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Rearview Camera Joins Standard Equipment, While High-Fashion Style, Great Dynamics – And Tight Back Seat – Return

What changes will make it different?

Just some features tweaks as this shapely sedan heads into a final season before a model-year 2016 freshening. The lineup returns base S, volume-selling SE, and top-line Titanium models, plus a conventional hybrids and the Energi plug-in hybrid. Fuel economy ratings for both those gas-electric models have been lowered after the automaker’s testing errors were discovered.

Why should I wait for the 2016 model?

To see how the carmaker updates its styling, features, and maybe powertrains. Dimensions won’t change until the full redesign likely around model-year 2018. That means the current edition of this five-passenger four-door will continue to trail the class leaders for rear-seat legroom. But it should remain among the pacesetters for artsy design and advanced tech. On that last point, the updates almost certainly will include the latest version of the MyFord Touch infotainment system. The controversial feature is undergoing an overall to better blend its touchscreen control interface with traditional buttons and switches.

Should I buy the current 2015 instead?

If you’re smitten with the styling and can live with today’s version of MyFord Touch. This car debuted in its current form for model-year 2013. Sharing its engineering with the corporation’s European Mondeo sedan means outstanding road manners (but also that cramped back seat). And borrowing some of its looks from exotic Aston Martin — the British brand Ford used to own – gives it sheetmetal that still turns heads. We’d say rolling the dice that it won’t get any gotta-wait-for changes could well be worth taking advantage of inventory close-out sales as the ‘16s approach, especially if you don’t plan to trade it in anytime soon.

Will the styling be different?

No, unless you take advantage of some new exterior paint choices – “Tectonic” and “Bronze Fire Tinted Clearcoat Metallic” among them – or the new Terracotta-themed trim package. Available on SE and Titanium models, that option includes color-coordinated leather upholstery, door inserts, and floormats, plus 18-inch painted and machined alloy wheels. Also of note, though, the entry-level S model dumps its prosaic steel wheels and plastic wheel covers for newly standard and very comely 16-inch 10-spoke alloys.

Any mechanical changes?

None, following the phase-out of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in favor or a more advanced 1.5-liter version. Once again, nothing in this competitive set offers a wider variety of powertrains. And this is among the few non-premium-class midsize cars available with all-wheel drive (AWD) in addition to the customary front-wheel drive. (AWD is optional on the Buick Regal and standard on the Subaru Legacy.) It’s also among the midsize cars that no longer offers a V-6 engine, going instead with an all four-cylinder line. S and SE models reprise a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter. Available on the SE is a 181-horsepower 1.5-liter from the company’s turbocharged EcoBoost engine family. For an additional $295, buyers can equip it with a gas-saving start/stop option. This automatically shuts it off when the car is not moving and restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal (accessories continue to run during shut-off). Also available on SE’s and standard on the Titanium is a 240-horse EcoBoost 2.0-liter. All of these come with a six-speed automatic transmission and the 2.0-liter is available with AWD. The Hybrid and the plug-in Energi share a 2.0-liter gas engine that pairs with a battery-powered electric motor for a net 188 horsepower. The Hybrid is a conventional type that can run on gas, batteries, or a combination determined by sensors seeking the optimal blend of power and fuel economy. The Energi operates the same way, but can pull an initial battery charge by plugging into a residential or commercial outlet. This extends its electric-only driving range to a maximum of 19 miles, versus just a few at a time for the standard Hybrid. Both alternative-fuel models have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that performs the duties of a conventional automatic but without the series of set gear ratios. Every version of this vehicle has four-wheel antilock disc brakes and the company’s AdvanceTrac electronic stability control. AWD models automatically shuffle power to the rear wheels when sensors detect front-tire slip.

Will fuel economy improve?

No change up or down – to the automaker’s relief after an embarrassing retreat on fuel-economy numbers prompted by complaints from Hybrid and Energi owners who said they weren’t getting the promised mileage. The recalculated ratings are 44/41/42 mpg city/highway/combined for the Hybrid, down from 47/47/47 mpg. Under the EPA’s system, the Energi now rates 38 mpg combined city/highway, down from 43 mpg combined. Using its maximum potential power-grid charge, it rates 88 mpg-equivalent, down from 100 mpg-e in the EPA’s gas-to-electric metric. And its electric-only range of 19 miles is down from 21 miles. Ratings for the other models are 22/34/26 mpg city/highway/combined with the 2.5-liter engine. The 1.5 rates 24/36/28, or 22/31/25 when the stop-start system’s advantages are included. The 2.0-liter rates 22/33/26 mpg with front-wheel drive and 22/31/25 with AWD.

Will it have new features?

A rearview camera is now standard on all models. The SE now comes with a power front passenger seat and the Titanium’s standard power driver’s seat gains additional adjustments. Included on every model are power windows, locks, and mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, a tire-pressure monitor, cruise control, and two rear LATCH child-seat anchor points. The SE adds satellite radio and mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators among standard features. SE options again include lane-departure warning with steering correction; foreword-collision warning; blind-spot information with cross-traffic alert; a power moonroof; heated steering wheel; radar adaptive cruise control; and Active Park Assist, which can detect a suitable parallel parking space and automatically back the car into it. Leather upholstery with heated front seats and driver’s-seat memory, a navigation system, remote engine start, and inflatable rear seatbelts also are available. Titaniums essentially come with every option standard, plus the 2.0-liter engine fancier trim inside and out.

How will 2015 prices be different?

They increase slightly and while S and SE models remain competitively priced, Titaniums cost as much as V-6 versions of such rivals as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry, which can trouble some buyers with old-school powertrain allegiances. Base prices listed here include the manufacturer’s destination fee, in this case, $825. S models are priced from $23,225 and SE’s with the 2.5-liter engine from $24,760. With the 1.5-liter, SEs start at $25,555, and with the 2.0-liter, at $27,050 with front-drive and $29,050 with AWD. Titaniums begin at $31,425 with front drive and at $33,425 with AWD. The Hybrid comes in SE form, starting at $28,105, and in Titanium trim, starting at $32,995. The Energi is available in the similar trims, priced from $35,525 and $37,325, respectively.

When will it come out?

Summer 2014

Best competitors

Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat

What change would make it better?

A roomier back seat will have to await the next full redesign, but the company’s making the right move by trying to simplify MyFord Touch in the interim. Building on the brand’s Sync hands-free connectivity, it was initially intended to dispense with virtually all knobs and buttons in favor of ostensibly less distracting voice commands and touchscreen icons. Despite fairly regular software updates, it was unintuitive and plagued by slow, buggy operation. The latest versions seek a simplified driver/system interface and restore some buttons and knobs for certain primary functions.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]