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Endurance Test: Ford C-Max Takes On Chevy Volt

Furthermore, the Ford's EV-only mode has a lot less power -- at least a third less -- than the Volt. When flooring it in a steep curvy uphill road, the Ford simply lacks power, and even engages the gasoline engine even though half the battery power remains. In contrast, the Volt has sports car power and never turns on the gasoline engine if there's battery power left.

This speaks to the Volt's main advantage: Its much larger battery, which is liquid-cooled/heated and has much more powerful electric components.

Yes, this costs more to manufacture, but the performance/smoothness advantage is also huge. Being able to drive 38 miles on electricity at full power is dramatically better than 21 miles with herky-jerky low-speed gasoline engine interruptions, and at much lower power in the Ford.

What about when the battery is down to the level where the gasoline engine HAS to kick in, no matter what? The Volt is rated at 35 MPG on the highway, and I yielded 37 MPG on the exact same 1,100 mile test loop as the Ford, with other ideal conditions also identical.

The Ford yielded 32.6 MPG on the same test, despite being rated at 43 MPG. Chew on that for a minute: The Volt performed 2 MPG ahead of its EPA estimate; the Ford at least 10 MPG below. That's a HUGE delta, and both cars weigh approximately 3,800 lbs.

So from a performance perspective, the Volt holds almost all of the cards: It drives almost twice as far on electricity alone, it does so without being forced into gasoline mode with annoying and herky-jerky frequency, it does so with much more power, and when it switches to gasoline mode it's no less efficient than the Ford despite the EPA rating suggesting otherwise.

Ford's only advantage is that once you're driving far, therefore on gasoline, it's got more power and it's quieter, especially on long uphill climbs at high speeds (70 MPH+).

What about the electronics and the dashboard? Ford gets a bit of an incomplete here because although you can download the iOS app, it doesn't yet work with this car. So it wasn't possible to test.

The screens in the Ford have plenty of information to show, but does much of it very poorly. The numbers mixes electric-only and hybrid driving for a deceptive combined number. Huge swaths of the high-quality LCD displays are filled with all sorts of irrelevant information, including illustrations of a bunch of growing trees. I kid you not. How juvenile!

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