The High-Performance, Mainstream Mid-Sized Sedan Has Returned!
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport
If one thing this 2017 Ford Fusion Sport represents is the return of the performance mid-sized sedan in America.
That is a heck of declaration. But, think about what transpired in the automotive market over the past few years. This year alone saw the SUV – in particular, the compact SUV – outsell every mid-sized sedan available in this country. Even the vaunted Toyota Camry took a backseat to the RAV4 last month – by a few thousand units!
While other media outlets have been selecting coffins for the mid-sized sedan, there is hope. A new 2018 Camry has arrived at showrooms, while Honda rolled out a new generation Accord for the upcoming model year. While they off high style, Honda dropped the V6, while the Camry raised theirs to 301 horsepower. Everyone else offers an all-four-cylinder lineup.
Except for Ford. Not only does the Fusion Sport have a V6 underneath its hood – it's got two turbochargers attached to it. All told, it has 325 horsepower. This makes the Ford Fusion Sport the most powerful car in its class – period.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Maybe this car will bring everyone back to the mid-sized sedan.
Before I get to some sort of conclusion, I must do this review properly…
Let me start off with some background. In 2012, the second generation Fusion was introduced as a part of the OneFord program. The basic and very sleek design would be built for a worldwide audience – Fusion in the Americas, Mondeo elsewhere on the planet. The reception was pretty good, yet there were some nitpicking. Some focused on the grille, influenced somehow by Aston Martin. Others focused on the interior design. Yet, Ford delivered on a solid sedan product that was a standout even in its most basic form.
For 2017, the Fusion received some much-needed updates. A tuck up front helped make the grille more three-dimensional while narrowing the headlight housing a bit. The rear end received some extra trim giving some pizzazz out back. Still, the silhouette remains sleek and attractive. One still recognizes as a standout among its class – even with more standout designs coming our way.
The Sport model adds some aggression to an otherwise normal Fusion. The grille gets a mesh texture in black and there is a rear spoiler on top of the trunk lid. A set of 19-inch "tarnished" alloy wheels round out the Sport's look. Fog lamps are a part of a lower fascia that perfectly sets off the rest of the front clip. Some might say that the Sport is the best looking second-generation Fusion yet.
If there is one thing I love about this tester is the Burgundy Velvet paint job. Sport models would be seen in either a white, black, gray or red tone. This deep red tone gives the Sport a luxurious look to go along with its added aggression.
Stepping inside is also a mix of sport and luxury, thanks to a leather and suede upholstery in Dark Earth Gray. The materials are mostly of high-quality touch and feel, which helps set off the improved center stack that offers fewer buttons for the climate control. This is actually the setup for the Sony audio, which offers two toggle bars and a center volume/on-off knob. The rest of typical Ford, which is pretty good.
A couple of complaints, however. You would expect the rotary e-shift knob for the transmission for other Fusion models – and it does work just fine, along with the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. However, I think Sport buyers would like to see an actual gear lever.
Plus, the instrument binnacle is what I expect from a mid-line Ford product – including the SUVs. Though the right TFT screen next to the single dial (the speedometer) offers infotainment information, it is superseded when Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto) is enabled. It becomes useless. The left TFT screen has all of the information, but I always had issues with certain gauges and their readouts. The need for either a better readout or screen requires me to scroll through the menus to get to them. Not really convenient for information “on the fly.”
What does work is Ford's SYNC 3 infotainment system. It is a complete system that includes many ways to be entertained and informed. Sony provided nine speakers filling out the cabin with solid, balanced sound. Music file playback – either by Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay – was good
As for the seats, they were indeed comfortable for cross-town runs or the long distance drive up to Duluth and beyond. There is some bolstering on the seat back and cushion but provided enough support throughout. Rear seat room is actually quite good with enough head and legroom for six-footers. Trunk space is long, without even folding down the rear seatbacks. Ford says there is 16 cubic feet of space in the back – which is actually quite good for its class. Imagine if I did a longer road trip. I would still have room for more in the trunk.
As I established early on in this review, it is the EcoBoost V6 that makes the Fusion Sport a desirable car. The 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine fits right in the engine bay. The point of having a V6 – let alone one with two turbochargers – in a mainstream mid-sized sedan bucks the trend that Ford followed with this generation of Fusion. Chevrolet switched to an all-four-cylinder (plus hybrid) engine lineup for its latest Malibu. Kia, Hyundai, Mazda had since ditched their V6s. You can now add Honda to that list with the 2018 Accord.
To supplant a 2.0-liter or larger turbocharged four-cylinder engine for V6 power may work for improved fuel economy and overall operating efficiency. Yet, there are those of us who say that there is no replacement for displacement. By bringing back a V6 to the Fusion lineup, Ford may have perked up some enthusiast's heads with this offering.
It certainly perked me up – especially when I got behind the wheel of it.
The power is fluid, though one could detect some turbo lag on occasion. Throttle response is very good overall, even evoking a bit of a V8 performance car at times. The exhaust note is amplified through the cabin, which I hope would become more real in the years ahead. The six-speed automatic responds quickly to the throttle and gets the engine to settle into some good revs, even in Sport mode.
The drawback of V6-powered mid-sized sedans becomes quite clear when fueling up. Including a day trip up to Duluth, the North Shore and the Iron Range/Mesabi region, I averaged 22.7 MPG overall.
On the road, the Fusion rides smoothly and offers no drama on the bumpiest of roads, The suspension works hard to absorb the rough spots, keeping everyone happy. You can thank Pothole detection, which makes the shocks work harder to compensate for cracks and imperfections – including, of course, potholes.
Handling can be summed up in which mode you select. Driving normally, there is minimal roll and lean through the curves and offer just good maneuverability. Press the Sport button, and things get even better. Cornering becomes flatter and the steering weight is heavier.
Speaking of steering, it is a good electric system Ford uses in the Fusion. It offers great road feel and a solid turning radius. Braking is also good, with solid stops in normal and panic situations. There is also a lot of good safety tech on board, including Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System and an excellent Auto High Beam feature. That came in handy on the drive back from Duluth!
All Fusions start with an S model and the normally-aspirated 2.5-liter Duratec four-cylinder engine, that model has a base sticker price of $22,120. Jump up to the Sport, and that base price goes up to $33,605. My tester came with several upgrades and a complete sticker price of $41,350. Customers can also choose a very luxurious model, called the Fusion Platinum, a choice of Fusion Hybrids or Fusion Energi Plug-In Hybrids to round out the lineup for 2017.
One conclusion I will make based on my time spent with the 2017 Fusion Sport is the fact that I have not driven a Ford this good in a very long time. They have been good…but not really, really good.
How do I quantify this? I always look for driver engagement in an automobile. Plenty of Fords have come close over the decade. This 2017 Ford Fusion Sport has basically nailed it. One could argue that I have not driven a modern Mustang GT or one of the newer Shelby models. Nor have I even gone near a new Ford GT. Still, the Fusion Sport represents a single idea – a mainstream mid-sized family sedan that can reward the driver and make any journey a well-balanced drive.
The high-performance mid-sized sedan has returned, indeed!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by the Ford Motor Company
All photos by Randy Stern