2014 Ford Fusion Driving Impressions

The Ford Fusion feels like a big car on the road as well as in the cabin. In its base 2.5-liter iteration, the Fusion provides decent, albeit docile acceleration. For more oomph, go for the 2.0-liter turbo. Last year's 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine is no longer available with the automatic transmission, and has been replaced with the new 1.5-liter EcoBoost. We didn't get to drive a Fusion with the new engine, but we expect similar performance to the old 1.6-liter, with equal horsepower and slightly less torque. The improvement, we expect, will be better fuel economy.

Steering is light and comfortable, and the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts in all the right places. Titanium models are equipped with paddle shifters for manual gear changes. Brakes are smooth and confidence-inspiring.

Thanks to its electric motor, the Fusion Hybrid offers plenty of pep off the line. The electronically controlled CVT is smooth and seamless, and brakes are firm and responsive, without feeling grabby like many vehicles that use regenerative systems. Its low, grumbly sound is rather unpleasant, however, despite Ford's attempts to muffle it with acoustic material.

Handling is solid and comfortable, and on par with our expectations for a midsize family sedan. Although, the Fusion doesn't feel as nimble as other cars in its class. We had an embarrassing moment when we were forced to make a three-point U-turn at a stoplight on a major city street to clear two lanes. The Toyota Camry, in a subsequent comparison drive, felt more maneuverable and got us around in one fell swoop with its 36.6-foot turning circle. Still, the Fusion's turning circle of 37.7 feet bests the Accord's girthy 38.1 feet.

The Ford Fusion Energi is plug-in hybrid that uses the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder found in the Fusion Hybrid, along with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Fusion Energi is designed to run on pure electric power for short commutes and can be charged using a 120-volt or 240-volt outlet. It has a bigger onboard battery and uses different cells. Ford claims a combined range of up to 620 miles between the battery and the gas tank, with up to 21 miles in all electric mode. It's EPA rated at 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), and allows the driver to choose between three modes: EV Now, EV later and Auto. As the names suggest, EV Now will operate only in all-electric mode; EV Later switches into hybrid mode and saves the battery, and Auto will self-select modes depending on driving demands.

We drove the Fusion Energi SE around sprawling Los Angeles, and found that its EV range lived up to Ford's claims. On a 19.5-mile drive on city streets, we kept the Fusion Energi in EV Now mode the entire time and brought it back with 3 miles of charge to spare. We didn't modify our driving style to maximize range, and even passed a few cars with gusto. Although, we kept the A/C off, which helped to stretch our range (Ford engineers say the climate control system is the biggest drain on the battery). This isn't much of an issue for those living in mild climates like Southern California, but expect performance to drop if you use the A/C or heater frequently.

Regenerative braking systems typically make for a grabby brake pedal feel; not so in the Fusion Energi. The pedal feel was the smoothest we've felt in this type of car. The only thing that irked us, besides certain aspects of the MyFordTouch interface, was that startup was completely silent, which created a debate amongst passengers as to whether the car was actually on. However, this characteristic is typical of electrified vehicles.

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