It came from Detroit
Al Gore's a villain, but I love my hybrid like I love America
How many elephants can you fit into a hybrid? Turns out at least one.
As an openly non-liberal in a media industry that's often stereotyped as a nebulous force of flag burning pinkos, I take special satisfaction in being one of the rare few in my circle of media friends that drive a hybrid car. CultureMap's reigning liberal Sarah Rufca — on the other hand — races around in a traditional gasoline-powered car because not only does she hate America, she also hates the Earth on which America sits.
I never thought I’d drive a hybrid car. Not in a million years. I still think the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are glorified go-karts — and even that’s being overly generous. Smart car? Coffin on wheels. Forget the jaws of life — get sandwiched in one of those things and they drop it right into the ground with you still in it.
Leave it to the blue oval — the only of Detroit’s big three to decline government bailout dollars, by the way — to design a car specifically for me. I feel like I must have been part of a focus group that I’ve somehow completely forgotten.
Early last year I decided it was time to make a clean break from the gas-guzzling all-wheel-drive SUV I’ve driven since the end of college; a car to which I had developed a strong emotional attachment. It made sense when I was barreling from the wilds of western Massachusetts to Boston through blizzard conditions . . . in April.
Cruising across the eternal flatness that is Houston? Not so much.
In spite of an a amazing lack of pre-launch press — a function of reasonable skepticism that Detroit could produce anything game changing (at least without President Obama designing it himself, which I’m told by MSNBC he’s also good at) — I stumbled upon the 2010 Ford Fusion + Hybrid thanks to sheer happenstance (or it may have been an article on CNET). Either way, in late spring I hoofed it down to Russell & Smith Ford (the megadealership near Reliant) to test drive the car shortly before it launched.
I’ve only ever experienced “the Thunderbolt” (the Italian colloquialism for love at first sight) once in my life. It was kind of like that. Resisting the urge to buy the Fusion Hybrid on the spot, I decided to bring along my non-romantic hetero life partner, Jay, for a second test run. Jay has a serious need for speed — a somewhat typical guy trait that I lack for some reason.
Maybe I’m never in a hurry, or maybe I just don’t need to compensate for anything. Yeah, let’s go with that.
Anyway, Jay tried to drive the Fusion like he was The Stig from Top Gear.
He was sorely — and to me delightfully — disappointed. He grudgingly admitted, though, that he was surprised by the quality of the technology, construction materials and ride. Apparently so was Motor Trend, who later gave the 2010 Ford Fusion the award for Motor Trend Car of the Year. Jeremy: 1, Jay: 0.
On the techie side, the Ford Fusion + hybrid’s geekgasm-inducing dashboard features a large, centered speedometer flanked by two high-resolution LCD screens that can be customized to display all sorts of information to help the driver maximize fuel efficiency. It’s like playing a video game at 70 miles per hour. Those first couple of weeks were rife with near misses.
The best feature is the digital plant graphic to the right that grows when you drive well and dies when you don’t. It sounds cutesy (and I hate cutesy), but it’s actually pretty cool.
As you may have guessed by now, my motivation for the purchase had absolutely nothing to do with helping Bond-villain-in-the-making Al Gore in his tireless crusade to become a very, very wealthy man. (If you think Gore's motivations are anything but purely capitalist, I’ve got a unicorn over here that I’d love to sell you.)
No, I bought it because it’s a full-sized American sedan that averages nearly 40 miles per gallon and only needs to be fueled once a month — a huge plus for someone as cheap and lazy as I am.
It also talks to me in a pleasant female voice that seems genuinely concerned with what I want. I am not used to this. She was recently named “Gretchen” by a friend of mine, which I liked until I found out from another friend that the name came from a character in Mean Girls. All things considered, I’m going to let that one slide.
Gretchen and I are very happy together.