New Fusion more than a pretty face

The Ford Fusion, resembling a certain British sports car, is a formidable entry in the midsize-sedan class.
The Ford Fusion, resembling a certain British sports car, is a formidable entry in the midsize-sedan class.
Posted: September 30, 2012

I walked into a room whose white walls were densely populated by early renderings of the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion.

Those drawings suggested that from the outset, Ford's designers were quite infatuated with the Aston Martin signature grille, a design element that ultimately added significantly to the stylishness of Ford's new midsize sedan.

Samantha "Sam" Hoyt, the Fusion's brand manager, smiled wanly when I mentioned the Ford grille's kinship with that of the British sports car.

"The people at Aston Martin were not happy about us using it," she said.

"But," I said, "the new Fusion was being developed before Ford sold Aston Martin. It was your company."

"I know."

What I also know is that the folks at Aston Martin really ought to stop whining. This is the automobile business, where everybody steals from everybody else.

What I also came to know, at a recent regional show-and-tell for the new Fusion, is that Ford has fielded a formidable entry in a brutally competitive segment. Millions of midsize family sedans are sold in this country each year, and a covey of competent car companies is vying for a piece of that pie.

And Ford isn't going to have a leg up because it has a brand-new car. There's no stale iron on this field of battle. All the other principal combatants in the midsize war - from Honda and Toyota to Nissan and Chevrolet - came out with redesigned cars about 15 minutes ago.

What Ford does have in the Fusion is a particularly good-looking car with excellent driving dynamics and an unmatched multiplicity of powertrains that includes a hybrid whose projected EPA mileage estimates make it the nation's most fuel-efficient midsize sedan.

Ford has already begun shipping the Fusion (from plants in Flat Rock, Mich., and Hermosillo, Mexico) and it should be in your local showroom before October gets too geriatric.

I got into three types of Fusions during the driving event. Generally speaking, they were solid, quiet automobiles fitted with engines that ranged from adequate to quite lively, and endowed with nice road manners. The cars' ride and handling speak to the fact that Ford has let its European suspension engineers get into the act. The Fusion's undercarriage is firm enough to zip through the corners with aplomb, but not so hard as to beat you up on the bumps.

Let's take a quick look at the three I drove:

Fusion SE (base price $23,700). This SE, one cut above the base S model, is nicely equipped, with standard amenities including alloy wheels, a 10-way power driver's seat and heated mirrors. Like its Fusion brethren, it is a roomy, comfortable car with acceptable body and interior fits and superb paint work.

It also raises the question: Can a teeny, 1.6-liter engine adequately power a 3,421-pound sedan? I found that the answer is yes if it is this turbocharged, direct injection EcoBoost engine that develops 178 horsepower and even more torque.

While the car I drove would get EPAs of 23 city and 36 highway in standard form, the tester was rated at 25 and 37, which is exceptional for a midsize car. This is because it was fitted with Ford's new stop-start technology, which shuts the engine off when you come to stop, and turns it back on when you release the brake. This option, which includes drag-reducing grille shutters and underbody shields, costs just $295. Hoyt said the fuel savings will cover that cost in 18 months of average driving.

Fusion SE Hybrid ($27,200). This guy turns out to be as fuel-efficient as it is quiet. A 2-liter engine and an electric motor team up for a quite adequate 188 horsepower and the best midsize EPAs in the business: 47 city and 47 highway.

Fusion Titanium AWD ($32,200). This top-of-the-line all-wheel-driver has the most goodies and the most guts in Fusionville. The 2-liter EcoBoost brings 240 horses and 270 pounds-feet of torque to the party, yet manages respectable EPAs of 22 city and 31 highway.


Contact Al Haas

at alhaasauto@aol.com.

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