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Ford Fusion Energi: Refreshed for 2017

By Arv Voss, September 17th, 2016

For a number of years, the Ford Fusion Energi Hybrid has been rated as one of the best plug-in hybrids available.

Actually, two hybrid versions of the Ford Fusion are available: the standard, non plug-in electric Ford Fusion Hybrid (HEV), and the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV). And, of course, non-hybrid Fusions are also available.

For the 2017 model year, Ford has refreshed the Fusion Energi PHEV with an exterior facelift along with some significant interior upgrades, and has added a more upscale Platinum model for consumers who are ecologically minded, but who also want to be pampered with luxurious features. In terms of 2017 exterior modifications, the entire Fusion stable projects more of a Ford image with less Aston Martin influence.

Up front are new LED headlamps and taillamps; the front fascia is new, with a wider, more angular grille, chrome garnishes, and LED fog lamps. The rear fascia and lower decklid are also new, and the 17-inch wheels have been redesigned. Interior upgrades include a restyled center console featuring a rotary-type gear selector and repositioned cupholders with more space for a longer armrest and improved open storage area access in the lower dash.

Ford's improved Sync 3 infotainment system with navigation comes standard on Energi models. Consumers who opt for the more expensive Platinum model get Medium Soft Ceramic toned, quilted leather seats and stitched, thickly padded leather in antiqued Cocoa atop the dashtop and on the steering wheel.

The Energi's front-wheel power source remains the same with a 118-hp electric motor working in conjunction with a 141-hp 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine that puts out a total of 188 horsepower. The Fusion Energi can travel at speeds up to 85 mph on electricity alone, or its EV mode allows the driver to limit the gas engine's operation to only extreme power demands, such as when passing or when ascending steep hills.

A 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack continues to provide the energy for the electric motive force, drawing its charge while underway from a second motor/generator driven by the engine and from the regenerative braking system. An external electrical source handles recharging duty when plugged in to a charger. The Energi provides a larger battery pack over the conventional non-plug-in Fusion hybrid.

EPA ratings for the 2017 Fusion Energi when using both gasoline and electric power are 95 MPGe city, 81 MPGe highway, and 88 MPGe combined. Drivers who are able plug in often and who commute only short distances in a reserved fashion can enjoy incredibly impressive fuel economy. If never plugging in, the Energi simply becomes a 42-mpg hybrid, which is no more efficient than its standard and lighter-weight hybrid sibling that offers the same EPA combined rating. The Fusion Energi is able to travel 22 miles exclusively on electricity, unlike the regular hybrid.

Visually, the Ford Fusion Energi is considerably more attractive and appealing than many of its competitors. It projects a sleek, aerodynamic profile, with the upward sloping hood that flows into the sharply raked windshield, continues over the gracefully curved cabin into the graceful rear window, and culminates with the short deck and its integrated spoiler lip. All of the car's lines are smoothly curved, suggesting rapid forward motion, even when parked.

My 2017 Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid came in Platinum trim, with a Magnetic metallic exterior finish and a Medium Soft Ceramic interior featuring Cocoa piping and trim accents. The base sticker read $41,120, though the final tally came to $39,995 after factoring in significant Energi discounts. Even though the 2017 Ford Fusion Energi PHEV is priced higher than the non-plug-in Fusion hybrid HEV, local, regional and national EV incentives can significantly reduce the sticker price, bringing the cost more in line with non-hybrid stablemates.

When driven in a responsible and sensible manner, the Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid provides a pleasantly smooth and quiet ride quality in its electric mode. Tipping the scale at almost 2 tons, the combined 188 horsepower in its hybrid mode is not a dragster, and, it's even slower in the pure electric mode. But hurtling through the atmosphere at break-neck speed isn't what the Energi is all about.

When the gasoline engine kicks in, it is a seamless transition. Low-rolling-resistance tires place the emphasis on fuel economy rather than grip, so racetrack maneuvers are likely to trigger chirps or squalls, and possibly an intervention from the stability-control system. Braking seems on the sensitive side of the equation at slower speeds, but familiarity takes care of the issue. Another approach is to press the Low Gear button atop the shift dial.

The Hybrid and plug-in-hybrid playing field is rapidly becoming more crowded, with several new players entering the game. The Fusion hybrid lineup isn't necessarily the most efficient, nor do the models offer the most cargo space, but they do look good (and better than many), drive well, and provide the latest in safety features, infotainment, and technology.

Specifications

Base price $41,120 (as tested: $39,995)
Curb weight 3,986 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type Atkinson cycle 4-cyl. plug-in hybrid
Epa mileage rating 43 mpg city, 42 mpg highway (gas only) 104 mpgE city, 91 mpgE highway
Fuel capacity 14.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 141 at 6000 rpm
Overall length 191.8 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 129 at 4000 rpm
Transmission E-CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
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