First Drive: Ford C-Max Energi
By Anton Wahlman
Wall Street Journal (the Street)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Ford (F) C-Max Energi just entered production in October and I got a chance to take it for a very brief city spin a week ago. A more meaningful test, which would involve at least two to three days of highway driving and electric-range testing, will hopefully be forthcoming sooner rather than later.
In terms of its powertrain, the C-Max Energi slots in slightly closer to the Toyota (TM) Prius Plug-In than GM's (GM) Chevrolet Volt. The total size of the battery capacity in the C-Max Energi is 7.6 kW, compared to 4.4 in the Prius and 16.5 in the Volt.
While the Prius will only take you six miles on electricity, the C-Max will do 21, which is still far behind the Volt's 38 miles. Once those all-electric miles are over, the Prius performs at 50 MPG, the C-Max at 43 and the Volt at 38 MPG.
Because of how differently the Ford operates, the "feel" of the acceleration isn't directly comparable with the Prius. If you force the C-Max into all-electric mode, it is obviously smooth, quiet and efficient, whereas the Prius will engage the gasoline engine whether you like it or not, at that point obviously performing like a regular Prius in terms of acceleration. You can operate the C-Max in that kind of mode as well, and at that point it smokes the Prius -- relatively speaking.
That said, the C-Max is no match for the Volt in terms of the sports department. Not only is the Volt much more powerful with its 111 kW main electric motor, sometimes helped by a secondary 55 kW electric motor. The Volt is also a relative sports car, physically speaking, where you sit low like in a Camaro or Corvette, and have a lower center of gravity. Simply put: The Volt is the sports car of the bunch, with spinning tires at every red light, and exceptional acceleration/response.
So which one to buy? The Ford beats the Toyota on every metric except the tiny luggage space. This is a deal killer for some, but not for others.
For just a couple thousand dollars more, the Chevy Volt gives you superior electric range (38 miles vs. 21) and much more powerful acceleration and sport dynamics. However, the Volt sits low, and with smaller doors making it relatively difficult to get in and out. The Volt's back seat fits only two people easily if they're shorter than 5'11.
In conclusion, there is no clear-cut winner for every person's needs in this comparison. The Prius wins if you need to transport five people and the most amount of luggage. The Ford wins if you need to transport five large people and can't stand the Toyota's lesser performance. The Volt wins if you want a 2+2 sports car with superior electric car performance.
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