Driving a Ford C-MAX Hybrid in San Francisco

Ford C-MAX Hybrid Road test 2013
We took the Ford C-MAX Hybrid for a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Ford C-MAX Hybrid Road test 2013
We took the Ford C-MAX Hybrid for a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

You would think an electric motor would be the worst thing on the San Francisco steep hills. CarNewsCafe found exactly the contrary with our test drive of the Ford C-MAX Hybrid in the famous hilly city.

Electric motors are erroneously associated with poor performance over hills.  Yet San Francisco is one of the best cities to test drive cars in, with its very steep hills to prove electric naysayers wrong.  We found ourselves stopped at the top of the city’s traditional steep hills starting in electric mode only, only to have the gasoline engine kick in later and recharge the battery. You can read our drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco here.

Ford Has A Great Handle On the Electric Drive.  Over the past five years, Ford has done a tremendous job with the electrification of some of its vehicles.  Ten years ago, Bill Ford and Mullaly planned to revamp the vehicle line up at Ford and give its clientele what it coined Power of Choice.  Along the way, it introduced the electric motors in its hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and finally a pure electric car (EV).  Having test driven all of its electrified cars, I’m reminded how Henry Ford famously said: “When I see an Alfa Romeo, I tip my hat!”  Well, sir, now that I see your new cars, I tip my cap.

Ford C-MAX in San Francisco.  Hybrids are great for city driving and the Ford C-MAX Hybrid is no exception. The car is not only comfortable for long distance driving, as we wrote about on our Los Angeles to San Francisco trip but if you are a little aware of what the car is doing, it’s fun driving the C-MAX Hybrid in city traffic.  Feather foot the accelerator and you can stay in electric mode until you deplete the 1.4 kWh Lithium-ion.  Use downhills and coasting to red lights and recharge the pack for more electric driving.

Nitpicking, if I Have To.  I’ve been blamed of cheerleading for the company, so here goes the aspects I cared less about the car.  If no car is 100% perfect and answers everyone’s tastes, there are things I would like differently with the C-MAX.  These are my personal tastes and involves mostly the way I drive, low to the ground, almost lying down driving position with Italian cars.  While driving on highways, I found getting back to the right lane to be troublesome when the sun was on the right side of the car.  The back right pillar looked as if a car was coming on your right side.  All it did was to require a longer double check.  Not a big problem.

I was afraid the Ford C-MAX Hybrid wouldn’t handle well with lateral winds.  As I mentioned in the previous article, we ran into strong head and lateral winds.  I expected the hybrid to be bounced around yet it necessitated very little correction at highway speeds.  As far as driving position, the seat seems high for me, something many people will actually like. It gives those used to bigger cars that sense of being high up and a certain security feeling.  However, I wished the steering wheel would have gone down further for ergonomic reasons.  On the plus side, it gave me a 100% view of the dashboard.

Infotainment And Quirks.  Infotainment systems are a question of taste and getting used to and Ford’s is good overall.  The company has improved it much over the past few years and it effortlessly found my newer iPhone.  I used the USB to play music with my older one.  Maneuvering the main screen took a little getting used to, especially while driving.  The only problem I had was reaching for its corners to access climate, navigation and phones, which was a little awkward.  I played with its voice command, which worked well overall.  The one thing it wouldn’t do was to give an estimate of how many miles I had left with the gas tank.  I will check with Ford to see if this is possible.

I rarely get excited about hybrids since most are mild hybrids.  However, Ford’s line of hybrids is well thought out and easy to hyper-mile, as we found out on our recent trip.  Overall, we can say Ford has done an incredible job, not only revamping its line of vehicle but boldly stepping into the 21st Century with greater choice, fuel sipping vehicles, and introducing electric motors to radically change the way we drive. Ford’s C-MAX Hybrid and Energi are perfect cars for city drivers and even make plenty of sense on highways.

Nicolas Zart
Born and raised around classic cars, it wasn't until Nicolas drove an AC Proulsion eBox and a Tesla Roadster that the light went on. Eager to spread the news about those amazing full torque electric vehicles, he started writing about this amazing technology and its social impacts in 2007. Today, Nicolas covers renewable energy, test drives cars, does podcasts and films. Nicolas offers an in-depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he made in those industries. His articles are also published on Teslrati, CleanTechnica, the Beverly Hills Car Club and Medium. "There are more solutions than obstacles." Nicolas Zart