Until recently, Ford
has had an exasperating habit of introducing cars that, while initially offering lots of promise, aren't followed up with the sort of painstaking polish a flat-out world-beater needs. So imagine our astonishment when we climbed behind the wheel of the 2010 FORD Fusion
during our most recent Car of the Year program. Not only had Ford
so substantially revamped it that it qualified for the contest, but the Fusion's newfound refinement, greater solidity, and broad spectrum of impressive variations propelled it straight into the winner's circle.
Among those drivetrain choices was this new hybrid edition, an entirely Dearborn-bred integration of gas-electric elements (despite its being patterned after the Prius' familar configuration). Piston power comes from a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder offering 156 horses, which collaborates with a 106-horse electric motor for a merged peak output of 191 ponies. By working its battery's state-of-charge more aggressively than does Toyota
(whose batteries are startlingly long-lived), the FORD Fusion
Hybrid can motor up to an unusual 47 mph on electric propulsion alone (I've done it, but you have to be very careful with the throttle).
On the other hand, its 41-mpg city mileage number (36 on the highway) has been a much-bandied advertising hook we've found elusive to replicate. What's for sure though is the Fusion's great day-in and day-out mileage. For instance, by coincidence, I happen to be writing this while attending the SAE's Hybrid Symposium in San Diego (where the FORD Fusion
Hybrid has just won the inaugural Hermance Vehicle Efficiency Award, by the way), and hammering down the freeway on my 83-mile drive here it returned a nice 35.7 mpg. Not bad at all.
And the same goes for its driving qualities, which make this a hybrid of an entirely different stripe. Ah, and have we noticed any early demerits? Sure -- the brakes are a bit touchy at low speeds and its ride is unnecessarily starchy (according to my derriere). But at $32,620, our example (which includes one giant $5215 "rapid-spec" option package consisting of voice-activated navigation, cross-traffic detection, blind-spot sensing, rearview camera, moonroof, satellite radio, Sony sound system, and heated leather front seats) already seems to occupy a very sweet spot in the widening spectrum of hybrid offerings. And over the next year, we'll being watching to see if its newfound impression of polish continues to sparkle.