an exhaust which has one fewer muffler chamber and shortened exhaust tubing to give the engine a deeper note. Neat trick but it’s the horsepower and torque that had me at hello.

What can one do with all that? Whatever one wants. The six speed manual has been reworked to be smoother in it’s transitions through the gate. Maybe, but it works well enough to get the WRX to hustle down the road with bluster. Blast down an open piece of road and you’ll love yourself. Throw it around a curve and it performs like a high-speed monorail – no slipping and sliding, but clean negotiation. The new found road manners may have a little to do with that. This thing never loses composure.

The electric power assisted steering is a huge improvement. Response is wonderful and whatever you ask it does immediately. Throw in the standard all-wheel-drive and the WRX is still quite the party on wheels.

It’s still based on the Impreza’s body, just stiffer – 41 percent more than last year. Spring rates are also higher as well as having a bigger stabilizer bar.

I do like the carbon fiber-looking interior. It seems to be better put together than last year. The gauge package is good looking and there is a 3.5-inch screen with graphics and a 4.3-inch display in the center of the dashboard. Go for the optional navigation system and the screen is 6.1 inches. I didn’t get that option but I liked what I got. My premium model had an all-weather package, glass moonroof, fog lights and trunk spoiler.

My car’s color was Crystal Black Silica, roughly that’s black metal flake paint that sparkles in the sun like a Twilight vampire.

The seats were sporty and comfortable with height-adjustable headrests. There was also a plethora of standard equipment: AM/FM radio with HD, single disc CD, iPod/Phone/Pad connection, USB connection and three months of SiriusXM Satellite radio.

There’s not a whole lot I don’t like about Subarus and I couldn’t think of anything I didn’t like about this car. Yeah, maybe dropping the hatchback wasn’t the best of ideas, but this little sedan is quite the machine. The tricked out wheels, flared fenders and hood scoop certainly don’t make it look pedestrian.

The 2015 WRX should be arriving at dealers by the time you read this. The STi model will follow shortly.



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Chrysler 300: imported from Detroit and proud


2012 Chrysler 300

When you have something as popular as Chrysler’s 300 sedan and you need to make changes but don’t want to mess up a good thing what do you do?

You do exactly what chief designer Ralph Giles and company did – fix the car’s interior and freshen the exterior so that it’s recognizable but better.

Give Mr. Giles a medal for restraint and his use of simple elegance. The 300 has only gotten better looking. It no longer looks like a poor man’s Bentley, but an upscale American luxury sedan. I think that’s a good thing these days. The car’s grille is more integrated into the fascia and those LED headlights add a bit more bling. The wide stance, big ol’ wheels and limo-looking proportions make this car look good on the road.

Well, it’s always looked good on the road, but not so good looking inside. Let’s face it, the last 300 had some cheap plastic and really fake wood which didn’t fit with the rest of the vehicle. That’s been banished and replaced by a gorgeous dash and finely finished trimmings. This thing is now a delight. The seats, even covered in cloth are ooooh so comfy, but supportive at the same time.

Back to that dash. The focal point is a big LCD screen that controls or displays most of the car’s functions. Above that screen is an analog clock that looks as if it was plucked from a jewelry store. The screen is touch sensitive or you can control the functions by voice. The gauges glow with an icky but serene blue hue. The tach and speedometer are under a cowl with helps to block out the sunlight. The fit and finish is excellent and the execution is nearly flawless.

The dash has been given the royal treatment

The most desirable version of the 300 is the SRT8 which gets the vaunted hemi engine. While still great, you don’t get short changed by picking the V6 which has been messaged and tweaked to 292 horses. Heck, who needs a V8, especially when this V6 can get 31miles per gallon on the highway.

My test car had the optional eight (8) speed transmission which is a wonder in itself. Shifts are barely felt and it helps to push this baby down the road with aplomb.

Yes, the chassis has been improved and yes, the chassis is still based on Mercedes bits  and pieces. If you were satisfied with last year’s 300, this year’s will not disappoint.

Faults, complaints? None that I can think of. The base car provides a smooth ride, brisk acceleration and handling that belies a car of this size. The high waistline and squinty windows may be a bit much, but not enough to scream about.

Me like. Me like a great deal.

The base 300 starts at $27,170 and comes with loads of stuff which includes traction and stability control, anti lock brakes, dual zone climate, cruise, multifunction steering wheel with tilt, power package, illuminated cub holders, 60/40 split rear seat, Uconnect touch screen, satellite radio, heated power mirrors and iPod connectivity.

The only options were the eight speed transmission ($1,000) and voice control ($295).

A $1,000 discount was given to replace the 8.4-inch touch screen with a 4.3 version due to early production shortages.

Factor in $825 for destination and the as tested price came to $28,290 – a relative steal. This new 300 should have been the car Eminem was driving in the “imported from Detroit” commercial. This is the new face of Chrysler. Ralph, you’ve got another winner.


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BMW 3-Series still ultimate driving machine

2011 BMW 335i Sedan

I don’t get to drive BMWs often but it only takes a few seconds of seat time to remember why I like them so much: nothing else drives like one.


Nope, there is no other less-than-exotic maker that gives you this kind of visceral feeling. You just like them. You don’t even have to think about it. You just know you do.

I still think the 3-Series is so close to perfection it’s scary. That’s from a driving point of view. It has lots to knock – price, missing equipment that should be standard, interior room – to name a few. Those are just quibbles when compared to the overall pleasurable driving experience.


It’s the driving, stupid, I tell myself. Since the ‘80s, this has been the sedan to beat and from a pure driving sense it still is.


I’m a little put off by the manual transmission in this 335i. It’s not the snic-snic feel I remember. It’s just a tad rubbery now. Not so much to make you want an automatic but noticeable still. It’s still smooth enough to allow you to click through the gears and wring all the 300 horses from the 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder. You can still blast down your favorite stretch of highway and get that BMW grin. Curvy roads. Not a problem. This car loves the challenge and will take on the best you can find while delivering a comfortable enough ride to satisfy those who simply bought the car for status. Yes, that still happens.


There is a gaggle of safety equipment in case you get too silly. Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control can bail you out as well as those marvelous ventilated discs with ABS. If I’m remembering correctly, you can switch some of that off if you want to prove how great a driver you are to yourself. I think. I didn’t shut anything off.

Interior is exquisite but needs more room.


My test model included a $2,100 sport package which includes a sports leather steering wheel, sports seats and a retuned suspension. Don’t know how much this improves the handling but I can tell you this is one of the best handling cars you can get. Braking, steering and handling are superb.


My quibbles aren’t limited to the stuff I mentioned earlier. At $40,600 there are no telematics. That’s a dealer installed option. These are leatherette seats, not leather. The radio was OK, but an iPod and USB adapter is an optional $400? Really.


That said, I’d plunk down the $44,525 BMW wants for this sedan if I had it to give. The warranty is good, gas mileage is OK for such a car and I’d even take the Alpine White paint job.If the company could cut me a great deal on a 6-Series convertible, I forget about the 335i. That would be sooooooo sweet.

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Infiniti M37 sedan balances sport, comfort

2012 Infiniti M37 Sedan

Combining sporty handling and a luxurious ride is a difficult thing. The idea is to establish a balance that will please those looking for both in their automotive choice.

It is nearly impossible to do, however. You either get something that’s too cushy or too stiff. Can’t please everyone, right?

No, you can’t. But there are a few who will live with a moderately stiff ride for a car that isn’t afraid to carve up the road.

If you are that breed of driving enthusiast, I introduce to you the Infiniti M37. Your search for such a car is over.

Personally I don’t think the M37 rides hard, which is probably why I like BMWs so much. If you’re looking for a Lincoln Town Car-style float, walk past the M37 briskly. You won’t get that here.

What you will get is a vehicle with finely tuned braking, handling, steering and accelerating. This is a beast that offers a taut and firm ride sure to put a huge grin on your face as you attack whatever road you approach. Twists and turns? Not a problem. Long stretches of empty, straight road? You. Will. Love. It.

The M37 puts its 420 horsepower V8 to good use. Sixty miles per hour is easily reached in 5.2 seconds. Getting to more than twice that speed and cruising is effortless, thanks to a superbly geared six-speed automatic that slices through its settings with the accuracy of a surgeon. There are four settings: sport, normal, snow and eco. When you want to conserve fuel, the eco setting gives you feedback at the pedal, which cause you to back off the gas a bit.

This car loves to run, but it will not beat you up in the process. Yes, the balance is more toward sport than comfort but that’s not to say this car isn’t comfortable. It is–and it’s quiet, too. The air conditioner cools in eerie silence. The advanced A/C also even includes a forest setting that simulates a breeze blowing through the trees. There is much more, including an active lane departure which nudges you back onto your side of the road if you start to drift.

Infiniti didn’t skimp on any aspect of this car. The exterior is muscular, to the point of being ripped. An optional interior package gets you get enough metal and silver-infused real wood in the interior to please the most opulent buyer. There is plenty of room for five and the trunk can hold nearly 15 cubic feet of stuff.

The mix of standard equipment and options is dizzying. My test car had everything but all wheel drive. Buttery soft leather, power rear sunshade, moonroof, 16 – speaker Bose system, navigation, satellite radio, adaptive cruise control, 20-inch chrome wheels and active lane departure were among the major features.

There are other similarly sporty cars on the market. A few cost less (Hyundai Genesis R.Spec) but a lot cost more (take your pick from Asia or Europe). None  strike this balance at this price, which is well past $60,000.

I think Infiniti got it right. This car makes no apologies to any of its rivals for being what it is.

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