A little over a year ago, I paid just over $4.00 for a gallon of gas in suburban Chicago. In the city itself, where real estate values and overhead costs for corner gas stations are much higher, the price was up to $4.25 for a gallon of regular. Those numbers virtually shut down sales of gas guzzling cars, especially large SUVs and pick-up trucks, which quickly led to the billion dollar losses at Chrysler, GM, and to a lesser degree, Ford.
|1. The 2010 Milan hybrid is based on the all-new Ford Fusion and even gets that car’s impressive new hybrid system delivering 41/36 mpg (city/hwy).
2. It’s possible to drive up to 47 mph on just electric power.
3. At $31,235, the Milan Hybrid is roughly $4,000 more than either a similarly equipped standard Milan or a Fusion Hybrid.
But high gasoline prices were good news for companies like Toyota, which sell high-mileage hybrids like the Prius. Not only did the (then second generation) Prius hybrid get 45 miles per gallon, it could also fly – as in, fly out of the dealer’s showroom as fast as they came in. A usual 45 to 60 day car supply, turned into only a week’s worth of inventory at Toyota dealerships around the country.
But then the banking crisis hit, the stock market plunged, and the country was thrown into a deep recession seemingly overnight as we headed into the fall and winter months. And gas prices fell like a rock. Six months ago, I filled up my tank at the same gas station that I’d paid $4.00 a gallon, for only $1.99 per gallon. And the hybrid Prius models began to stack up on the dealer lots like cordwood. Ah don’t we Americans have short memories?
But even though we’re still mired in a very sluggish economy, that will last at least another year or so, gas prices are still rising. Yesterday, $2.77 was the going rate, and I’m sure that if OPEC, the big oil companies, the speculators, and whoever else conspires to screw the public with the price of oil and gasoline have their way (which they always do) we’ll continue to see prices rise. And when the economy really starts to take off, we’ll be seeing that $4.00 per gallon again. This time, however, American car companies, especially Ford will be ready with more high mileage models, and hybrid technology cars.
2010 MILAN GETS FORD’S NEW HYBRID SYSTEM DELIVERING 41/36 MPG
Ford is banking on the Mercury Milan and its sister car, the Ford Fusion to be the standard bearer in the hybrid car wars. And after driving the Mercury Milan, I think Ford will be a major player.
The Milan is powered by a 2.5 liter, gasoline engine, coupled with an electric motor to produce a very respectable 191-hp and 166 ft-lbs of torque. Ford says that if you feather the gas pedal just right, you can pull away from a stoplight and reach 47 miles per hour with only electric power moving the vehicle. A multitude of dashboard readouts called the Smartgauge Cluster with Ecoguide allows you to select one of four different levels of information to be displayed while you’re driving.
You can start with the basic fuel level and battery charge status. Then you can add the electric vehicle mode indicator and tachometer. Next you may include engine output power and battery output power to the mix. Finally, you can go full zoot, and see which wheels the engine power is going to and how much power the accessories are drawing from the system. And surrounding those readouts, you can see how you are doing with your short term driving efficiency by watching a vine blossom with green leaves as you drive efficiently, and see them wither as your right foot gets heavier on the accelerator than necessary. Yeah, it’s a bit silly, but lots of cars pack a little show biz into their dashboards. When you’re new to the driving experience however, it’s easy to forget to watch the road instead of all those displays. The main thing about the Milan hybrid, however, is that if you do not look at all those electronic gauges, and just drive the car, you wouldn’t know you were driving a hybrid, which is a good thing. With the Prius, you always are aware that you’re driving something different.
Whether using a light or heavy foot off the line, the Milan accelerates briskly, smoothly and the power is seamless between electric and gasoline modes, so you wouldn’t know by feel whether you’re being powered by the gas engine or the electric motor. You should hit 60 mph in about 8.7 seconds, and passing on two lane roads, or merging onto highways is quick and easy, and again, it felt no different than with a standard gas-only motor. The Continuously Variable Transmission, or CVT, helps with the smooth power delivery, as you can’t feel traditional upshifts or downshifts. It also helps the Milan achieve its excellent mileage, which is rated at 41 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. With a 17-gallon gas tank, a range of over 600 miles is a reality.
The brakes are excellent and stop the car easily from speed. Because the brakes are regenerative, meaning they recapture 94 percent of their energy to recharge the electric batteries, they have a slightly different pedal feel than normal brakes, but it’s easy to get used to.
The Milan handles just like the non-hybrid Milan, which means it corners well without much body lean, soaks up bumps easily and has a very comfortable ride quality, as any solidly built sedan should. The electric power steering provides lots of positive feedback to the driver and is very responsive. This Milan was as much fun to drive on twisty roads as any car in its class. Traction and Stability Control are standard.
NICELY DESIGNED AND WELL APPOINTED INTERIOR
The cabin of the Milan is absolutely beautiful, and would be fitting of a car costing thousands of dollars more. Two-tone, power 8-way adjustable, heated leather seats are as comfortable as they are eye catching, and ready to serve the driver well for long hours behind the wheel. The contrasting colors also flow to the door panels and lower dash. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels great in your hands and features redundant audio controls and the cruise controls. The padded dashboard has handsome brushed aluminum accents that blend into the console area as well, and the padded center armrest has a jack for your MP3 player. Dual zone heating controls in the center stack are easy to see and use, as are the audio controls. The console, large glove box and door pockets provide ample convenient storage. Rear passenger room is spacious for three adults, and by pulling down the rear armrest, two adults will enjoy a long trip in style and comfort. Because the batteries for the electric motor are located behind the rear seats, they do not fold down to increase the size of the trunk, however. And though the trunk is somewhat smaller than the trunk in the standard Milan, it is still spacious for luggage, golf clubs, and groceries, and seems more usable than the hatchback cargo area of the Prius.
My test car added a sliding moonroof and Navigation System with a rear view video camera. It also had the optional blind spot detection system in the side view mirrors with a warning light on the mirrors, which lights up when a vehicle is in your blind spot in an adjacent right or left lane. And if you activate your turn signal to make a lane change while there is a car in your blind spot, you’ll hear a warning beep to alert you. This is a feature that will save countless accidents and should be standard in every vehicle.
The Milan has an understated elegance, with clean lines. The rear taillight treatment with part of the lenses on the trunk lid and part on the rear quarter panel is reminiscent of a Mercedes Benz. The front end features the Mercury grill with vertical chrome slats and chiseled headlights and is distinctive to the brand. Fit and finish, inside and out, is first rate.
The base price of the Milan Hybrid is $31,235, which is roughly $4,000 more than either a similarly equipped non-hybrid model or a Fusion Hybrid. Add a few options, like the ones mentioned above and you’ll be looking at a sticker price just north of $33,000. That’s still a very reasonable rice for a luxury sedan that’s also a hybrid.
I enjoyed this Mercury more than I did the Prius or Camry Hybrid. I thought it was more powerful, better looking inside and out, more responsive, and handled better than either Toyota. The Milan offers a traditional, formal, 4-door sedan with a proper trunk, and room for 5 adults in a comfortable package. It proves that you don’t have to give up those attributes to own a car that will offer outstanding gas mileage. And as gasoline prices continue to rise, as they inevitably will, the Mercury Milan Hybrid will look better and better in your driveway.
Related Reading:2010 Ford Fusion – 4dr Sdn Hybrid FWD Specs
2010 Toyota Prius: First Drive
2010 Honda Insight
2009 Honda Civic Hybrid
2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid