Saturday Road Test – Fusion Hybrid



                                Ford Fusion Hybrid

                          When Your Mantra is MPG

 By Ron Amadon

 DAMASCUS, MD. – If you hate filling up your car at the local service station where personal service went out with tail fins, this is a car is worth looking into.

 Why? Forty-three miles per gallon city, 41 highway, for a combined 42. In the past 1,200 miles of operation, the test Fusion Hybrid registered 40.3 mpg. All of that is good news for those who check the price of crude on world markets on a regular basis. (It went up on Friday.)

 And this hybrid will go out of its way to help you extract the maximum distance from a gallon of petrol.


 In the instrument cluster there were configurable screens such as Engage where you’ll see separate gauges for engine power and lithium-ion battery power. In Empower, which includes all the information in Engage, you’ll also see how close you are to the gasoline engine on/off threshold and the amount of power being requested based on how far you’re depressing the accelerator pedal.

 The screen on the right will show you how good you have been eco wise by displaying leaves. Unlike your front yard, the more leaves the better.

 Those just getting into the economy movement might wonder, what is Regenerative Braking and Brake Coach? Does he work for the NFL?

 Well, during braking regenerative braking recovers more than 94 percent of this energy and sends it back to the battery to be stored for later use. Hence, you do not have to plug in the car when you put it to bed.

 Plus, one can see how hybrid technology has advanced in the smooth transition between regenerative and friction brakes. That was not the case in earlier hybrids.

  Under the sleek hood, was a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four with 141 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque. Add in the electric motor and there is 188 horsepower to propel the Fusion forward. It is matched to one of the better CVT’s that I have driven.


 While the 0-60 times (upper 8 second low 9 second range) are on the slow end there is enough power here to blend in on fast moving interstates. But one does wonder why Ford added a rear spoiler.

 Those seeking more get up and go should check out the V6 Sport Fusion with 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. 

 The hybrid will move forward in just the electric mode, but a very soft touch is need on the accelerator.

 Meanwhile, inside:


 After initial fidgeting, the leather clad 10-way adjustable driver’s seat was comfortable with memory to lock favorite settings. There was ample total room for four adults.

 The center dash housed an 8.0-inch touchscreen running the Sync 3 system, Ford’s newest generation of audio, phone, and navigation controls. It works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

 A center console mounted rotary switch took the place of the traditional shift lever and opened up some additional storage space.

 Out on the road, there was very little wind, engine or tire noise on 70 mph highways with I prefixes.  

 So how much does gas sipping cost? A base model hybrid starts at $25,295 on up to $35,155 for the “Blue Lightning” test car. But it was missing some key ingredients such as navi for one thing, and a remote trunk opener.


 Optional packages totaling $3,760 brought Park Assist Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping System, and Cross Traffic Alert. The hyper Driver Alert went off twice when I was making a couple of routine lane changes. It told me to stop for caffeine.

 Go for lots of equipment in the Platinum model for 2018 and the starting point is $39,305.

 In sum, if the prospective owner is seeking not only fuel economy, but also abundant safety equipment, this is the car to be driven off the lot.

  Consumer Reports said the reliability of the Fusion models is better than average.

  It is basically unchanged for 2018.


Auto News for Aug. 18 – New BMW Concepts


BMW has unveiled a two seat sports car concept, the Z4, which previews a production model to be revealed in 2018.

 “The concept expresses the new BMW design language from all perspectives and in all details. From the dynamic-looking front to the striking flanks to the clean-cut tail end: a few lines and the subtle interplay between surfaces are enough to generate a sense of power and emotion,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design.

 A shorter bonnet and crisp overhangs means the driver sits closer to the center of the car than in previous BMW roadsters. It gave few details of the roadster, presumably there will be more to come next year.



 Making its North American debut was a revival of the BMW 8-series in the form of a very snazzy looking coupe. The 8-Series has been missing from the BMW lineup for the past 18 years. The concept was said to be a preview of a production model to be launched in 2018.

 “The forthcoming BMW 8 Series Coupe will demonstrate that razor-sharp dynamics and modern luxury can go hand-in-hand,” said Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG Harald Krüger.

 The concept made its world debut earlier this year at Italy’s Lake Como. It will likely debut with a 3.0 liter six and a 4.4-liter V8 according to Car and Driver. Both concepts would certainly catch more than a few eyes.

 Three Chinese automakers, Guangzhou, Geely, and Dongfeng have all said they have no plans to make a bid to acquire Fiat Chrysler, according to Automotive News. It reported on Monday that a “well known” Chinese automaker had made a bid for the maker of Jeeps, Rams and more but it was rejected.






Auto News for Aug. 17 – New Hyundai Fuel Cell

Hyundai ful cell vehicle 

 Hyundai is offering a look at its next generation fuel cell vehicle, ahead of its official launch next year. The accompanying picture is that of a “near-production ready version.” The finished product will be revealed in Korea early next year followed by the North American and European markets. Hyundai notes that it has been supplying fuel cell vehicles since 2013. We will get more info and the new vehicle’s name at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.

 More on the autonomous car in a new study from the University of Michigan that concludes that  “Machines/computer are well suited to perform tasks like driving, especially in regard to reaction time (speed), power output and control, consistency, and multichannel information processing. Human drivers still generally maintain an advantage in terms of reasoning, perception, and sensing when driving,” said Brandon Schottle of the university. He pointed out a number of circumstances in which both human capability and a connected vehicle’s perception can be compromised – thus increasing the need for each party to work together – such as extreme weather, excessive dirt or physical obstructions, darkness or low illumination, large physical obstructions and dense traffic. Some argue that the human brain will hold the edge when it comes to driverless operation until connected cars can actually talk to one and another.

 There is a new list of cars that could meet the definition of future classics and therefore command some big bucks. The MINI Convertible/Cabrio from 2005-2008, the Jaguar XKR Supercharged from 2000-2006 and the Mazda RX8 from 2003-2012 according to “refurbishment” company BCA. The RX8 is one of this writer’s favorite wheels.

 Heading out and hungry? Michelin has announced the release dates for its new restaurant “selections.” Moe and Sally’s Grubfest down the street will probably miss out again when the new directories start hitting the market from mid-October to early November depending on your location.


Auto News for Aug. 16 – Big Step Forward for Fiat Chrysler

 Fiat Chrysler has taken a major step toward the development of a self-driving car. BMW Group, Intel and Mobileye, an Intel company, have signed a memorandum of understanding for FCA to join them in developing a “state-of-the-art” autonomous driving platform.

 “Joining this cooperation will enable FCA to directly benefit from the synergies and economies of scale that are possible when companies come together with a common vision and objective,” said FCA Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne. His company will bring engineering and other technical resources to the group. Each partner will retain their own brand identities.

 In July 2016, BMW Group, Intel, and Mobileye announced  they were joining forces to make self-driving vehicles a reality by collaborating to bring solutions for highly automated driving (Level 3) and fully automated driving (Level 4/5) into production by 2021.

 The group said it remains on track to deploy 40 autonomous test vehicles on the road by the end of this year.

 Volvo’s owner, Chinese automaker Geely, said it has no plan to make a bid to acquire FCA. Automotive News reported that an unknown China based automaker had made a bid for FCA that was rejected, and that other auto companies in that country were mulling over the idea making an offer for FCA.

 One week from today, VW will formally introduce the 2018 T-Roc, a compact crossover that will fit in the Volks lineup just below the Tiguan. Will it come to the U.S.? I have seen rumors that it will appear in 2019 here and others say it will not. We will find out, hopefully, in a week’s time.

VW did release a teaser video you can see at:

A prototype appeared at the Geneva Auto Show back in 2014.






Auto News for Aug. 15

 As mentioned in the column recently, the Economist magazine this week has a cover article on what it says is the death of the internal combustion engine. Now German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she believes that, at some point, the engine will have to be phased out in her country. But no date was given.

 We are getting into the auto show season and once again their relevance is being questioned as auto makers decide that they are no longer going to shell out big bucks to debut their products at such extravaganzas. Case in point: Peugeot, Fiat, Volvo, Nissan, Jeep, Infiniti and Alfa will sit out the Frankfurt Auto Show next month. Together they comprise 20 percent of all sales in Europe, according to Automotive News.

 Instead, many auto makers are using smaller events and social media to display their new wares where their products stand out more to the general public and their display costs are less. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues at the upcoming big U.S. shows in Los Angeles and Detroit.

 Only 27 of 85 Mercedes dealers that sell the Smart Car will continue offering them once the gasoline powered model is phased out, according to Automotive News. Sales of the tiny runabout have been slow giving dealers another reason to opt out. In the future, all Smart’s will be   electrically powered.   


 McLaren has received more than 1,500 orders for its new super car, the 710 horsepower 720S. That means the $300,000 car is sold out this year and next according to Britain’s Autocar magazine. One of the reasons why should surprise you.

 Buyers are ordering multiple cars – one with basic equipment for faster delivery and a second customized to meet their tastes. It should be noted that McLaren’s are not exactly mass produced at the factory in Woking, England.

 (I can say from personal experience that if you ever get the chance to drive one, it is something that you will never forget.)

 The National Safety Council said the number of fatal auto accidents declined by one percent in the first half of 2017 but added it is too early to conclude the upward trend of recent years is over. An estimated 18,680 people have been killed on U.S. roads since January and 2.1 million were seriously injured. Historically, the group said, auto fatalities generally increase in the final six months of a year.

 Nationwide average gas prices neither went up or down in the past week, AAA reports. The average price is now $2.35 a gallon. But that is nine cents a gallon compared to one month ago.



Auto News for Aug. 14 – FCA attracts a takeover bid from China

 A Chinese automaker has made a bid to acquire Fiat Chrysler but the offer from an unidentified company was rejected, according to Automotive News. It also said that other Chinese auto firms are considering a bid for the maker of Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Chrysler. FCA shares rose on the news, up nearly 7.5 percent at 11 am.

 USA Today noted that Guangzhou Automobile could be one of the interested parties since it already has a joint venture agreement with FCA that allows it to build two Jeep models in China. Up in the air is U.S. reaction to Chinese acquisition of a company that was once bailed out by taxpayers. Also, it is has been no secret that FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has been looking for a partner, or buyout of the company. Automotive News reports that delegations from China have been touring FCA headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.

 Motor Trend has a spy shot of what it says is the future Ford Ranger pickup with “Raptor-like off-road” features. Here is where you can find it:

INFINITI Prototype 9

 Well here is something different!!!! The Prototype 9 that reimagines what might have been a 1940 Infiniti Grand Prix race car. Except that it is powered by an electric motor and battery from Nissan’s Advanced Powertrain Department.

 “What if INFINITI had created a race car in the 1940s? If one were to imagine an open-wheeled INFINITI racer on the famous circuits of the era, such as Japan’s Tamagawa Speedway, what would that look like? The sketches were stunning and the idea so compelling that we had to produce a prototype,” said Alfonso Albaisa, Senior Vice President, Global Design.

 The bodywork is made from steel panels wrapped around a steel ladder frame. Nineteen-inch center-locking wire-spoke wheels at each corner are even wrapped in period cross-ply competition tires.

 Inside, the cockpit is wrapped in black leather with contrast red stitching, sewn and finished in such a way as to echo earlier single-seater racers. Subtle Japanese flags are stitched into the integrated headrests of the deep single bucket seat.

 The electric motor produces 148 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, and drives the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. Prototype 9 has a top speed of 105.6 mph, and sprints from 0-to-62 mph in 5.5 seconds, with a maximum EV range of 20 minutes under heavy track use.

INFINITI Prototype 9

 Personal note: Hats off to Infiniti and Nissan for producing such an extraordinary one-off race car in this day and age. The Prototype 9 is beyond eye catching and let’s hope it hits some of the larger auto shows this fall!



Saturday Road Test – Toyota RAV4



                                             Toyota RAV4

                                             A Best Seller

 By Ron Amadon

 BOONSBORO, MD. – This charming little town has two things going for it. You can go north on Route 66 (!) and cut over to Funkstown or you can buy a book by best-selling author Nora Roberts in her very own store and then cross the street and spend the night at her B&B.

 What does all this have to do with the RAV4? Both the crossover and the author are best sellers.

 Robert’s books are eagerly awaited by her millions of fans worldwide, and the RAV was the nation’s third hottest selling vehicle last month, trailing only two pickup trucks. So there are a lot of people out there raving about their RAV.

 Trim levels? Lots of them – LE, XLE, SE, Limited and Platinum. The “Silver Sky Metallic” version that graced the road test driveway was an XLE with AWD. It was manufactured in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, but darn, there were no hockey pucks in the cargo hold.

 All models come with a 2.5-liter four with 176 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. Gone is the V6 option. Acceleration was on a par with the RAV’s competition and praised be, the tester came with a 6-speed automatic instead of a CVT transmission. The tranny was quick to downshift on South Mountain’s steep grades allowing a quick scoot around slow moving semis.



 Inside you will hear what the four is up to as the rev counter picks up higher numbers. Yet noise suppression was good in more typical interstate cruising and around suburbia.

 Look for 22 mpg around town, 28 on the highway for a combined 25 mpg said the EPA. I came in at 25.

 Handling was on a par with the RAV’s rivals, and the driver’s chair proved to be very comfortable during an extended trip over lots of back roads. Why there was Fair Play, Downsville, Big Spring, Clear Spring, and Indian Spring, so it was only fair that we ended up in Big Pool. Maryland has some weird names, including one town named Accident.

 Nice interior touches were a leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, a sunroof, plus reclining second row seats that nearly folded flat. That creates a generous 73.4 cubic feet of storage space. Two adults will be comfortable in the second row with the seats up of course.

 And what do we have here on the dash? Knobs!!! They are used for ventilation, as well as audio off and on, volume control and station tuning. Honda pay attention here.


 For a reasonable $525 a 23-item package brought forth worthwhile items such as navigation, voice commands, high resolution touch screen, traffic and weather information, rear view camera, and Gracenote album cover art among other gems.

 Add in $90 for a cargo area Tonneau Cover, floor mats and a First Aid Kit, and the test RAV totaled $30,088 with delivery included.

 New for 2018 is the “Adventure” model with fender flares, black alloy 18” wheels, black headlight and fog lamp surrounds, and some interior trim touches.

 Choose a 2017 or ’18 and end up with a compact crossover that had a reputation for high quality construction, fit and finish, excellent resale price, abundant interior room, and long life.

 Even Consumer Reports likes them.




















Auto News for Aug. 11 – Hot New Camaro!!!!


 Here is a shot of the hot Camaro ZL1 that will compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The ZL1 will make its competition debut next February during Daytona Speedweeks. Rick Hendrick took possession of production number one in Detroit yesterday – he of Hendrick Motorsports, of course.

 And take a gander at the refreshed 2018 Acura RLX that will have its coming out party at the Monterey Automotive Week starting next Tuesday. Eye catching is the “Signature Diamond Pentagon grille” that displays a “new Acura design direction.” Also new for 2018 is a 10-speed transmission, redesigned hood and LED taillights. Inside are fresh front seats and a feature called Traffic Jam Assist. It is said to reduce driver stress in highly congested traffic situations by helping keep the vehicle in its lane and a set interval behind a car detected ahead. Look for the 2018 to appear in showrooms in November.

 Do you do this? Ninety percent of UK drivers choose which service station to stop at based on their favorite fast food outlet. But sixty-four percent of motorists said the cleanliness of the bathrooms is at the top of their wish list. Even on a long trip seven out of ten motorists surveyed said they only take a break from driving to use the rest room. In this neck of the woods, I admit to being a fan of Sheets.

 Interesting quote in the September Car and Driver regarding the increasing use of touch screens to govern virtually everything, including ventilation, in new vehicles. It is betting that within a decade someone will be marketing a dial that adjusts the ventilation as “a radical innovation.”

 At the risk of being old fashioned, I still find it much less distracting to reach out for a knob while driving then trying to punch an tiny icon on a touchscreen.