November 30, 2012 · No Comments
November 15, 2012 · No Comments
The Hybrid Wars Heat Up: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid and Energi
David Ray’s “Irreverent Reviews” – www.hookedondriving.com
Toyota, while most folks called them crazy, pounced on the concept of hybrid technology in automobiles and the rest, as they say is history. With Prius as the number one selling car in California, many forecasters have missed the mark by a mile. But not Toyota. Many wanted the panacea – the long term solution – the silver bullet to clean energy – the cheap fuel that was plentiful and clean. But while the debates raged, Prius, clearly not the final solution, hit the street as a good shot at reducing our dependence on gasoline. Skeptics moaned about battery life and recycling – in some cases pointing out legitimate concern. But a trip to Las Vegas a few years ago changed my entire perception of the hybrid concept as implemented by Toyota. I climbed in the first Prius taxi I’d ever been in and proceeded to give the driver the third degree. Long story short: This driver owned the taxi, had run it 210,000 miles around the streets of Vegas, and had averaged in the mid 40’s for gas mileage, with almost NO maintenance costs. The car was still on its original battery pack. So much for resistance to new things. Certainly, I don’t mean to indicate that there is no controversy about hybrid technology, but I tell the Vegas story to simply point out that – like it or not – it’s here for some time to come. And Toyota has won this battle.
Enter Ford. Ford did a nice job with their first gen Fusion and Escape Hybrids, but oops – the problem with praising them on those products is that they were using technology under license from Toyota.
Enter the 2013 model year. Ok, so it took 15 years (Prius began in 1997). Better late than never. Well, let’s use a different phrase – the wait was worth it! Simply put, the Ford Hybrid products, as is evidenced by my first touch of the C-Max, has all the earmarks of “The Next Big Thing.” Like the Model A was a revolutionary step up from the Model T, so is the C-Max a quantum leap from the Prius. Using second generation battery and powerplant technology (all proprietary to Ford), and state of the art materials, the C-Max represents a comfortable, practical, fun and attractive package without many of the compromises of the Prius.
My exposure to the C-Max was a brief but impressive one. A thorough tour of the car, photo session, and a drive in the midst of San Francisco traffic. But something told me from the first look that I’d better pay close attention. The car is extremely similar to the hot-selling Focus, but sits quite a bit taller, adding utility while tempering the sporty look. Still, from a distance you could confuse the C-Max with the Focus. Attractive and modern, the more generous dimensions paid off with a very spacious “ten gallon hat” cabin and a comfortable back seat for six footers on a trip to the mountains.
But the difference between the Prius and the C-Max was more than that. The Prius feels like “automobile lite.” And with due respect to their innovative weight savings, the result is a cheap feel with very thin materials throughout. There is none of this impression with the C-Max. Materials feel equivalent to what you’d find in a traditional Fusion or Escape. And I mean that as a compliment, as Ford offers very nice standard materials. Switchgear, seats, and the hatch area all feel like they are at or above the price level and standard for like cars. I will confess, along with every other journalist on the planet, a brief and frustrating encounter with the MyFord Touch and Synch systems that I put off to an annoyance that could be assimilated by an owner after a bit of life together.
And then there was that other thing, power. Game, set, match, to C-Max. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to feel the difference that over 30% more power than the Prius brings the driver. The car has plenty of power to be useful and even a bit of fun when you need it. Not so the Prius, which has to remind you each time you drive up an incline, “Don’t worry, you’re saving the planet while wheezing up this hill.” The C-Max, with 188 combined HP between the 2.0 liter gas motor and electric motor, when you pour on the coals (clean coal, of course), you go where you need to go without a sense of compromise. In fact, tooling around the City, I actually felt that the torque was more than most in the market segment, hybrid or not. Well, there goes the economy, right? Wrong! At 47mpg city and 47mpg highway and 47mpg combined, these numbers represent a major breakthrough. A comfortable car, with plenty of room for four and their gear, is attractive, comfortable and has adequate power, while still under $30K is a huge breakthrough. Folks have been running the numbers on whether paying more for a hybrid makes financial sense. Well, if they’ve gotten a hybrid that is without significant compromise in line with other cars, then the calculation can be a no-brainer. If you’d like to save money and are willing to give up just a bit of zing, the C-Max is definitely worth considering.
Toyota has certainly seen the blue (passing) flag. And as race fans all know, this is an advisory flag only. They are not forced to move over and allow a pass. So we are left with an intriguing mystery, will they be forced to move over, or will they re-tool a new model quickly enough to retain that lead?
Stay tuned – it will be a very interesting race!
NOTE: Both Prius and C-Max are introducing plug-in versions of their cars. With no hands on experience yet, I’ll simply assume that the positive impression from the C-Max will carry over to its “Energi” sister. Both Prius and C-Max Energi boast potential huge mpg numbers – over 90mpg is on the horizon. But until the Prius upgrades its platform, the C –Max will hold the lead.
September 26, 2012 · 1 Comment
I could go on for two pages about Elliott Forbes-Robinson’s career as a professional racer; 3 time Daytona Champion, Trans Am Champion, Baja 1000 Champion, Pikes Peak Hill Climb Champion, ALMS Champion. Enough already! Google him and you’ll find a treasure trove of fun stuff. But what I haven’t said yet is, he is a really, really good guy.
February 16, 2012 · No Comments
2012 NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill
By David Ray, www.hookedondriving.com
I had the good fortune to drive in the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill with some really great folks, the owners, drivers and crew of Team Prototype ...
January 30, 2012 · 2 Comments
As a performance driving school owner I get asked all the time what’s the best way to drive in snow. I have a “secret” technique to share with you: Separation of Controls will help save your life and property when driving in snow!
January 23, 2012 · 1 Comment
Folks – I had the pleasure and honor to be hosted at Ridge Motorsports Park’s “VIP Sneak Peak” last Sunday. This is a very fun story and I’ll try to tell it briefly.
September 06, 2011 · No Comments
The SUV Coupe….a Concept Brought to Reality
By: David Ray, www.hookedondriving.com
Range Rover, a brand that has regained a lot of credibility over the past years as quality and reliability have improved to match the image and capabilities of the marque, has entered the SUV Crossover market. My guess is that behind closed doors, RR management ... Read More >>
August 05, 2011 · 3 Comments
Jon Fogarty: Actions Speak Louder than Words...
SF Region SCCA Grad Makes it Big... On Talent
August 02, 2011 · 3 Comments
A Hooked On Driving Experience as written by TonyL
My Hooked on Driving experience
Yesterday, my son and I attended a Hooked on Driving event at NJ Motorsports Park so thought I’d share some thoughts ... Read More >>
June 21, 2011 · 7 Comments
The Pony Car LIVES!
By: David Ray, www.hookedondriving.com
Only with a more mature writer do you really get your money’s worth when it comes to historical perspective. And it is because I actually remember when the original “Pony” car surged on to the American culture in 1964, as a 1964 ½
model, that this 2012 car is really, really special. While the 2012 car is quite ...