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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Racing Ford plug-in hybrids down Greenbriar? Say it ain't so!

I'm not a huge car guy other than the fact I drive one, but I did get a cool opportunity last night at Houston's Haven Restaurant thanks to Ford.

Staff from the US automaker came down from Michigan ahead of the Houston Auto Show and invited myself and others for test drives of the 2013 F-150, Ford Fusion and the 108 MPGe C-MAX Energi.

I've never driven an electric, so I first got into the C-MAX Energi which is actually a plug-in hybrid. That means the model I drove is both a car that plugs into the wall to charge at night and can also run on gas and a battery. Ford has sold the C-Max in Europe for almost a decade. It charges by plugging into either a standard 120-volt outlet or a 240-volt charging station. Ford says the C-Max is expected to deliver a better fuel economy equivalent in electric mode than the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid with a 500-mile overall driving range. I learned last night that some of Ford's components for this car are actually manufactured in Houston.

Rob Iorio, Manager, Electrified Powertrain Development from Dearborn, Michigan gave us the test drive of the C-Max. He showed off the MyFord Touch hands free control in the car which lets you turn on the radio or AC with voice commands. It could not understand my wife's Texas accent! So don't say "y'all."

For an electric, the car had some pep to it. I was driving it down Greenbriar when I gave it some quick acceleration to see how fast it could go and the guy next to me thought I was trying to race him. He was in some souped up sports car and took off! Wow buddy, you just kicked a plug-in car's ass...congrats.

The C-Max runs for $29,995.

I also finally joined many others in Texas and got behind the wheel of the F-150. I thought it would be like driving a tank, but actually that monster is pretty easy to turn and has a smooth ride. Raj Sarkar, Ford Trucks F-150 Marketing Manager, was in the back seat and said that's the goal of the engineers.

You'll be able to see lots of other hot new models from more than 37 manufacturers, including concept cars, at the 2013 Houston Auto Show January 23 - 27, 2013 at Reliant Center.

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