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BMW I3 & Ford Fusion


bmw.i3

By Kelly Foss, MyCarData.com

BMW I3
Starting price: about $42,000

In this era of rapidly changing automotive technology, occasionally truly ground-breaking, innovative vehicles emerge. BMW’s i3 is one of those vehicles. What exactly is the i3? This quirky- looking unit is a small electric-powered car with a carbon composite body and an aluminum drive carriage full of
batteries under it.

The styling is unique yet still bears the BMW identity stamp. The shape is rather short and tall, designed to maximize the interior space of this small vehicle. The i3 has four passenger doors but the back two are rear-hinged, similar to recent extended-cab pickup trucks. There is also a lift gate in the back to access the cargo area. The body structure is a carbon-plastic composite which is very strong and very light. Even with an undercarriage full of batteries, the i3 weighs in at a graceful 2,600 pounds.

The interior is also very avante garde in its styling and choice of materials. The switch gear and dials provide the control and information that we’re accustomed to but the presentation is as modern as the vehicle itself. One could call it both functional and entertaining.

The i3 is an electric vehicle. That means it is run solely by an electric motor that gets its power from on-board batteries. The batteries store the electricity for the electric motor like a gas tank stores fuel for a gas engine. To “fill up” the battery you plug it into an electrical outlet and charge the battery. Batteries are heavy, bulky, expensive and don’t store as much energy as a tank full of gas. On the other hand, electricity is cheaper than gas and normally cleaner so huge investments are being made in improving battery efficiency.

To fill up a gas tank you simply go to any one of the 160,000 gas stations in the country and in a few minutes you’ve got enough fuel to go another 300-500 miles. When you run low on electricity you’ve got to find a recharging station and in about eight hours you can go another 100 miles.

The i3 tries to blend both technologies in a new way. The base model of the i3 is a pure plug-in battery electric
vehicle. What is unique about the car is that it also offers a ranger extender kit which adds a tiny 2 cylinder gas engine, whose sole purpose is to run a generator that keeps the battery charged. Because it’s not part of the drive system of the vehicle the gas engine is smaller, simpler and less expensive than a large complex automotive engine, and gives the vehicle a range of about 200 miles. This innovation effectively eliminates the angst associated with pure battery electric vehicles.

How does the i3 drive? Like a BMW of course! In town it’s quick, responsive, quiet and the visibility is great. On the road it easily keeps up with traffic, is very solid and substantial. It is the shape of things to come and will begin appearing in showrooms in early 2014.

ford.fusion

FORD FUSION
Starting price: about $22,000

The Fusion is Ford’s midsize sedan. This new Fusion is sleek and stylish and really stands out in a crowded automotive landscape which includes competing cars like Camry, Accord, Passat, etc.

The nose of the car is actually reminiscent of the Aston Martin Rapide, a $207,000 supercar. I guess if your midsize sedan has to look similar to some other vehicle, the Rapide would be a good one to emulate. The vehicle is quite aerodynamic and looks like it is slicing through the air even while sitting still.

Fusions are offered in S, SE and Titanium models. Further, the Fusion Hybrid and the Energi, which is the plug-in hybrid, are also available. My test car was a white top-of-the-line Titanium model. Though not a hybrid or possessing all possible options, its $35,980 price tag represented more than $14,000 of upgrades over the base model.

The interior of the Fusion is quite handsome and reasonably roomy for a vehicle of this class. The new MyFordTouch system is very capable but also very complicated with lots of buttons. Your aim has to be good because the flat surface of this infotainment system is so… flat… that your fingers can’t feel much. You have no choice but to look at the panel and touch accurately. After you get it adjusted, the information provided is very helpful and the audio sound quality is very good.

The seating is comfortable but the profoundly black interior with bits of silver colored plastic trim spread all over is somewhat dour. The “dune” color scheme is much more inviting. The interior space is about what you’d expect in this size of car but the rear sloping roofline provides both very attractive styling and limited headroom for rear seat passengers over 6 feet tall. The trunk is large and accessible but you can plan on losing as much as 1/3 of your space to the battery pack in the hybrid models.

The Fusion offers a broad array of powertrain choices. The base engine is a very fine 2.5 liter 4 cylinder unit. Ford also offers three ecoboost turbo-charged small displacement engines in this model. There is a turbo 1.5 liter for the automatic transmission equipped Fusions and a turbo 1.6 for the few cars that come with manual transmissions. The optional 2.0 turbo 4 cylinder is the most powerful offering with nearly the same power rating as the 3.5 V6, which is no longer offered. There are also two hybrid powertrains available. The standard hybrid is a $2,000 option and the plug-in hybrid Energi is a $5,900 option.

Though Ford’s hybrid design is different from those at Toyota and Honda, it works quite well. I did a road trip out west through the mountains a few years ago in the previous Fusion Hybrid and averaged an even 40 miles per gallon over several thousand miles of driving.

The Fusion is a nice midsize with attractive styling plus nice ride and handling. It’s what a lot of midsize buyers are looking for.

Visit MyCarData.com for more information on these models.


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