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Ford under fire for its hybrid fuel economy numbers

Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford

Ford is facing increasing pressure in the United States about its fuel economy claims for the hybrid versions of the Fusion and C-Max with the filing of a second lawsuit in Pennsylvania last month, following a similar class action lawsuit in California. This comes although the company is only using government-sanctioned EPA figures.

Environmental Protection Agency figures suggest the vehicles will attain 47 miles per U.S. gallon in both city and highway driving, and figure prominently in Ford advertising, as do comparisons with the less-efficient EPA ratings listed for the Toyota Prius. The Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid provide its owners significantly worse fuel economy than promised, Bloomberg reported recently, citing figures averaging 38.5 mpg submitted on a fuel economy tracking website.

Detailed tests in publications such as Consumer Reports, The Wall Street Journal, Motor Trend and the cleanmpg.com website on the C-Max Hybrid all resulted in figures averaging significantly lower than the official EPA numbers.

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On the EPA's fueleconomy.gov website, those questioned 47 mpg figures translate to an average of 5.0 litres/100 km, using the EPA's tougher and more modern five-cycle testing methods. In Canada, using a less stringent two-cycle test, both vehicles attain even lower official Canadian government fuel consumption ratings of 4.0 litres/100 km city and 4.1 highway, with these figures also featured prominently in Canadian advertising for these vehicles.

A Ford of Canada official said this week that no lawsuits have been filed in Canada by owners unhappy with any discrepancy between their observed fuel consumption and the official figures, but wouldn't comment on the lawsuits in the United States, nor on the EPA's ongoing investigation into their accuracy. It was such an investigation by the EPA that found overstated fuel economy claims by South Korean companies Hyundai and Kia, leading them to launch an unprecedented payback campaign that gave owners of affected vehicles a pre-paid credit card with an annual amount for the extra fuel used, plus a 15 per cent convenience top-up.

"It's not our intention to put out numbers that are incorrect, but you have to keep in mind that in the real world, you have to change your driving habits to achieve maximum fuel efficiency, which is why we have the brake coach and other technologies in there," said Christine Hollander, Ford of Canada communications manager.

Would following all such car coaching lead to the stated 4.0/4.1 Canadian fuel efficiency numbers? "I haven't tested that, so I can't comment on it," said Hollander.

From personal experience, a Ford Fusion hybrid I drove for a week had a lifetime rating of 6.4 litres/100 km listed on its trip computer, while a recent C-Max hybrid tester finished with a 5.9 average achieved in a painfully clogged city loop of Toronto during rush hour traffic, using no air conditioning.

In an interview earlier this year, Ford of Canada CEO Dianne Craig stressed that the firm tested its cars carefully in both countries, and is working with the Canadian government to bring in the more accurate five-cycle EPA test. "We follow exactly to the letter of the law with the EPA, and we're very confident in our process with the EPA, as well as Transport Canada, and in the fact we're following the letter of the law," she said. "There is more variability with hybrids, but we're really confident in our processes."

The hyper-miling crew at the cleanmpg.com website found ways to coax the C-Max to numbers greater than the EPA's figures in one extreme efficiency city driving leg, performed in order to extract the highest possible mpg number from the C-Max, a Prius V and Prius liftback during a comparison test in California this past February. In this extreme city test, as in all its other highway and city tests, both Prius models finished on top of the C-Max in the fuel consumption measurements. It therefore concluded that with such techniques it may be possible for Ford to achieve its EPA numbers, but that typical driving suggests lower numbers than found by the EPA.

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The 911 Turbo S goes from 0-100 km/h in 3.1 seconds. Porsche Porsche

New Porsches flirt with 3-second 0-100 times

Porsche has lifted the covers off its latest-generation 911 Turbo and Turbo S, offering increases to 520 and 560 hp respectively, while a new all-wheel-drive system also helps both models flirt with low three-second 0-100 km/h times.

In its 50th year since the arrival of the original 911, and the 40th since the first 911 Turbo was unveiled, the 2014 Turbo takes 3.2 seconds to reach this benchmark, according to Porsche figures, while the Turbo S is a tick quicker at 3.1 seconds, when both are equipped with the Sport Chrono package that includes a drivetrain-preserving launch control system.

The new Turbo also includes active aerodynamics for the first time, with front and rear spoilers that can be positioned to more aggressive "performance" settings that Porsche says can reduce its lap time around the Nürburgring by two seconds just on their own, thanks to a more aggressive plane to the rear spoiler and lower front one for additional grip.

Both models arrive in Canada in December this year, with pricing starting at $169,200 for the Turbo and $206,600 for the Turbo S.

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BMW M cars not planning more AWD offerings

BMW isn't planning to closely follow Mercedes-Benz's upcoming push to more all-wheel-drive AMG offerings, outside of its X5 M and X6 M SUVs; the company reiterated this week that cars handle better and respond more crisply with rear-wheel-drive.

Enthusiast magazine Car and Driver reported recently that Friedrich Nitschke, the head of the M performance division, said that the BMW M3 would not chase either AMG or Audis RS models to the all-wheel-drive altar, at least not in current-generation models.

The technology is popular in northern markets such as Canada, the northern U.S. states and parts of Europe, and with upcoming vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 that are based on front-wheel drive architecture, the move to AWD is seen as a performance upgrade.

But that may not be how traditionally rear-wheel-drive BMW drivers see it.

"BMW is in constant communication with its M customers and rear-wheel-drive is typically in favour with M drivers who value the superior driving dynamics and steering response inherent in the configuration," said Rob Dexter, BMW Canada's product communications specialist.

Dexter also confirmed that the current M3 will cease production in the next few months, with two special-edition M3 Coupes serving as the close-out models for the V-8 two-doors.

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