Ford Focus Electric test drive and MyFord Mobile hands-on (video)

This is the production version of Ford's Focus Electric for the US market, and we got the chance to take it for a proper test drive last week. Don't fret, though -- Engadget hasn't suddenly turned into a car site. While we'll be happy to share our driving impressions, we're mostly interested in how Ford interfaces the vehicle with our favorite mobile devices and social networks -- tech that we've covered before, known as MyFord Mobile. Hit the break for the details, including our hands-on video.

Ford Focus Electric hands-on

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We enjoyed driving the 76-mile range Focus Electric -- our three-mile loop downtown San Francisco even included some of the city's famous hills. As you'd expect, the electric motor provides plenty of (computer-modulated) torque, even with four people on board. Behind the wheel, the car feels much less appliance-like than Toyota's Prius plug-in hybrid and a bit more refined and engaging than the Chevy Volt. The cockpit layout shuns the sci-fi approach for a more traditional, driver-centric environment.

Steering and handling are the best we've experienced amongst mainstream EVs -- attributes that the Focus Electric likely inherits from its gasoline-engined twin. With some of the 23kWh battery pack's Li-ion cells under the trunk, weight distribution is supposedly close to 50/50, which is rare for a front-wheel-drive vehicle. As a result, Ford engineers have tuned the suspension to minimize oversteer during throttle lift-off. The dynamic character of the car doesn't detract from making it a comfortable ride, and the brakes get the job done without any regen weirdness.

As you'll recall, the Focus Electric features an embedded wireless data connection using AT&T's network which enables remote vehicle monitoring and control. The MyFord Mobile app lets you connect to the car from your iOS, Android and BlackBerry smartphone (or from a Web portal) to check the battery status and range, to initiate charging (if the EV's already plugged in) and to adjust the climate control (to set cabin temperature ahead of time, while still on the grid). It also allows you to plan trips by taking into account the location of charging stations and by knowing your vehicle's current position.

In addition, the app also coaches you by providing feedback on your driving style (we managed to reclaim 74% of the energy we used during our test drive, despite our heavy foot). All this is complemented by a generous serving of social networking integration -- letting you share routes, driving scores and achievements with friends via Twitter, Facebook and email. The app also incorporates Microsoft-powered Value Charging which automatically refills your battery pack (in 3-4 hours at 240V) when the utility rates are the lowest each day.

Watch our hands-on video above in which Bill Frykman demos the MyFord Mobile app right after we took the car for a spin. The Ford Focus Electric is available now for $39,200 plus a $795 destination charge.

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Ford Focus Electric test drive and MyFord Mobile hands-on (video)