On tour with the C-Max

Ken Simmons
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When a local rep for Ford Canada asked if we could get a press fleet car in Newfoundland, which would I like to drive, I shot for the 660-horsepower top of the heap. In for a penny, and all that.
But, I was quick to add, I'd be happy to test anything from the fleet. If Ford was willing to scale the water wall that has blocked the availability of corporate test cars from local car writers - well, me - for at least the past quarter century, I would be more than happy to share the experience with you, dear reader.

What we got was a 2013 C-Max Hybrid SEL with a bit more than 15,000 km on the clock.

The C-Max is on the cutting edge of Ford's technology palette, boasting 188 net horsepower from a two-litre gas engine and an 88-kW electric motor. These various powers are transmitted to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission - no shifting.

Inside, there are three screens to help you keep track of vital functions like fuel economy (the hybrid's raison d'être, after all), climate controls, the audio/video system, navigation and a Bluetooth-connected phone. Just about all the functions can be directed from the centre-console touch screen, fingertip controls at the wheel, or voice control courtesy Ford's Sync system. Press a lever on the wheel and enter into a conversation with your car.

My wife and I decided to take this wonder of modern motoring north, fulfilling a long-held desire to visit Twillingate, a one-time booming fishing town that has transformed itself into one of the province's must-see tourist spots.

We did not need the C-Max's built-in navigation system to get us to the Road to the Isles, but the driver's 10-way power adjustments on the SEL's leather-trimmed seats made the four-plus-hour run a comfortable journey. His-and-hers (in our case) environment controls helped keep the conversation civil, too.

It is easy to see where the Road to the Isles gets its name once you reach Gander Bay. The island's north coast is like a torn crust of bread laying on the counter of the North Atlantic, crumbs scattered along the ragged edge.

The islands are not barren, not by a long shot. In late July, the hills are lush with bright trees on the banks, heavy brush lining the twisting roads of the Twillingate islands and New World Island, which helps bridge the gap to the "mainland."

Hundreds head to the town during the summers, enjoying its reputation for whale and iceberg watching and keeping the many boat tour operations busy. The town's annual folk festival stuffed every room full on our weekend, and we settled in a lovely B&B in nearby Hillgrade, thanks to an opportune cancellation.

The C-Max had ample power for the highway ride, the electric half of the system engaging seamlessly whenever the load was low enough to permit it. Gas will still drive you up a hill or around that transport truck, but the little four-cylinder is still quite frugal. Over the week in my possession, it averaged 6.1 litres per 100 km, working out to 38.6 miles per U.S. gallon, which we shall use here since it is the last gallon standing in these here parts.

Between Gander and Gander, our weekend round-trip, the C-Max needed just 5.5 litres to cover each 100 kilometres of twisting roads and climbing hills. That's 42.8 mpg, and respectable in anyone's book.

The little Ford treated us well while we explored the islands, taking us to the trail at Pike's Arm, to visit with John Keefe in Newville - and grab a shot of his home-built pirate boat, the Golden Eagle - and on to tour the museum in Cottlesville. However, the firm suspension might be better suited to a sporting run on cleaner pavement than the rut- and pothole-dodging touring this province requires. Still, no fillings were harmed in the creation of this piece.

The C-Max Hybrid lists at a tick over $30,000 in Canada for the SEL package, which puts the technology well within reach for most mid-range buyers of new cars. Add in rebates and special pricing available in the current market and some very long-term finance options, and the once-upon-a-time fairytale of costly hybrids is put to rest.

Ken Simmons, The Telegram's new media editor, breathes exhaust and exhales clean, fresh air. Twitter @Ken_Simmons_NL/Tumblr rocknrolln.tumblr.com


Organizations: Bluetooth, The Telegram

Geographic location: Twillingate, Gander Bay, North Atlantic New World Island U.S. Newville Cottlesville Canada

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