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LA Auto Show: 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi and its EV+ feature know where you're going seemingly before you do.

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi is built to serve as Ford’s most ambitious alternative fuel vehicle for various market segments – and to handle a deluge of new buzzwords created by the industry-wide rush toward eco awareness.

The new plug-in hybrid will make a public debut at this weekend’s Los Angeles Auto Show. But, a couple weeks ago, Ford invited auto writers to San Francisco for a day-long test drive of the new C-MAX. Between twists and turns back in forth from downtown to Point Reyes, they learned about popular new terms like Electrification, Hyper-Mileage, Range Anxiety and Gas Anxiety.

For the uninitiated, they could mean any number of things. Personally, I thought that last one had something to do with my Mom’s meatloaf. In fact, all of the above apply to the public’s interest in hybrid and plug-in vehicles.

According to Ford representatives, the plug-in market breaks down into three subgroups. To save time, I gave them self-evident names: the eco-warriors, the foreign oil haters and the penny pinchers.

The eco-warriors want to save the planet. They probably don’t like cars and hate gasoline, but they’ll settle for owning one if it reduces emissions. The foreign oil haters dream of a day when plugging a car in allows them to ignore the pumps full of Middle Eastern petroleum. Finally, the most popular group must be the penny pinchers. I admit that name is less than generous because we all might fit under it. Who’s eager to pay more into their monthly gasoline budget?

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi offers something to all of those buyers – while providing a comfortable ride and amble cargo space.

Ford describes the 2013 C-MAX Energi as “America's most fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid vehicle, delivering more overall driving range than any utility vehicle.”

The C-MAX is the first hybrid to achieve equal city and highway fuel economy ratings, delivering an EPA-certified 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway ratings. That’s 7 mpg better than its primary competitor, Toyota Prius v.

Driving the 2013 Ford C-MAX Energi is a pleasure – with a complete suite of Ford bells and whistles (like MyFord Touch). The ride is smooth and carefree, if not thrilling – but you don’t expect wheel-spinning performance out of what amounts to a mini-SUV. With a price tag starting just above $33,000, the final sting is based on what trim package you choose.

External styling is a little boxy, however that allows for generous seating space and a payload that’s bigger than you might expect.

The star of the C-MAX’s show – and the car’s coolest feature – must be the EV+ feature. It’s a patent-pending feature allowing vehicles to track and follow any driver’s frequent destinations. In other words, your route to work, the gym or your kids’ school can be monitored by the car. Once a route is selected, EV+ then monitors its charge level and gasoline supply – changing the way power is used in the vehicle to provide the best possible fuel economy.
 
In other words, the car learns where you’re going and rations gas and electricity to get your there the cheapest and most efficient way. The vehicle is essentially smarter than you or I are.

But I’m still wrestling with the idea of “Gas Anxiety,” so how hard can that be?