Welcome to the Jus-A-CMax review of the 2013 Ford CMax.
I am a CMax owner/driver and a real estate appraiser in the Los Angeles and Ventura County. Typically I spend a lot of time in the car going from job to job. I also spend a lot of time waiting for clients and also shooting "comparable" properties around the subject neighborhood. I also try to keep fit and use the car to go to the gym as much as I can, and play golf. So yes, when you see my Trip computer for 600+ miles a tank and I spent 20 hrs in the car - I did that, its what I do and I enjoy my job.
About the Roads/Freeways
In LA county, I typically do the San Fernando valley, Westlake Vlllage, North Ranch, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Malibu. In Ventura county, I do Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Port Hueneme, Newbury Park, Oxnard.
Typically I do about 50-120 miles a day, or at least a tank a week. I drive on the major freeways here: 118, 101, 23, 134, 170. Highways include Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and East Los Angeles, all the canyon arterials and a ton of surface streets. After all, no houses are along the Freeways..at least no reputable ones.
For those not familiar with the terrain, the 118 typically runs east-west, climbing up to Rocky Peak and then it drops down to Simi Valley. Running in parallel with the 118 is the 101 and you have connecting roads arterial roads that run north-south like Topanga or Box Canyon or the 23 Freeway. Contrary to popular belief, the 118 and 101 are not flat, there are rolling hills and peaks. Here's a Google map of the area that I typically drive:
About the Car - Initial Impressions
I have never owned a hybrid. My past work car was a 1998 Camry and a super high end 2006 Jaguar Vanden Plas, a true luxury cruiser with stunning Jaguar look and drive. However, the Camry had the gong so its time to pick up a fuel efficient car mainly for my work. The CMax was not even on my top list - the Fusion Hybrid was, followed by the regular Prius and CMax and the Jetta TDI.
The Fusion hybrid was not in stock so out of curiosity to see how a Ford hybrid would perform - I decided to test drive the CMax with Miguel. 1st drive - I was blown away - WHAT A CAR
The physical stand out attributes of the CMax were:
1. The visibility of the road from the drivers position. I could see more of the road and surroundings than the 2013 Fusion Hybrid. This was due to the higher seating position which allow a more top-down view unlike a typicaly sedan where you're lower. I also like the fact that the glass was also "not in may face" ala Prius.
2. The seating position. Felt spacious and roomy. I did not feel cramped, everything was logical and well laid out. I could swivel in and out of the leather seats with no worries. Unlike the sedans where I had to rise up.
3. I liked the 60/40 fold down flat seats and the room in the back.
4. The kick to open the liftgate was nice.
5. The interior lighting was awesome - just the nice touches you could change the mood inside the car.
6. Park Assist - scary good.
7. Rear view camera - I cannot tell you how many times this little camera has allowed me to do clean, 3 point reverse turns and get close to the bins and all, without running into them. I this llil camera.
However, the most standout note about the CMax - performance! For a little car, I was thinking these hybrid electric/gas motors were crap. After all, I did drive my neighbors' 2010 Prius (thanks neighbor) and the pep was not there and it was slow to react. To be honest, I did not see these "super mileage" the times I drove the Prius and I nearly got burnt - driving the car on fumes to the gas station at one time - near oooops.
So when I fanged the CMax up the freeway on-ramp on the test drive, I was super, super surprised by the pickup and get up and go this car had. This was important part of my decision - I had climbed the Malibu canyons in my Camry, and they are steep. Infact, its a joke among appraisers that a certain hybrid cars can't go up these steep roads due to lack of power and I, for one, was not going to be stuck with such a car.
It was an easy decision so I purchased my CMax from Galpin Motor Company in Van Nuys during the 2012 Thanksgiving Sale and picked up the car on December 6. Sale guy was Miguel Lopez and this is my 4th car from Galpin, just go to show what customer service they give to have my family and I coming back, car after car (shout to CarlosP).
This was the final specification for my CMax:
White Platinum, built in October 2012
My Ford Touch 3.1.3 (*sigh)
SEL with everything loaded except the moon roof. The car came with the additional tinting on the rear passenger windows, thanks to Galpin Auto Sports. Luv the tint
After 12,500 Miles
So what are my thoughts after clocking more than 12,500 miles in over 4 months:
1. Spacious, Spacious carry room. I have to say, I own a TARDIS!!!!! Yes, the famed Dr.Who TARDIS - small on the outside but a city on the inside. My wife and I decided to make the CMax our snow car - and boy, do we the space in the back where we can fit our entire ski/snowboard, food, alcohol, snow shovels and gear for our days away skiiing at Mammmoth mountain. The 40/60 split seat is great, I can carry my ladder for my job when inspecting the attic.
2. Superb handling. The CMax is a front wheel drive car and it really handles well. My favourite run is Box Canyon and I will encourage all the local Angelinos with a CMax to try this route from the 118 down to the 101 (via Valley Circle). Tight pin turns and this car just sticks and steering is precise. Point the steering there and the car is going there.
3. Mileage. This is the most controversial and probably most talked about part of the Ford CMax. No thanks to a few website "reviews" that slammed the car as a 37MPG car, we all know who they are but as I said, they have no skin in the game and after a week or 2, they are done while the real owners like you and I, we get to know our cars really, really well.
I was not a hybrid driver when I first got the car, I had no clue - back in the days for me to save gas with the Camry, I would roll down the Rocky Peak or any slope in neutral - that was all I could do. However, the CMax has opened my eyes as to what is possible. And THANKS to this website and original posters like ptjones, I was able to learn quickly about the CMax and how to maximize my mileage.
After 12,500 miles, for me, I can say with confidence and back it up with my fuelly running stats, my CMax is a 47+ MPG car.
I disclosed the areas that I drive - mountains, hills, freeways, highways, surface streets and I have done 5 long hauls from Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes (a 570 mile round trip each) and as I stressed, even at full load and in cold temperatures and 500 ft to 7,800 ft over 285 miles and back down, my CMax was able to achieve an increasing MPGs during the engine break-in to where I am averaging 45MPGs in my last 2 trips:
Here is a snapshot of my fuelly.com statistics:
Not too bad for a "Bloated Focus" as some critics have called this car
C-Max and the cold
Yes, I have been blessed to live in SoCal where the temps are consistently mild or high temperatures. Occasionally, in the winter night, it may drop to 35 or 40. Driving in Mammoth when it snows and blizzard is about as cold as it gets in my driving experience. What I do find with the CMax in the cold is that it takes almost feel forever to heat up the ICE, resulting in usually a full battery (good) but you have burnt some fuel. Also, in the real 0 and below cold, even with a full battery, driving in EV feels almost like it's almost no battery - there seems to be no power or punch in EV. Use of grill covers (as designed by ptjones, a fellow poster here), may help and some owners have reported 2 to 5 MPG difference with the grill cover and far, far less time to warm up the engines. Do your research on this. I don't use grill covers because I don't have these low temps for long but someone in Alaska, its a different story.
The manual says 1,000 miles to break-in the engine. Some Ford Engineers has quoted 3,000. In my experience and also looking at the "Mammoth to San Fernando" statistics, I would say the engine break-in really starts to have an effect on MPG at 3,000 miles on the odometer. Then it will rise and rise to about 10,000 and level out at 11,000. My Mammoth stat show this and it's a good sample because of the most consistent & similar temperature, mileage and same load to derive my conclusion.
Why does it take so long to break in a gas engine? My thought is that being a hybrid vehicle, the ICE is on "part time" (unlike a conventional car where the 1,000 mile rule of thumb is applicable). If you drive FE like me, it's even less as you want to maximize your mileage with less ICE as possible except for acceleration. My advice: Be patient and enjoy the car, the engine will break-in on its own time. As to how much of an improvement this break-in will give you - I think it depends on car to car and for me, this was worth at least 5 MPGs.
So what's my secret sauce?
"Secret" sauce implies some magical spice or some black, hidden procedures or technique - no such thing. What I do is within what Ford has given us but really it comes down to understanding how you use your body and also your mind to drive a car. For me, long gone are the days of "pedal to the metal" and continuous gas in an all-gas-engine car.
The common misconception with hybrid/hypermiling is to drive like an elderly. No, that is not the case. You are slow in accelerating but it does not mean you do 20 mph in 35 mph zone. Don't do that - its dangerous and STUPID. My driving has been to keep witin -3 and +5 for surface speed limits and about the same for freeway. Watch the rear to make sure you don't annoy the driver behind you and stay to the right.
1. Your right foot. Learn to feather the pedal and feel the car especially when in EV mode. Feather means controlling the right pedal to give it the minimal power (EV or ICE) to maintain your nominated cruising speed. Most drivers make a big mistake to push FULL EV power when in reality, perhaps a 1/4 of the power is enough to keep you at speed. VERY IMPORTANT - when accelerating, learn to keep the power white bar up to the second bar, this is where the car will charge the battery (see the red marked area is where your battery recharge zone is) and be patient in keeping it there till you reach your cruising speed:
Any higher and it will start to suck the battery.
Also, take note that at higher battery level, this "red box" range (see above) is even smaller, typically just under the 2 bar level. Learn to play with it.
Question: Do I use the EV or not? Most hypermilers say "Don't use EV". Let me say, I believe in using EV. Typical hypermiler thinking is use ICE only. However, imo, unlike previous hybrids from other companies, where the batteries were smaller and the EV threshold was even smaller, Ford went the opposite way with higher threshold speed for EV with more aggressive regen and larger batteries. It makes sense to utilize EV to some extent instead of ICE that burns gas. Gas is limited to 13.5 gallons but EV you can regen and regen using power and coasting, and if you hit the slope and glide down - thats automatic EV there. Based on my observation, the EV in CMax actually works the best at speed between 25mph and 55mph - eventhough the threshold is 63mph. You get more "bang for your EV bucks" at the surface street vs freeway speeds.
For beginners, this "feathering" is the hardest thing you will learn to do with your new C-Max but master it and the C-Max will reward you with MPG riches.
2. Don't drain the battery all the way down, regen as high as practical say, 80% and work it down to 50% and repeat. How do you regen? Pulse & Glide (say 2 second of acceleration, let it run for 3-5 seconds or speed based). Alternatively, simply just use eco-cruise (set at say 66mph and press the cruise button to let the car speed up and regen. Then take it off and cycle again. Why HIGH battery? I find the most use of EV at above 50%, you can maintain greater speeds and "feathering" in EV seems to get more mojo for the effort. Also, having high battery has another advantage...see below.
3. ICE High MPG (what is this?) . Use ICE High MPG when you see a long stretch of gentle uphill freeway, this will allow you to take the car > 65mph and give you 40-60 instant MPG but be patient while the battery charges up to the level it needs to "play" and then double tap. Don't be tempted to go into full EV or use EV if you're gonna do this run, keep with your strategy. NOTE: At the minimum, you'll do 40MPG and if you make it dance, you are rewarded with 40 to 60 MPGs...but it is very terrain sensitive!
4. Start from a standstill in EV - take it from zero to about 10 mph in traffic and kick in ICE, this will keep your car with traffic but stay on the right lane. Even better: 15 mph or 20 mph when there is no traffic. IMO, the battery has superb torque, perfect to start the CMax from standstill, so lets take full advantage of it. Buring gas to start your car, while providing quicker acceleration, is a waste of gas since once gas is gone, its gone.
Surface streets: 0 -> EV -> 15mph -> ICE-> 40 mph -> Glide to 35 mph and feather EV to maintain 35 mph. Rinse and repeat.
5. I learnt the hard way, climbing any steep grade is a severe burn on gas. My thinking here is that you'll reach the top eventually but are you willing to spend the gas to get there 5 minutes earlier?
For me, I stick to the right lane, power bar up to the second level where the battery charges and climb (typical speed here is 55 mph but its up a steep grade) and turn up the music to kill the drone of ICE and relax. I easily save a lot of gas doing this and I do this manually by feathering the pedal to keep the power level at 2. You can always climb faster - that's the beauty of the CMax and 188HP but you give up fuel to do it. Eco-cruise is not that effective so manual is the way to go. ** Important to stay in the right lane so you don't PO the other drivers who like to climb and burn gas. Wave to them.
6. Burst Pulse & Glide. P&G is a very common hypermiler trick. It basically means you drive the car to a certain speed (aka pulse phase), take your foot off and the engine shuts down and the car will start to coast and drop speed (glide) phase. Now, based on my experience and with a high level battery charge, I have a variation to the normal P&G...take the acceleration to between 2.5 to 3 bar (see above) and count 1000, 2000 or 3000 and then glide it for 3 seconds, rinse and repeat. This has 2 effects, the sudden acceleration kicks in some battery use so you're not burning pure gas but just enough to give you positive (forward momentum) until the negative momentum (glide phase kicks in) - and its important to understand here is that the battery regen is from the glide phase (not pulse!) so you will regen slowly. As compared to a slow, constant 2 bar burn with the ICE regen, this seems more FE effective in certain situations...just remember to count the pulse phase and not overburn. Deadly effective in the 35 mph streets (and combined with some subtle EV feathering power=awesomeness).
Another common question: with P&G, how quick or slow to pulse? My thoughts - some people drive it 1 bar and accelerate slowly. I use the 2 bar to accelerate quicker. My belief is that the Atkinson ICE is more efficient at higher loads so I prefer to take it to the 2 bar (just under the cut off for the regen). For me, a 1 bar burn means you are using gas for a much longer time and it becomes a burn rate vs time fight. I prefer to load up the ICE at 2 bar & brisk acceleration & regen at the same time = max benefit. IMO.
7. Battery Management. What is this? Since when do I need to manage my battery! C'mon....
Let's get down to the fact - this is a hybrid, it has a battery. As much as Ford wants to make life SO EASY, if you truly want to maximize your MPGs you need to understand the battery, State of Charge (SOC) and speed. So I am going to break this down as simple as I can, after all what can you do to manage a sophisticated battery with just the right pedal? Right?!?!?!
- Freeways: Driving freeways, in order to use the battery, you have to keep the speed under 63mph. This is fact - the higher the SOC, the more use of battery. An almost full battery provides more sustained EV driving than one which is at 1/3 level. Use Pulse&Glide to build battery especially if you use the 2 bar pulse acceleration. When you start the EV run, have a lower speed limit decided - this will be point which you will then start your battery regen pulse again. Ideal bandwidth is like 70% to 50% and use the glide coast and kick in EV at the end to sustain the glide phase as long as possible. Do not let it drain all the way down to 1/3 as then you waste a ton of gas building the SOC back to a useful 70% again. So your battery management here is like: Accelerate at 2 bar to 65mph, let it glide down to 60 mph, immediately kick in EV power as much as needed to sustain the speed but it will inevitably drop to around 58mph and when it does, go back to the start of this sentence and repeat. Use ICE High MPG is you want speeds > 65 mph (there - watch how high the SOC goes!)
- Highway: Similar to Freeway, just lower speeds and similar bandwidth the battery strategy. You will observe the battery giving you more miles for the juice (vs freeways).
- Surface Street: Similar bandwidth but this time you can drop the lower point of the battery regen to 1/3. Why this now? You just told me a different story in the freeway! So let me explain - here are facts with surface street driving - traffic lights. You will stop more so you regen FAR MORE than on freeway and highway. Also, these lower speeds means the CMax EV motor is more capable - not running at the upper end and sucking the battery like it does while freeway/highway driving. Lower speeds allows for a more meaningful use of the battery even at the lower end of SOC. And I can regen up to 60% within 3 stop lights. Get it?
Here is reality - what I just said does not make much sense until you try this in your CMax and start feeling and seeing what you battery is doing.
8. Most important - know the roads/terrain you are driving! Think strategy - where can you maximize your FE? For example, I use some gas to climb a little on 118 west to Rocky Peak but then I turn left to drop down Box Canyon, this gives me a great number of miles of just EV across the entire valley and a nice full battery - as versus using the 405 and 101 freeways where you just burn more gas - not efficient and not necessarily saving you that much time either since there are almost no traffic on my Bxo Canyon route. Speaking of traffic - it isn't too bad in traffic either - hybrids were designed for traffic with all the start and stop and braking....turn up the Sony music and enjoy
There are a lot of ways to play this mileage game. But you also don't have to play - drive it like a normal car if you want but know that the game will reward you with incredible MPG. The key is understanding your body, the car and the road. I say "body" because if you can't control your right foot, it's hard and I know, took me a long time to figure out the "feathering" myself. The car is all about knowing what its telling you - it's going flat, downgrade or upgrade, wind in an instant just by the feel and the momentum and you pick how you drive from what its telling you. The road, your selection of which route to take makes a world of difference to your MPG: freeway vs highways, drop down roads to maximize EV and so forth.
600+ miles anyone?
I use to think 600 miles was a higher barrier to break in a CMax. However, since then I have broken 750 and on 06/25/2013, I broke the 800 miles on a single CMax tank (Suggested readings - see the links in my signature for the stories on the Journey and the 600 Mile CMax club threads)
For me personally, this car is GREAT in the freeway but as a surface street car, the CMax is a KILLER car which will give you 55+ MPG under the right roads & conditions.
Having said that, this is my personal best when I was driving > 50% freeway:
This is my best tank driving around the valley with no freeway or highways:
BIG DIFFERENCE, huh?
If you are going to try the 600 miles a tank, my suggestion is that you carry a spare 2 gallon in the back. I've nearly been burnt as one time I had to hit the Malibu hills and I was red most of the time and had more hills to climb. Focus on the "gal" line in the TRIP screen (see above), this is the gallons used. Knowing that a max, max, max of 12.90 recorded is probably the upper limit!
In real world experiences, there is typically a 0.3 difference between what's reported as gallons used and actual fill up. So CMax will say 12.50 gallons used and the pump will say 12.80. Then again, the pumps have different standards so you have variations as well - which is why I say, assume the "gal" line as the "better gauge" of how much actual fuel is used.
This is my LIFETIME...
Looking at that in Fuelly.com, those 30s tank fuel-up kills the average. On the other hand, my "running" MPG on Fuelly.com is high though: 47+ MPG so it is what it is.
There are some bad points, some serious, some not so much:
1. My Ford Touch navigation and 3.1.3. This is "tolerable" for now. Us early CMax adopters are stuck with the 3.1.3 and it's inherent issues with poor navigation tracking, continuous "Schedule Maintenance" or for me, sometimes it just plain loses track that its on a navigation and suppose to tell me where to go but instead - it goes "poof" into thin air all by itself. *sigh*
UPDATE 05/24/2013: Galpin Ford replaced my GPS unit and its been SUPERB, no more driving in the middle of houses. Part # is CJ5Z10E893C. Based on the information here, some owners are still having the navigation issue here with the 3.5.1 MFT update (see threads) and with my own experience with having this GPS unit replaced and still running the 3.1.3 MFT, it leads me to conclude there was a batch of bad GPS units out there. Also ArizonaEnergi (first to do the update I believe) also had his GPS unit replaced and he was running 3.1.3 fine as well. Yes, Yes, Yes
2. Voice command. Sometimes it works, sometime it doesn't.
4. Liftgate - one or 2 kicks? Sometimes 1, sometimes 2, sometimes not at all. Great feature but wish it was implemented better. Who knows which side of the bed the liftgate got up from this morning...
UPDATE 05/24/2013: Galpin Ford applied TSB 13-5-6 and this is now a 1 kick to open the liftgate. Yah! Please note, this TSB does not appear in the mandatory update when your Ford Service Advisor search for the update number. Have them look by component - in this case "Liftgate" and the TSB will appear under there. Its a quick update and well worth it for the hassle free liftgate operation.
There is no doubt, that this is one of Ford's best hybrid to date. As I said to the Ford Engineers at the Ford Irvine Pow-Wow in early Febuary 2013, if this is Gen 1, I would hate to think how good the next Gen of CMax is going to be given the effort put into this 1st Gen (yes, posters here argue if this is 1st gen or not but I am calling it 1st Gen cause its never been here and with a new powerplant as well).
Definitely, the strong and un-arguable points for the CMax is the seating, handling, power and utility. Sure it may not be as big in the back as a Prius V but the Vee will never, ever have the handling or power/climb like a CMax. That is fact.
On the flipside, if you want fuel efficiency, it can do that but you are giving up the power and speed & travel time, to do this.
It's completely up to you and your RIGHT FOOT to decide how you want to drive the CMax - isn't that nice of Ford to give you such simplicity to make your decision?
Thanks for the read, hope this review help all your new Maxers out there and keep , it gets better and better.
PS: I do not work for Ford, Galpin or have any professional associations with them, this review is based solely on my experiences.
UPDATE: 04/20/2013 8:30AM added in the Engine Break In section.
04/20/2013 6:30PM Added fuelly.com chart.
06/28/2013 Updated with new thoughts and new 833.8 milestones.
Edited by Jus-A-CMax, 02 July 2013 - 11:51 PM.