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1st Drive: 2013 Ford C-Max Energi SEL Plug-in Hybrid & Marty’s Senior Driver Notes

Hybrid. What is a hybrid? In automotive terms it’s a vehicle that gets better mileage. But according to an online dictionary, hybrid is defined as anything derived from heterogeneous (not compatible) sources or composed of elements of different incongruous kinds. That’s a dictionary definition, but oddly it is the term used to describe a automobile that has two different powerplants: one an internal combustion engine, the other an electric motor which are used in a synchronized mode to propel the vehicle to achieve better miles per gallon. At least that’s the objective.

The first modern popular hybrid revealed, pioneered and introduced over a decade ago by Toyota in the wedge shaped (think of a doorstop) sedan called the Prius Hybrid, it is the vehicle that defines the alternate fuels category and owns the biggest marketshare despite a higher price that may take years to get a return on the initial investment.

But it is also the vehicle that established a sub-industry of car manufacturers who rushed to create their own gasoline less dependent hybrid vehicles. Every domestic and international brand has had or has a hybrid which hopefully will knock the Japanese brand off the top selling position. No one has achieved success until now. Ford may have engineered and designed a better hybrid vehicle package.

With the introduction of the 2013 C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid, Ford has entered the fray with a very stylish sedan that looks like a sedan should look, has a very nice, well appointed and designed interior that will comfortably seat four normal size adults and, rather importantly is a hybrid that gets better mileage than the afore mentioned brand. And does it all without screaming by shape alone, “Look at me I own a hybrid. I’m green. I care about our environment. I’m an early adapter. I’m a hybrid owner. And isn’t that nice.”

Plug-in hybrid is the overly long name that needs explanation . A plug-in hybrid is still a basic hybrid that gets better mileage and driving range because it has more batteries but still requires plugging-in to recharge and the trip to the service station. Ford claims a range of 620 miles on a single tank of gas and fully charged battery. Ford claims this is 80 miles more than the Prius Plug-in.

Recently there’s been a spate of law suits about manufacturers over stating mileage numbers which the courts will resolve. I’ll review sans more mpg/miles detail and let the lawyers play their games. Ford says the new sedan “offers 108 miles per gallon equivalent in the city, along with 93 MPGe highway for 100 combined.” As noted the litigators will rule.

I drove the new CMEPH in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities for food, wine and eclectic sophistication, but it’s not a very good driving city in which to test a new vehicle. Thoughtfully Ford’s drive route sent us through the city, passed Fisherman’s Wharf winding our way to the Presidio and over the Golden Gate Bridge toward Point Reyes National Seashore. In stop, stop and go maybe stop heavy city traffic the new car was boring as was the drive. But crossing the Golden Gate bridge is always exciting and majestic followed by freeway traffic was moving with alacrity at better than posted speeds. There was power when more speed was required — at one point the speedometer hit 80 plus – at every speed the car was nimble, steering crisp. and the ride smooth. The lag between electric and gas power was silky smooth which is very nice.

My co-driver and I had decided not to set-mpg records but drive it in a more standard manner and wait till the end of the trip to check our mileage numbers. We did, however use all three of the driving modes: normal, electric only and a computer selected, battery saving format. From the freeway we moved to a delightful, two lane road with cut into the woods with smooth right and left hand curves winding the way to Point Reyes gathering spot. The drive from the hotel in downtown San Fran to our destination took about an hour and half (despite a missed turn-off) was delightful, comfortable and pleasant. It was not stimulating or exciting, more like a very nice drive in a lovely setting. The new sedan has impeccable road manners.
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