Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ford's Energi plug-in rolls with the big boys

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – The 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi SEL plug-in hybrid is meant to compete straight-on with Toyota’s iconic Prius hybrid.

Let me assure you that this all-new Ford product does a very fine job of doing just that.

From a performance standpoint, the Energi is the superior car.  Truthfully, when I was driving the five-passenger, five-door Ford on city streets and dicey freeways, it was very difficult to remind myself that I was handling a hybrid.

Yes, it’s that good.  And while I’ve seen the Energi called a wagon, a minivan and a crossover, I was completely convinced that it was a passenger car-hatch – which I mean in an all-good way.  Easy to load up passengers and cargo, and when you’re rolling, the vehicle feels like sporty sedan with a peppy, performance-tuned power plant under the hood.

Pretty incredible how Ford pulled this off.  The U.S. automaker was among those considered a distant second, third or fourth behind the overseas hybrid offerings.  And now, bang, it’s a player.

In fact, Ford says its C-MAX offerings ranked as the fastest-selling hybrids ever at launch last October-November, with 8,030 unit sales in those two months, eclipsing the previous mark of 7,300 Toyota Camry Hybrid sales in mid-2006.

The hybrid plant gives you a basic 2-liter, in-line 4 engine paired with an electric motor for a horsepower rating of 188.  The power delivered by that horsepower rating is remarkable, at least in my experience.  When prompted, my Energi tester walked away from other cars in most conditions.  It kept up with gas-fueled machinery without missing a beat.

Juicing up the battery through a pop-open plug-in port is just as easy as filling up the tank at another opening.  Fully fueled and energized, the car gives you a max miles per gallon equivalent rating of 100 and a gas-only rating of 43 mpg.  Either way, you’re doing well.

I found the interior comfort level to be exceptional, and I also liked the layout of interior controls.

I thought the exterior look of my Energi tester was funky-attractive, in a sit-down, hunched-shoulders sort of way. Some friends and family members told me they did not like it at all, an opinion shared by other auto-reviewing colleagues of mine.  Beauty is in the eye …, as they say.  Me, I thought the car looked fine.

Please note that you’ll likely be paying about $7,000 more for the Energi version of the car as opposed to the C-MAX Hybrid.  On my Energi’s sticker, the starting price was $32,950, and options pushed the bottom line to $37,830.  Yes, those are hefty numbers to consider when you’re doing the math on long-term gas savings.

Even so, it’s hard to knock this effort by Ford on price alone.

I found the C-MAX Energi to be a pretty deep-in-the-seats home run, given its technology, comfort and performance.  That’s pretty good, considering I went in expecting two-base hit, at best, from a brand-new U.S. offering.

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