A zoo in Russia recently had the pleasure of welcoming the first Liliger into the world. It's a hybrid of a Lion and Liger, but it isn't really either.
That's kind of the way it is with a lot of Hybrid cars as well. They are both electric and traditional, but they aren't quite either. The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid wants to be both. And it comes really damn close.
Manhattan is a strange place to hold a first drive of a new car. You can't really stretch it's legs or test the handling. You get to sit still in a ton of traffic and test the limits of grip around hair raising five mile per hour right hand turns. I hate driving in Manhattan.
But that's exactly what Ford did this morning for a press preview of the Fusion Hybrid. And while I still question the location, I'm not questioning the car. It. Is. Great... for what it is. It's still a mid-size car, after all.
Ford has high hopes for the new Fusion, and rightfully so. The car has gone from an outsider in the midsize segment to a legitimate contender in just six years. The latest car, which is the third generation of the model, is supposed to be a quantum leap forward.
From a design standpoint, it really is. The new Fusion looks like nothing else in its class, and like Martha Stewart might say: that's a good thing. Normally, when I find an attractive car, I make some sort of remark like "dat ass" or "EHMAHGERD!," but the new Fusion is just straight up pretty. I want to kiss it right on that gorgeous grill and make tender but gentle love to it.
When I stepped in for my drive around Manhattan, the first thing that struck me was the sheer quality of the interior. All the touchpoints are soft and the car just feels solid. The center stack is dominated by a large screen for MyFordTouch, which you either tolerate or you hate, but every single part of the interior felt great, even the thinly rimmed wheel.
That's all summed up with excellent gauges. It does have the "efficiency leaves," that I'm not really a fan of and don't understand (and I'm a youngster!), but it does have some fun gauges that tell you just how efficient you're being. And next year there will even be an app that lets you compete with your friends. That's probably for millennials only, if we're honest.
Like most hybrids, when you turn it on, it doesn't actually make any noise, which can be disconcerting to the driver as well as the busy New York pedestrians. It can actually go up to 62 MPH on electric alone, but your foot would need to be so Mischa Barton light on the pedal that I doubt many will accomplish it.
Once the 2.0-liter fourcylinder engine kicks in, you have 188 horsepower at your disposal. It may weigh around 3,600 pounds, but the Hybrid is a bit like a puppy. It feels eager, which is something I've never really felt from a hybrid before.
The extra 200 pounds of weight over the regular car shows in the ride quality. You can feel that the springs and suspension are stiffer, which makes it bouncy over New York's frankly awful city streets. It's still a price you have to pay to get the hybrid. I briefly drove the 1.6 liter EcoBoost as well (more on that later), and the ride there was just fantastic.
But what about brakes? "Brakes in hybrids are awful and grabby" you say. Not so here, at all. The Fusion uses a series braking system. So when you push the pedal, it does regenerative braking first. As you apply more pressure, it then adds in the discs at all four corners. It's smooth and it's, well, it's like driving a car. A parallel system that you find on other hybrids has them work in tandem. It's clunky and hard to get used to.
The Fusion's series system is more expensive than the parallel, but damn is it worth it. Linear braking in a hybrid? Yes please.
So what does Ford have here? For a car that starts at $27,995, gets a reported (and as of yet untested) 47 MPG, looks fantastic, has a great interior, and drives splendidly, I say Ford has a big winner. I'm rarely stoked on a mainstream midsized sedan.
I am now.
We'll have a review of the full gas line in the coming weeks.