2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Start/Stop, and EcoBoost – FIRST DRIVE!

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2013 Ford Fusion EcoBoost
Our friends from Ford took us out to Santa Monica this week to experience the whole line up of 2013 Ford Fusions, and I gotta tell you, every one’s a winner.

The Fusion is Ford’s mid-size competitor to the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, and all the other players in the midsize space. Ford has seen fit to offer the Fusion is more variants than pretty much anyone else. Lets see, we’ve got:

  • 1.6l turbo with 6 speed transmission
  • 1.6l turbo with Start/Stop and an automatic
  • 2.0l turbo with 6 speed automatic transmission
  • Gas / Electric hybrid that averages 47 MPG
  • Coming soon: Plugin electric

2013 Ford Fusion Features

I’ve never seen a car in this segment or at this price with so many available advanced systems. The Ford Fusion could be had, as an example, with:

  • Lane departure warnings – which warns you and nudges you if you’re drifting
  • Adaptive cruise control – which maintains a safe distance from the car in front of you
  • Active park assist – which will parallel park the car for you
  • Three different digital displays – with a vast array of info at your fingertips
  • Blind spot alert system
  • Rear view camera
  • Sync + MyFordTouch
  • Forward collision warning system
  • Auto Start/Stop
  • Hybrid drive train

And the entire shooting match will cost about $35k! You’d be rolling around in one of the most technologically sophisticated cars on the road – for $35k! I hope this is an indication of where the entire automotive market is going, because I love it.

2013 Ford Fusion Driving Impressions

Cali and I spent about 6 hours total driving around in the various iterations of the new Fusion, each of them pretty loaded up with all of the available options. Two things we didn’t experience were the Start/Stop function, and a sunroof. (Hey, I love sunroofs! But our cars weren’t equipped with one.)

2013 Ford Fusion 1.6l turbo with 6-speed Manual

Unfortunately, Cali doesn’t yet drive vehicles with a manual tranny. We’re going to correct that soon, but in the meantime I spent a couple of hours behind the wheel of the Ford Fusion equipped with a 1.6 liter EcoBoost and a 6 speed transmission. And without a doubt it was the most fun in the group.

I don’t know how Ford managed to do it, but this tiny little engine which gets 37 MPG felt like a much larger displacement drivetrain. I loved this motor and transmission combination. There was more than enough power on tap for pulling away from a dead stop quickly, easily managing to even chirp the tires in second gear (which I did a LOT), but there was also enough low end torque to pull the vehicle up winding hills in top gear without needing a downshift.

The clutch was about perfect. It engaged smoothly, it wasn’t too light or too heavy, and it had just the right amount of travel. And the 6 speed gearbox would’ve put Honda to shame. It was smooth and easy to work in and out of every gear quickly and with just the right amount of effort. In fact, Cali even pointed out that from a passenger’s perspective it was noticeably smoother than the Cadillac ATS we took out several weeks ago. (Though not as aggressive.)

The manual equipped Ford Fusions also include a hill assist feature which basically keeps the brakes engaged for a couple of seconds when you take your foot off while on a hill. This prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards during the time it takes to engage the clutch. It was a welcome addition on the hilly roads around Santa Monica and Malibu, California.

Of course, if you have to do a lot of stop and go driving, a manual transmission may wear on you, so Ford also offers automatic transmissions to ease the effort on your left leg. And if you opt for the automatic, you’ll definitely want to get the Start/Stop function which will shut down the gas motor at stoplights. Everything keeps running inside the car, thanks to the battery system, but it equates to about a 3.5% savings in gas even though the engine restarts instantly when the light turns green.

2013 Ford Fusion 2.0 EcoBoost

2013 Ford Fusion 2.0 EcoBoost

2013 Ford Fusion 2.0l turbo with 6 speed Automatic

I have good news and bad news about the most powerful drivetrain in the Ford Fusion line. First the good news: the 240 horsepower 2.0 EcoBoost engine, combined with the 6 speed automatic transmission, delivers plenty of power and is a nice smooth ride. It makes driving the car effortless and lets you concentrate on all of the other excellent features, like the really beautiful audio system, the infinitely adjustable and extremely comfortable seats, the lane keeping system, Ford SYNC, MyFordTouch, and just a whole host of other luxury touches.

The bad news: the paddle shifters and Sport mode on this drivetrain sucked the fun out of trying to drive it aggressively. Let me explain. Ford added a very nice set of paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel that allow you to flick them to downshift (left hand) and upshift (right hand) if you ever want to. For example, when climbing or descending a steep hill for engine power or braking. But the logic they built into the manual shift mechanism needs a lot of work.

For example, when the vehicle is in normal drive mode and you use a shifter to drop to a lower gear, as soon as you ease off the throttle the transmission instantly goes back into fully automatic mode. However, if you are in Sport mode and you drop to a lower gear, it will never go back info fully automatic mode. This is normally accomplished by upshifting beyond the top gear in other vehicles. Instead, in the Fusion you need to manually change from Sport to Drive and back to allow the vehicle to take over the shifting again.

Even though this drivetrain combination offers 240 HP and 270 lb. ft. of torque, it was a little sluggish off the line until the turbo kicked in. This left me a little disappointed since I was expecting more based on the power rating.

2013 Ford Fusion 2.0l Hybrid

The Fusion Hybrid uses a unique 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle engine combined with a powerful electric motor to deliver 188 horsepower. Atkinson-cycle engines are commonly used in hybrids because they are more fuel efficient, although they do give up power to achieve those fuel gains. But when combined with an electric motor, you can use the electric to “assist” when the driver calls for more power.

What this means is, the electric motor can be used exclusively during lower speed driving, but it can also give an extra push when the gas engine needs a boost because the driver decided to speed up rapidly.

In actual use around the city, Cali especially loved the Hybrid. Power delivery was adequate, while the Fusion retained all of the other sporty characteristics shared with its conventional drivetrain siblings, namely the responsive steering, the confident suspension, and the supportive seats. The only thing that takes a little getting used to is the braking system.

On a hybrid vehicle braking works differently than on a conventional vehicle because the brakes are tied into a regeneration system designed to convert the vehicle’s kinetic energy (from the motion), into electricity to recharge the batteries. This system feels different, but it only takes about 5 minutes to get used to. And it’s worth it, because the Ford Fusion Hybrid manages to achieve 47 MPG in the city and on the highway!

All in all, Cali and I agreed that this would be our choice of drivetrain for the Fusion if we were to buy one. At least until the plugin hybrid is released… but that is another story altogether.

2013 Ford Fusion Photo Gallery

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About The Author

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John P. is CEO of Livid Lobster and co-host of Geek Beat TV. You can also find him on Twitter and Google+.

2 Responses

  1. David H.

    So how was the rear seat room, esp. with a reasonably tall person driving (I’m 5’11″) ? and plenty of room in the trunk, too ?