Thursday, October 31, 2013
Fusion hybrid opens eyes
(Fusion photographed at Hand Sown Farm in Manchester, Mich.)
By Ed Fitzgerald
Thank heaven for 80-year-old
neighbors. If you don’t have one, you really should get one.
My neighbor is the kind of
guy who would take off the back of my mini fridge and try to fix the thermostat,
though he isn’t really sure the problem is the thermostat.
My neighbor came over to look
at the 2014 Fusion hybrid I was driving and the first thing he wanted to do was
check out the battery packs.
Over the years I have driven
many hybrids and never, ever taken the time to open the trunk or hatchback,
lift up the flimsy piece of carpeting and take a look at the most unique part of the car. I thank my neighbor for making me do it. The battery does not offer any exciting, whirring, moveable parts, but the sheer size of
the battery is impressive. My inquisitive neighbor would’ve pulled out his
trusty screwdriver and dismantled the battery if I hadn’t pointed to the
sticker saying that was a bad idea.
First off, I tested the
Fusion hybrid model. Also on the market is the Fusion Energi electric car.
You can easily spot that model on the road: there’s a charging portal on the
front side of the car that looks like an extra gasoline fueling door.
The 2014 Fusion hybrid is indeed a
piece of work. It’s a sizable four-door car so it’s hard to believe it can get 47 miles
per gallon, but it can. Just to be sure, I recommend driving 55 mph downhill on
freeways and avoid any jackrabbit, or any kind of rabbit, start.
My model’s engine was a
2.0-liter IVCT I4 with ECVT auto transmission.
But by far the most
interesting aspect of this car was that it represented my first run-in with
automated driving: active park assist ($895), reverse sensing system ($295) and
the adaptive cruise control ($995).
Using the adaptive cruise
control was startling, even though I knew it was coming. This is what happens: If
you’re driving on the freeway and there is not ample space between you and the
car in front of you, your car will slow down automatically. And you cannot
speed up. Go ahead and try. Yes, your car does know best.
At other times, my Fusion
also warned me that I might need to rest (I was headed to Meijer at 2 a.m. and
was driving at alternating speeds because I was new to the car and checking out
the instrument panel as I drove). Another time my Fusion warned of a possible
collision ahead when the car in front of me suddenly slowed down.
I was impressed with the automatic
safety features and even tried to evoke them artificially. But pulling out
quickly into a lane just as a car passed did not manage to trick the auto
My car tested at $35,160 out
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Too scared to buy a car
Thank god for consumerism. We all know that we could keep driving that old car of ours for......maybe forever. Especially if it were made in Japan (sorry). But we want the latest and greatest thing. We want the new iPhone even though a newer iPhone is just another few short months away.
But it's our willingness to buy a big-ticket item like a motor vehicle that keeps this economy humming. Those of you working at a fast food restaurant, where you do real work that actually provides a service people need, well, you might not be able to afford a new car. But hang in there. Maybe India will build a $500 electric car. Who knows.
A recent event sponsored by the Automotive Press Association in Detroit tried to answer the following question: Why are young people putting off getting a driver's license. My niece is almost 20 years old and last night my sister had to drive her to a night college class. My sister sat in her car during the 3-hour class and watched movies and hoped she wouldn't run down her car battery. I assured her that most colleges offer free-jumps for stalled students.
The study showed that young people were too busy to drive. What? Too busy? The study showed that young people were too poor to drive. OK, we're getting closer. The study showed that young people were too scared to drive.
Now we're getting somewhere. After all, traffic is worse than ever. Or is it? With unemployment up aren't there fewer commuters? And what about the safety of cars? Young people want to drive smaller cars but they don't want to be swallowed up by Mr. Small Johnson in his giant pickup truck. Cars have more safety features than ever, but young people surveyed said they indeed fear driving.
I think the real point is that these young people are just scared by the world in general. Not just driving, but going outside, interacting with others. Drive downtown to a concert? Only if it's in the daytime. The constant input these young people have received from the Internet has them shown just how crazy this world is. Everyday they are reminded about the nutjobs and psychos that are out there, just waiting. So they stay home and keep reading the Internet, or texting their friends. I'm here to remind them that the rest of the world is just as scared as they are. So get your driver's license. And demand the return of the drive-in theatre. Nothing is safer than sitting in a parked car watching a movie. Ask my sister. It's also the best place to make out. I hope they're not afraid of that.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Kwame gone, roads safer
Last week I spoke to a group of Warren and Center Line
senior citizens. I didn’t want to bore them,
but I knew I had an ace in the hole . That
same day former Detroit Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick had been convicted on federal corruption charges. When my speech
started to falter all I had to do was bring up the fact that Kwame was finally headed to prison. The
room was once again mine.
I like to think that everyone – young and old, black and
white, Republican and Democrat, genius and
simpleton – all rejoiced that
Kwame had gotten his comeuppance. The evidence seemed overwhelming. Bribes were accepted. Shady deals were made. Scads of
money remains missing. And Kwame had already been convicted of perjury
and obstruction of justice.
Kwame was in his 30s when he
served as mayor of Detroit. He had a promising career, but greed got the best
of him. Or maybe Kwame had always been greedy. Either way it’s a sad chapter in
the city of Detroit’s history. But without him I might’ve lost that group of
seniors soon after the pledge of allegiance. After his sentence was announced, Kwame surrendered his driver's license to his mother. "We won't need this where we're headed," Kwame said.
Driving home tonight I will feel a bit safer on the roadways.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Work slated, weather permitting
Ready for some road work? Ready to get mad when it appears that road workers aren't working? Spring means plenty of orange pylons. Commuters beware -- the Michigan Department of Transportation says its crews will begin preliminary
work this week to replace the West Grand Boulevard overpass above I-94 in
Detroit. This $9.5 million project includes replacing the existing overpasses
with two separate structures, and removing the eastbound I-94 left lane exit to
West Grand Boulevard in order to improve safety and mobility. At least that's what the press release says.
With work expected to
begin this week, crews will close one lane of W. Grand Boulevard in each
direction above I-94, along with the westbound I-94 exit to W. Grand
Boulevard. In addition, crews will close the northbound W. Grand Boulevard
entrance to eastbound I-94, and the southbound W. Grand Boulevard entrance to
westbound I-94. A detour will be posted.
Most of the preliminary work
involves relocating and replacing utilities.
Just remember: We were lucky that the storm that dumped 10 inches on Chicago, missed the Detroit area entirely. I said, entirely.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Drive a car known to police
They always talk about red cars attracting the attention of police. I don't know about that. But I can recommend that you don't drive a car that police have never seen before. I used to test drive cars for an automobile trade magazine. Actually I rarely wrote about the cars, but I did need to be familiar with the cars because I was editing stories about them. Anyway, I quickly learned that the one thing police do more than anything else is look at cars. That's their primary weapon against crime. They stop someone for a burned-out tail-light then discover that the driver is wanted for murder. If everyone rode bicycles half the crimes in the world would never be solved. So police have to watch cars as part of their job. They sit in their boring (at least on the exterior) cruiser and watch the world drive by. This is coupled with the fact that most police officers are guys and guys, in general, love cars. So when I was test-driving an Alfa Romeo (soon to return to the U.S. market) I could be sure that I would catch the cops' eyes. And to think I was hoping to catch women's eyes. What a fool I was.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
It's the age-old question: In the winter, when do you wash your car? Around here it's just going to get dirty again -- and fast. There is still plenty of salt residue on the road -- and more snow to come. But do you want your car so dirty that some kid can write a message on it? You can only hope that the message is civil. And do you go to a drive-thru car wash or a do-it-yourself car wash. At the do-it-yourselfer if it's too cold the water freezes. When you wash it yourself in the summer, you immediately proceed to the freeway to speed up for a quick wind-dry. That doesn't help in the winter. Faster speeds just lower the wind chill factor and the next thing you know -- your windows are frozen shut.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Oakland vs Macomb
Oakland County vs Macomb County. Is there really any difference in the typical driver from these two counties? I could make some sweeping generalizations. Oakland may have a few more wealthy drivers and we all know their habits. They drive like they own the road. Macomb drivers drive like they rent the road. Both counties have young female drivers who never were able to enjoy driving, and found it just a necessary evil for getting from Point A (home) to Point B (the mall). That was before the cell phone. Now young girls (and women) have something to do while they drive, since simply paying attention is way too boring. You try to stop a young girl from texting while driving. Go ahead and try, it's impossible. If your teenage girl loves to text then she will be doing it while she drives. Until her very first close call. Then she'll stop for two weeks and then start up again. The biggest difference between the two counties is that Macomb probably has older drivers. They drive kind of slow so they don't get into many accidents. They may cause
some accidents but they putt-putt away, blissfully unaware of their trail of carnage. OK, so I exaggerate. The geography of the counties presents some problems. Macomb drivers only need to navigate along the shores of one lake. No problem. In north Oakland drivers continuously encounter lakes. It's been kind of cold. Do drivers in Oakland ever drive their cars out onto smaller lakes? Of course, they do. It's fun.