Ford C-Max Hybrid Takes Aim At Volt, Prius

Late last night, Ford quietly let slip a few details about their upcoming, purpose-built hybrid, the C-Max. The Blue Oval’s Prius-fighter will only be available as either a hybrid or plug-in hybrid model, and we all assumed they would be powered by EcoBoost engines. Well hidden in the details was the news that two new Atkinson-cycle engines would be on tap. And no, they’re not rotary engines.

I got excited at first, thinking we might see the comeback of the rotary engine. But in fact the two gas engines will be 2.0-liter, four-cylinder motors with an unspecified amount of horsepower and torque. According to Ford’s press release though, it is among their “most advanced” non-turbo engines. Atkinson-cycle engines combine that power, compression, intake, and exhaust cycles of an engine into a single turn of the crankshaft. They are incredibly efficient, if not overly powerful engines.

The Atkinson cycle is usually employed in rotary-style engines made popular by Mazda, though it can also be used in standard cylinder-based engines. The problem is, these engines lack low-end grunt…which can be offset by either a turbocharger (in Mazda’s case) or an electric motor, the path that Ford is taking. It’s an interesting choice, and I will be sure to question some suits come the Detroit Auto Show about this decision. But since the C-Max will be hybrid-only from the get-go, perhaps Ford figured they didn’t need the EcoBoost’s extra grunt.

Ford is taking square aim at the Prius and Volt with the C-Max, calling out both models in the press release. Ford is claiming the C-Max will be able to get up to 500+ miles on a tank of gas, about 66% more mileage than a Chevy Volt. Ford also expects fuel economy to be better than the Prius V, and to deliver a better fuel economy equivalent than the Prius Plug-In in charge-depletion (i.e. more all-electric miles)

The Blue Oval will hopefully get more specific during the Detroit Auto Show in January, because they are making some pretty bold claims for a brand new car. Ford has been on a roll lately, but it will all come down to to MPG and MSRP, which is what seems to matter the most to Americans these days.

Source: Ford

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.