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New Ford Fusion comes in many flavours Add to ...

The radically new 2013 Ford Fusion mid-size sedan will go four-cylinder only when it hits the market later this year, and will add a plug-in hybrid version on top of offering a new-generation gas-electric regular hybrid and EcoBoost versions.

Each of these offerings is expected to come in as the fuel economy leaders in their respective classes, with the plug-in Fusion Energi taking on the Chevrolet Volt and upcoming Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid in the market by the end of this year. Ford says the Fusion Energi will hit more than 100 mpg equivalent (2.6 litres/100 km), besting the Volt and the Prius plug-in by significant amounts.

Ford is keeping the size of the lithium-ion battery and its all-electric range under wraps, although various reports online suggest that it won’t go as far or as fast as the Volt just on electricity. The no-plug-needed gas-electric Fusion Hybrid is expected to achieve 47 mpg (5.0 litres/100 km) city and 44 mpg (5.3 litres/100 km) highway, when rated on the more realistic U.S. five-cycle efficiency rating system.

The base Fusion will remain a 2.5-litre four, to help entice buyers in with a low starting price, which will make 170 in both horsepower and torque. Two new EcoBoost engines will be available, with a 1.6-litre four with Start/Stop technology the most fuel-efficient of the gas-only engines, achieving about 9.0 litres/100 km in the city and about 6.4 litres/100 km on the highway.

A 2.0-litre EcoBoost four will be the performance upgrade engine, replacing the V-6 in the Sport model, which will be available with a six-speed automatic and paddle shifters. Manual transmissions and all-wheel drive will also be available, which will make the Fusion easily the most highly diversified car on the market when it comes to powertrain options.

All Fusions will receive svelte, four-door coupe-like styling, with a nose that should have Aston Martin designers feeling flattered. This influence was actually first seen on the Focus EV that debuted at last year’s Detroit show, which Ford recently announced will be priced at $41,999 when it hits Canada this spring to compete with the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

The Fusion will become the next-generation Mondeo in Europe and Asia early next year, while in North America, most Fusion variants will be on sale in the fall (December for the Fusion Energi plug-in).

Dart brings American style, high-tech goodies to compact class

Dodge CEO Reid Bigland officially resuscitated the Dodge Dart at the Detroit show, unveiling a Charger-like compact car to compete with the Honda Civic and its many rivals that make up the majority of the top 10-selling cars in Canada.

The revived Dart is based on the architecture of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but has been stretched significantly and slightly widened for North America. Three four-cylinder engines will be available, a base 2.0-litre, a performance-focused 2.4-litre, and a fuel-efficiency-geared 1.4-litre turbo, all making within 160 and 184 hp. Six-speed manuals will be offered on all three engines, while the 1.4-litre MultiAir engine features a dual-clutch automated manual as the automatic option.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has reportedly said a nine-speed automatic will be coming in 2013, which will help further boost fuel efficiency.

But there will still be plenty of technology on offer when this car goes on sale in the spring, including a heated steering wheel, active grille shutter system, 10 airbags, available GPS, blind-spot monitoring, rear back-up camera, rear cross path detection and HID headlights.

There’s also a downloadable smartphone app that uses GoogleMaps to help you find your car, lock the doors and start it remotely, said Bigland, who is also president of Chrysler Canada.

No Canadian pricing is available yet, but in the United States, it will start at $15,995, while also promising mid-size interior room, such as that in the Cruze and Hyundai Elantra.

Fuel cell more promising than electrics, Daimler says

Daimler AG’s green car chief sees more promise in fuel cell electric vehicles than plug-in electric cars, even though the company plans to produce both in increasing numbers over the next few years.

Herbert Kohler, Daimler’s vice-president of future mobility and chief environment officer, said this week that while electrics work well in the city, taking the overall customer experience as well as the manufacturability of such systems into account, fuel cells offer more potential to become the holy grail of zero emissions vehicles that don’t require range or convenience compromises.

“The brighter future is for the fuel cell because of the easier recharging [refuelling], and taking out costs from the system,” said Kohler in an interview in Detroit. “The battery side will stay more expensive when looking at labour costs, development costs, and everything, but the fuel cell has potential yet to decrease more.”

This strong belief in fuel cells, even though it somewhat wavers from Daimler’s stated belief in “no silver bullet technology,” could be good news for British Columbia. That’s where Daimler will produce fuel cells for the upcoming B-Class F-Cell that’s planned to go on sale by 2015, with fuel stacks built at a new facility in co-operation with the Automotive Fuel Cell Co-operation in Burnaby that’s now owned by Ford and Daimler jointly, after Ballard got tired of waiting for the long promised payoff and sold its automotive fuel cell technology to AFCC.

Whether the B-Class F-Cell will be sold in Canada is another matter entirely, as there are no publicly available hydrogen filling stations yet, though there are some that were set up in Vancouver in time for the Olympics.

“We are now prepared for it technologically… it’s just a question of infrastructure.” Unfortunately, many have professed the same feeling in the past 20 years, and as the folks at Ballard found out, it’s still a huge question.

Acura NSX wows with looks, disappoints with timing

The crisply aggressive mid-engine Acura NSX concept wowed the large crowd gathered at its Detroit show unveiling, and drew applause when it was confirmed it would be built in the United States.

But it then disappointed with word that it would only hit the market within the next three years “on a global basis.”

A Honda official confirmed later that it may arrive in North America sooner, perhaps closer to two years. But in either case, it will be a while before Acura is challenging the Audi R8 and Mercedes-Benz SLS with a high-performance all-wheel drive hybrid.

It will not be the same Acura that will appear in the Avengers movie this summer, although the front ends share some sharply defined Acura cues. The revived NSX will be built in Ohio at a new advanced manufacturing facility, and will be engineered by Honda’s American R&D team.

The mid-mounted V-6 will send power to the rear wheels, while performance-oriented electric motors in the front wheels as well as the dual-clutch transmission will offer all-wheel-drive in a relatively fuel-efficient package – for a supercar.

As opposed to sending more power to the outside front wheel in a turn, as do the best of the current performance all-wheel-drive systems, these front motors can actually turn the inside wheel in the opposite direction, to help turn in even quicker.

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