Cariolis: Car Reviews

Ford Fusion Hybrid @ 2008 LAAS

By InsideLineVideo

FOR MORE ABOUT THE FUSION AND MILAN HYBRIDS: With the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid presented at the Los Angeles auto show, the Dearborn-based automaker will go directly after Toyota and Honda for title of the most efficient hybrid sedan. Using an updated version of the full-hybrid system featured in the most recent Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids, the Fusion Hybrid is expected to return an impressive 39 mpg on the EPA city test cycle. If the Fusion Hybrid (and the mechanically identical Mercury Milan Hybrid) can achieve this figure, it will represent a 5-mpg improvement over the front-wheel-drive Escape/Mariner Hybrids and a 6-mpg improvement compared to the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The Honda Civic Hybrid posts 40 mpg in the EPA's city regimen. That's an impressive figure, given that the Fusion Hybrid uses the same 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine that makes up the gas-powered portion of the Escape Hybrid's powertrain. This engine incidentally makes 155 horsepower and 136 pound-feet of torque and is bolted to a continuously variable transmission, just as in the Escape Hybrid. But Ford is referring to the hybrid powertrain in the Fusion Hybrid as "system 2.0," copying computer company jargon. What that means is that the nickel-metal hydride battery is smaller, using 208 cells instead of 250. It's also more powerful by almost 20 percent. And, because of "improved chemistry," the battery can be run at a higher temperature and is cooled using cabin air instead of auxiliary air-conditioning or fresh air. And at 145 pounds, Ford says the Fusion Hybrid's battery is 23 percent lighter. Smarter climate controls, refined regenerative braking and a host of other upgrades are also part of the installation. According to Ford, the Fusion Hybrid can operate on purely electric power up to 47 mph, which would be a huge leap compared to the existing system, which typically fires the gas engine at about half that speed, depending on throttle application. The hybrid won't look much different from the standard Fusion, however. Ford will add its "road and leaf" logo, familiar from the Escape Hybrid. And the hybrid wears unique 16-inch wheels. Inside the cabin, Fusion Hybrid drivers get a standard 110-volt power outlet and an instrument package Ford is calling "SmartGauge with EcoGuide." The SmartGauge portion of this consists of two reconfigurable LCD screens that sandwich the analog speedometer. They can be set up to display a wide variety of information including fuel and battery levels, instant and average mileage performance, engine output power, battery output power, accessory power consumption and more. The EcoGuide portion of the name indicates that Ford believes it can coach drivers into driving the car for maximum fuel-efficiency. Part of this is the kitschy "efficiency leaves" feature, which "grows" leaves and vines on the screen as a reward for efficient driving.

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