To our regular readers, if it seems like The Garage has been pumping out nothing but reviews of mid-size cars lately, well, the bottom line is we’ve been slammed with an onslaught of new, redesigned mid-size cars hitting the showroom floor. Sure, the crossover is what everyone is chatting about, but in the real world, the mid-size family car remains king, and the competition is absolutely cutthroat. The 2013 Ford Fusion is all new for this year. Ford flew me to the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit to see the global reveal of the car. While there, Ford took me behind the scenes, showing me clay models of the Fusion, and the advanced technology of putting the Fusion on massive computer monitors just to see how the car looked in different backgrounds, just to make sure they were getting the right look.
The work paid off. The new Ford Fusion is easily one of the most dramatic and stylish mid-size cars out there. Curvy and elegant, the Fusion just drips with class. Without a doubt the best view is from the front. Let’s face it-if you’re going to copy a grille from anyone, you cannot go wrong by aping Aston Martin. Flanked by narrow, deeply focused headlamp clusters, the Fusion looks a little more aggressive than one would think of a family car, but the end result is brilliant. Ford smartly decided it made more sense to be a true global company, meaning one design would work for the world. The Fusion is a direct result of this thinking, and if it looks as if the car has a very European flair, it’s because it partly is.
Inside the Fusion, the look is quite contemporary. However, our test car was fitted with an all black interior with piano black and silver trim. As you can imagine, this made for a slightly austere and dark cabin. That said, the interior offered plenty of room for all, and the driver’s seat was very comfortable. Quality of materials was just average, and I was shocked to see how poorly the trim was attached on the passenger door. High-end Fusions feature the controversial Ford MyTouch, which car magazines love to complain about without really going in to detail as to what MyTouch is. As you can see above, you have an 8″ LCD screen that handles four aspects of the car-entertainment, navigation, phone, and climate control. Below that screen are a sort of buttonless controls allowing you to make adjustments you can make on-screen as well. In the gauge cluster, the sole analog gauge is the speedometer, which is flanked by two 4″ customizable LCD screens which can show different information from menu buttons on the steering wheel.
This all sounds really neat, and cutting edge, right? People were amazed at the capabilities of MyTouch as I went from screen to screen, and displaying the plethora of information available to me. And it was easy to show all of this because the car was in park. Cruising at 80mph, the last thing you want to be doing is scrolling through menus. While the redundant buttonless panel is cool in concept, it’s sort of like when you click an icon on your smartphone and nothing happens. Again, the big difference here is that you are trying to make simple adjustments that aren’t happening while you are driving a car. Ford’s MyTouch is an awesome concept in theory, but in the real world it still needs some work.
The Fusion is offered in three trim levels, S, SE, and Titanium. The S and SE come standard with a 2.5L four cylinder engine rated at 175hp, paired to a six-speed automatic. With the SE, you also have the option of a 1.6L turbocharged four rated at 178hp, and the bonus here is you can outfit your Fusion with a six-speed manual transmission, a rarity in this class of car. Of course, the automatic is also available. Finally, the Titanium has a 2.0L turbocharged four rated at 240hp, which is available only with a six-speed automatic. Unique to its class, the Fusion Titanium is available in front or all-wheel drive. In a quest for fuel economy, Ford is not offering a V-6 Fusion as it did before. Our all-wheel drive Fusion had EPA fuel economy ratings of 22/31 MPG city/highway, which I found to be pretty respectable. The top-spec engine gets the job done just fine, and is remarkably refined and unobtrusive. Acceleration will meet or exceed any typical buyer’s expectations, but as far as pure horsepower goes, the competition offers much more. Once again we go back to Ford’s global platform, and the dividends pay off handsomely. The Fusion handles exceptionally well when the road gets twisty, and is a perfectly competent long distance cruiser. As far as driving dynamics go, Ford nailed it.
The Fusion is, as was intended, a mainstream family sedan aimed directly at middle-class families. And with a starting price of around $22,000USD, that sounds about right. And I suspect the vast majority of Fusion sales will be the S or SE models. Our test car, however, was the Titanium all-wheel drive version, and a technological tour de force of essentially everything Ford has available now, and that is reflected in the price of our car. With standard equipment such as 18″ alloys, dual zone automatic climate control, power, heated leather seats, aluminum pedals, ambient interior lighting, premium Sony audio, XMSirius radio, HD radio, rearview camera, perimeter alarm and reverse sensing assist. Our test car’s options included the Ruby Red paint, active park assist, adaptive cruise control, navigation, 19″ alloys, and the Driver Assist Package (lane keeping system and cross-traffic alert). Including delivery charges, our Fusion rings up at breathtaking $37,670. We’re now in Lexus/Infiniti/Audi/BMW territory here, but outfit any of those cars like our Fusion you could be looking at an extra $15,000.
It’s pretty common for a manufacturer to give people like me, the media, the absolute top of the line car to see and sample the best that they have to offer. But that doesn’t mean it is what you, the consumer buys when you sign the check at the dealer. In its favor, the Fusion is positively gorgeous, and in speaking to Ford CEO Alan Mulally, he is clearly proud of his car, as is chief designer J. Mays. The Fusion manages to click off all the right boxes-styling, comfort, roominess, generous trunk space and good handling. And the car buying public has responded-Ford can barely keep Fusions on their lots, and are hurrying to tool up another Fusion factory in Michigan. I know Ford is proud of the technology they have available in the Fusion, but in the case of our test car, I found it way over priced. At nearly $38,000 I want a warm, inviting interior. Not plastic, and especially without trim popping out. She is a looker, has excellent handling, but Ford, we just needed that little extra to make it to the absolute top of the class.