By Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service
— Ford has a new car on its hands that does not quite fit any mold.
The C MAX is innovative -- some would say top of its line -- but I found myself wondering just what line it would be.
In some corners, it would be a mini-SUV for its higher perch, and in others a fuel-miserly hybrid that could nearly take on the mighty Prius.
What is obvious is its C MAX Energi status, a gas-electric hybrid with electric plug-in capability to further its power-only reach. This is where things get interesting, or super-sized, in the form of a lithium battery that hogs much of the rear cargo space.
For all of its heft, the 7.6 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery does move the Focus-based C-MAX along, in pure electric power, for about 21 miles says Ford. Maximum speed with electric only is 85 miles per hour.
After the power is drained, which has reportedly been in the 9-14 mile range in actual practice, the C MAX reverts to its 2.0-liter, four cylinder gasoline engine and battery-powered electric motor that combine for 188 horsepower.
The numbers are impressive. If your daily commute is within actual battery range, then the C MAX is for you. It is rated at 100 miles per gallon in energy equivalence stored in the battery, a bit more than the Chevy Volt at 98 and over the Prius at 95.
The zero to 60 mph sprint is also impressive at 8.6 seconds in local testing with all power sources. In pure electric mode testing to 60, the C MAX was quite a bit slower, reaching the mark at over 21 seconds.
A tank of gas and a charged battery will move you along a route of 620 miles, according to Ford calculations. Once the battery is depleted, it will take about 2.5 hours of 220-volt power to fully charge or 7.5 hours with household current.
Driving the C MAX can be a lot of fun, especially if you are determined to save the planet. With dash controls you can lock in electric only, hybrid only or auto EV, its normal driving mode mixes the best of both worlds.
There are all sorts of dashboard graphics that provide incentive for staying green, with pedal pressure and the use of regenerative braking showing up in the number of green leaves that grow as you save more energy.
The five-passenger SEL model can get pricey, however, with options bringing it to the high $30s, not counting a $3,750 federal tax credit that helps lower the final bill.
Interior space is terrific with a high roofline to accommodate tall people. If there are fewer occupants, the rear seats can be folded to produce 43 cubic feet of cargo space that drops to 19 with the seats upright.
With the power liftgate up, the rear deck storage above the battery will handle 3-4 plastic shopping bags full, creating the only negative aspect of the C MAX Energi model.
One way to get around this is to buy the regular C MAX, without the plug-in, and bank the $4,000 in initial savings.
Both models include lots of standard equipment including blind spot mirrors, 17-inch aluminum wheels, dual climate controls, My Ford Touch controls, push button start and 10-way power driver's seat.
The Energi handles well on the road with little sense of which power mode is at work. The cabin is fairly quiet under acceleration with the continuously variable transmission seamlessly moving the front-wheel drive, 3,850-pound car.
Fuel economy with a tank of gas came in just over 38 miles per gallon with the hybrid engine.
You will be seeing a lot more battery powered, hybrid motors and tweaked gasoline engines, sleeker sheet metal tuned with aerodynamics, all working toward a Corporate Fuel Average Economy of 54 miles per gallon by 2025.
If energy conservation is on your short list of desirable features, try out the new C MAX Energi car by Ford.
Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist with CNHI News Service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.