Ever since their launch, the Ford C-Max and Ford Fusion Hybrid have garnered strong reviews for style and driving dynamics — along with a chorus of complaints that neither vehicle came close to their fuel economy ratings of 47 mpg. Despite lawsuits, unfavorable tests and an EPA investigation, Ford has said nothing was wrong with the cars — going so far as to suggest the vehicles were just so fun to drive that owners couldn't help but miss the fuel economy estimates.
Today, Ford changed course, announcing it would provide a free software upgrade to 77,000 C-Max, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid owners in the United States and Canada designed to improve fuel economy.
According to Ford, the software will change several of the hybrid vehicles' decision points — such as when to use the shutters in the grille that close for better airflow, raising the top electric speed of the vehicles to rise to 85 mph from 62 and more aggressive use of the engines' stop-start feature.
Since Consumer Reports and others found the C-Max nearly 10 mpg shy of its rating, reports from customers has improved somewhat; at Fuelly, C-Max owners have reported an average of 40 mpg, while Ford Fusion Hybrid owners say they're getting 41.1 mpg. Ford cautioned that the changes wouldn't improve every driver's mileage by the same amount and didn't specify how much efficiency would improve, saying the biggest gains would come in highway driving, when the air conditioner is on and in colder temperatures. If the software closes the gap between the window sticker mileage and what owners see in the real world, Ford may avoid having to make even more changes to the car — or reset its numbers as Hyundai had to do following an EPA investigation last year.