- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2009

Just before Christmas, the new hybrid version of the Ford Fusion officially became America’s most fuel efficient midsize car with a certified 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway rating. That tops the Toyota Camry hybrid by 8 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.

The Fusion hybrid, which beats even the much smaller Honda Civic hybrid model by 1 mpg in city driving, can travel more than 700 miles on a single tank of gas.

“The Ford team set the bar high — to develop America’s most fuel efficient midsize sedan — and that’s what they delivered.” said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president, Global Product Development.

To produce that kind of fuel economy, Ford’s engineers spent the past three years developing in-house, the vehicle’s next-generation hybrid drivetrain. It allows the Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrid to travel up to 47 mph in pure electric mode, faster than all other hybrids currently on the road.

“The Fusion hybrid’s ability to run at a much higher speed in electric mode allows drivers to maximize fuel efficiently in many driving situations,” said Praveen Cherian, Fusion hybrid program leader. “For example, this would allow drivers to travel around their subdivision and parking areas in all-electric mode.”

Fusion’s advanced hybrid system features a smaller, lighter nickel-metal hydride battery, which produces 20 percent more power than Ford’s previous hybrid system. The battery’s improved chemistry allows it to be run at a higher temperature so now it can be cooled using cabin air.

A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 155-horsepower engine is mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. A specially designed electronic throttle control reduces airflow on shutdowns, thereby reducing fueling needs on restarts.

A “smart” climate control system monitors cabin temperature and runs the gas engine only as needed to heat the cabin. It includes an electric air-conditioning compressor to further minimize engine use. The enhanced regenerative brake system captures as much as 94 percent of the energy that would normally be lost as heat from brake friction. That means only 6 percent of braking is through traditional friction brakes.

Ford’s SmartGauge with EcoGuide literally teaches drivers how to get the most out of their vehicle. It’s a unique instrument cluster that helps coach drivers on how to optimize the performance of their hybrid.

The Ford Fusion hybrid is easily identified outside with Ford’s “road and leaf” badges on both sides and the rear and a unique engine cover. On the inside, Fusion hybrid features ecology-friendly seat fabric made from post-industrial 100 percent recycled materials and a standard 110-volt power outlet.

But there’s more to the new Fusion than the hybrid. The Fusion S features Ford’s new 2.5-liter, 175-horsepower Duratec I-4 engine that delivers an increase of 15 more horsepower and 16 more pounds-feet of torque than the outgoing 2.3-liter engine.

The Fusion SE and SEL are available with the Duratec I-4 or the upgraded 3.0-liter V-6 Duratec engine producing 240 horsepower.

The 3.5-liter V-6 Duratec engine joins the Fusion lineup for 2010, powering the Sport model with 263 horsepower and 249 pounds-feet of torque. The 3.5-liter uses a compact, lightweight dual-overhead cam valvetrain for peak power and smooth operation at high RPMs.

A high 10.3:1 compression ratio and aluminum cylinder heads designed for high airflow and optimized combustion help complete the package, supporting the engine’s ability to deliver both performance and fuel economy, along with low emissions. Unlike some competitive performance engines, the 3.5-liter Duratec delivers all of this without requiring premium fuel.

All engines are mated to six-speed transmissions. The new combinations overall help increase fuel economy by at least 17 percent on the base I-4 model and approximately 10 percent with larger-displacement engines.

The Fusion powertrain packages incorporate other advanced fuel-saving and performance technologies, including electric power steering, a feature that consumes less than 7 percent of the energy required by a conventional hydraulic system.

“Customers want it all - exhilarating performance, continuing fuel economy improvements and near-zero emissions - all for a price that offers great value,” said Barb Samardzich, vice president of Powertrain Product Development. “We intend to meet or exceed customers’ expectations as we migrate advanced technologies from shelf to showroom. The efficiency of the powerpacks that will now be available on the 2010 Fusion demonstrates that we are committed to class-leading fuel economy, no matter the segment.”

Available this spring, the Ford Fusion hybrid pricing starts at $27,270.

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