The C-Max Energi is the best of both worlds

2014 Ford C-Max Energi Review

Purely electric roadtrips are still just publicity stunts.

By: Richard Noel

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: November 21st, 2014

This review is special. Why? Because rarely, if ever, is someone handed the keys to test drive a vehicle and given 11 days and no mileage restrictions. Afterall, I was headed to the 2014 SEMA show in Las Vegas via the American Highway - Route 66.

When trying to decide what would be worthy of a Route 66 roadtrip across the continent, there was a lot to consider. Decent gas mileage was on top of the list. A fully electric plug-in option was somewhere at the bottom. What I ultimately went with was Ford's 2014 C-Max Energi, which is a plug-in electric hybrid - a pretty awesome compromise.

When I left Chicago to embark on this journey, I had considered stopping along the way to recharge the car, but that option quickly flew out the window when I realized I wasn't supplied a way to charge the vehicle overnight at my hotels, and charging stations are really only located in major cities along my route. It takes more than two hours to fully charge the Energi at a charging station, and who wants to wait for that? I had places to go.

Thankfully, when running on gasoline, the Energi has very respectable fuel economy numers, which come in handy when you're about to log roughly 4,000 miles roundtrip.

  • Exterior

    The Energi is marginally stylish for being a compact station-wagon. It sports a fairly aggressive front end and the boxy-ness is smoothed out by its subtle body lines.

    The roofline arches back to the rear tailgate, which helps to minimize the station wagon appearance. The tires hug the fenders more than expected, and the entire vehicle sits low to the ground.

    It's not altogether sporty, but it's a bit more stylish than some others on the market.

    The 17-inch painted aluminum wheels definietly added some subtle sportiness to the ride.

  • Interior

    After driving the car across the country and back, I got to know the interior of the Energi better than that of my own vehicle. Staring out over the enormous dash, I couldn't help but notice every subtle line and curve of every interior piece. Much like a prisoner in solitary confinement, I had nothing else to do while being stuck inside of it for what felt like a month.

    This Energi had the panoramic fixed-glass roof which, although nice, was ultimately a pointless option. The windshield hits the dash almost a meter from the steering wheel which is far too great a distance. Animals and small children could probably bunk in that space if one were so inclined.

    The arm rests on the door panels were far too low to be of any real comfort, so when driving, your left arm just kind of hangs there. This becomes slightly uncomfortable after as little as nine hours behind the wheel.

    The seats were firm and supportive. And in fairness, anything gets uncomfortable after so many hours of sitting. But the electric driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support was especially awful and became a source of agony after a few days. Again, this is to be expected when you're stuck sitting in anything for too long.

    The steering wheel however, was comfortably wrapped, and every button, was easy to access. None of the controls felt distracting, trying to thumb for them while keeping my eyes on the road.

    The center stack with Ford's MyFordTouch system is a whole other story. The navigation system was fickle and would go haywire randomly when it was unable to determine our location. This led to an annoying alert that would continue for minutes at a time until I was forced to cancel the route just to shut it up.

    The curvature of the control paneling up to the navigation screen is also too much. It peaks above the bottom of the screen, so when trying to actually switch between the navigation screen and Sirius XM, you had to blindly stab downward at the lower corner of the screen in hopes of switching displays. This was simply poor design.

    However, the Sony sound system did a great job of filling the cabin with a full range of clear sound regardless of what I was listening to.

    The biggest issue with the Energi when it comes to interior is the back cargo area, which, due to the enormous battery pack, is non-existent. If you had to travel great lengths with more than two people and a minimal amount of luggage, the Energi wouldn't cut it. Unless you wanted to strap your luggage to the roof Clark Griswold style. If cargo space is key, opt for the regular C-Max Hybrid.

    If you sit far enough back in your seat like someone of average height, you'll also notice that the rear doors could be a bit smaller to accommodate larger front doors. This would could ease some of the feelings of being cramped despite having leg room. I don't want to have to sit past the door pillars to feel even remotely comfortable.

  • On the Road

    With 4,000 miles of asphalt behind me, the Energi performed marvelously. Aside from a few aesthetical issues with the car, I really grew to appreciate its handling. The brakes were touchy, which took some getting used to, but they performed perfectly when stomped on.

    Steering through switchback mountain turns didn't seem scary in the Energi and I'm now confident that I could have easily swerved to avoid a deer in the event I had encountered one on the road ( it was in the bushes, but it was obvious the thing wanted to jump out at me).

    The Energi was averaging around 450 miles to a full tank of gas (roughly 45 miles-per-gallon), which was beyond my expectations. I only charged the C-Max once because the Charge Point charging stations were few and far between. Also, they aren't all free, and if you don't have an account before you hit the road, you'll be on the phone for a while trying to activate it using your credit or debit card. The battery did charge itself through the regenerative braking system when I found myself riding the brakes down a steep mountain pass. This saved me a bit of gas when I was tooling around town for a few miles.

    Another major flaw with Ford's navigation system worth mentioning, was its inability to direct me to a working charging station. It simply points to the nearest one which, as I experienced, may or may not work for the vehicle (mine was a college campus with an incompatible charging setup). It would be nice if Charge Point stations were prioritized in the system.

    My favorite feature of the Energi, however, was the cruise control. It was flawless. With the ability to both accelerate and decelerate with the push of some steering wheel buttons, I was free to move my seat back further than I normally would, and stretch my legs a bit. This was a lifesaver when trying to burn 12 hours every day behind the wheel.

  • Conclusion

    Although this country lacks a real infrastructure to charge a fully electric vehicle while driving across country, it's certainly ready for the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi. With the ability to switch between electric power and conventional gasoline, the C-Max is the best of both worlds.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 2.0L I-4 Hybrid Engine
    Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission
    Base MSRP: $31,635
    Price as tested: $37,370 (not including extra fees)
    Options: Panoramic Fixed-glass roof, power liftgate, rearview camera, remote start, forward and reverse park sensing system, Sony audio with MyFordTouch, Sirius, Navigation, heated seats, electric adjustable driver's seat

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