Ford C-Max Energi plugs into hybrid trend

The 2014 Ford C-Max Energi is capable of operating in full electric mode at lower speeds such as around town or in the neighborhood or hybrid mode for higher sustained speeds such as the open highway. (Ford/MCT)

(MCT) -- Ford introduced the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid in 2013 in addition to the C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid.

Similar to the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid, the C-Max Energi is capable of operating in full electric mode at lower speeds such as around town or in the neighborhood or hybrid mode for higher sustained speeds such as the open highway.

When the plug-in power is depleted, at approximately 21 miles, the Energi automatically switches to hybrid mode. A battery gauge on the instrument panel keeps track of the amount of charge remaining.

The Energi model comes in one model, with a base price of $32,920 ($7,750 more than the C-Max hybrid model). Options available include a navigation/audio group; hands-free technology group; vehicle cover; and charge-port door graphics.

It comes with a 120-volt charge cord, and the state-of-the-art 7.6-kilowatt lithium-ion battery can be fully charged overnight on a standard power connection.

The cable is conveniently stored under the rear floor on the driver's side. With an available 240-volt home charging station, charging can be done in as little as 2.5 hours. The 240-volt charging station is available from the manufacturer and can be purchased in portable or hard-wired models.

Gas mileage for the Energi varies depending on how much the operator utilizes the full-electric mode and how efficiently the hybrid mode operates. EPA ratings for the Energi are 44 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway.

During my weeklong test, I averaged 36.8 mpg using hybrid mode and cruise control on a road trip of over 1,000 miles, mostly open highway. The plug-in power was already depleted when the car was delivered to me, and I didn't have time to charge it, so, unfortunately, I didn't get to check that out.

Ford includes its patented SmartGauge with EcoGuide to provide the operator with necessary data to change driving habits in order to maximize fuel efficiency. Reading the owner's manual and studying the SmartGauge can help boost fuel economy or exceed the stated mpg numbers. The 14-gallon tank enabled me to drive to my destination 400 miles away with plenty of gas remaining. Estimated range is 600-plus miles.

Energi has three EV modes: Auto EV, EV Now, and EV Later. Auto EV is for when plug-in power is depleted, EV Now is for electric mode, and EV Later saves battery power for lower speeds. EV modes also require some reading and studying to produce maximum results.

My Ruby Red Metallic C-Max Energi was powered by a 2.0-liter, 141-horsepower Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and an AC synchronous electric motor producing 47 horses, for 188 total. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission and front wheel drive are standard, and the vehicle has front-wheel drive.

I found the Energi to be rather energetic, with only a slight hesitation on takeoff. Braking was a little uncertain, though, as the brakes tended to respond sharply, causing some lurching slow-downs and stops.

Steering also seemed a little uncertain at times, causing a "sloppy" feel. The ride was smooth and comfortable, except on the horrible, bumpy, winter-worn roads at my destination.

My passengers had plenty of legroom in the rear, and the headroom was exceptional, front and rear. But we didn't have enough cubbies for odds and ends on our long trip. The fold-flat rear seat was a blessing, as we had luggage and other items for an extended stay.

Standard equipment on the C-Max Energi includes 17-inch multi-spoke machined-aluminum wheels; dual power mirrors with heat, security approach lamps, turn-signal indicators and integrated blind-spot mirrors; a tire mobility kit (contains an air compressor with pressure gauge and tire sealant, stored under the front passenger seat); ambient lighting; dual-zone automatic electronic climate control; leather wrapped shift knob and steering wheel; leather-trimmed/heated power driver's seat and heated/manual front passenger seat; 60/40 fold-flat second-row seat; small under-floor storage on the right rear passenger side; remote gate/garage door operation; intelligent access with push-button start and remote keyless entry; MyFord Mobile; MyKey; Sync with MyFord Touch; two 12-volt and one 110-volt outlets; multiple air bags, including safety-canopy outboard passenger head and chest protection; perimeter alarm; reverse sensing system; and anti-theft engine immobilizer.

The MyFord Mobile system gives owners/operators access to to allow management of vehicle functions from an Android smartphone. This allows consumers to view current charge and fuel levels, commence charging, set "Go Times" to pre-heat or pre-cool the cabin, find charging stations and lock/unlock/remote start the vehicle. Ford provides the service for the first five years, with a subscription required after that.

MyKey is a marvelous safety feature for parents of young drivers, designed to help limit speed and audio volume, encourage seat belt usage and provide early low-fuel warnings.

Ford's infotainment system MyFord Touch, includes two small LCD screens, one on each side of the speedometer, which show information from fuel economy and trip data to climate control and audio settings. Some functions are controlled using buttons on the steering wheel, some using the touch screen (navigation, audio, phone, and climate) and some have actual buttons and dials (audio and climate).

The buttons and dials for the audio and climate settings, some on the steering wheel and some on the center stack, allow the driver to bypass MyFord Touch for quicker manipulation of certain functions. I often find the touch screen too far away and distracting, as you have to watch where your finger is going.

Controls on the touch screen (audio and navigation, in particular) were somewhat confusing and frustrating to program, with no clear "next step." The controls on the steering wheel were not clearly marked, thus the convenience was somewhat compromised. A little time spent with the owner's manual, followed by sitting in the driver's seat practicing, could have made using those controls less difficult.

The power liftgate can be operated by passing a foot quickly under the center of the rear bumper, a plus if your hands are full. The cargo floor is high and the cargo area (listed at 19.2 cubic feet with the seatbacks up, 52.6 cubic feet with the seatbacks down) is restricted by the large battery housing going from side to side.

My Energi came with the panoramic fixed-glass roof with a retractable opaque fabric shade. I liked the subtle extra light without the glaring hot sun.

The Equipment Group included premium audio and navigation; hands-free technology; keyless power liftgate; rearview camera; keyless entry/start; parking technology; and active park assist.



-Base price, excluding destination charge: $32,920

-Price as tested: $38,455