In recent years, Ford has been on a roll in terms of design. In fact, we named “Ford’s new face” one of the 5 Best of the 2012 NYIAS. That face is now familiar to Blue Oval fans, found in some form on cars like the Fiesta ST and this Fusion Titanium. But while a new look might turn a few heads, the Fusion needs more than sheer vanity to compete in the highly contested family sedan market. We were eager to find out what else came with the sporting new looks. As it turns out, the Ford Fusion is much more than just a pretty face.
For 2013, Ford completely renewed the Fusion with all new bodywork. Many like to point out the Aston Martin-like front grille, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Fusion is one of the best looking high-volume cars in production and, in our opinion, the best in its class. Dressed in the top Titanium trim, the Fusion comes standard with a host of features. Outside, that includes 18″ wheels, fog lights, decklid spoiler, and a unique rear lower bumper with integrated exhaust tips. The upgraded Ruby Red paint and optional 19″ dark stainless-painted aluminum wheels on our tester made it one sharp package. We were approached multiple times during the week with compliments and questions, something that usually doesn’t happen with a family sedan.
Inside, our tester came wrapped in leather and piano black trim. The interior quality has stepped up considerably, as it needs to in an increasingly competitive market. It was bolstered by all manner of the latest driving technology. Optional features like the navigation system and a driver assistance package give the Fusion an upmarket feel over the much more barren VW Passat we tested earlier. Out tester was also full of driver aids. Adaptive cruise control, park distance control, blind spot monitoring, park assist, as well as lane keep assist furnished the Fusion with an identical list of tech found in the $62,000 Lexus GS350 AWD we tested last year. Upmarket indeed. And it all functions just the same way. Ford’s SYNC system with MyFord Touch is the master-at-arms when it comes to running the ship. There’s a lot going on, so the main screen is split into 4 quadrants to keep track of a paired phone, navigation, entertainment, and climate. The right-most screen in the cluster can also be configured to display and control any of those four options. It was an easy system to get used to, but I can’t help but think that it would be a little easier to use if it wasn’t completely touch based. All the controls in the center stack are haptic, which creates a bit of a learning curve for the seasoned button-pusher.
The Fusion’s roomy and ergonomic cabin make long rides very comfortable. Rear visibility is somewhat of an issue with the larger C-pillars and tall rear deck, but the forward view is very good. The ride is quiet and very composed. It isn’t quite as distant as the Lexus GS, but the Fusion does a good job of silencing and flattening rough roads. On the highway, its easy to set all the aids and activate the traction control, letting the car do most of the work while you work out the correct enunciation to get the SYNC system to play some Flock of Seagulls. Some of you may be thinking that the upscale interior and plethora of driver’s aids mean the Fusion isn’t really a car for those who enjoy good drive. So we shut the driver’s aids off and went about trying to have a bit of fun with the Fusion on purpose.
The Ford Fusion comes standard in FWD, but the Titanium trim offers optional AWD. Our tester came so equipped, so it had plenty of grip when pushed. Predictably, understeer was prevalent in the front-wheel bias chassis. The steering was middle-of-the-road, quite literally. The Fusion was more communicative than the Lexus but less so than the Volkswagen. The combination of stiff chassis, well-tuned suspension, and solid brakes made the car a pleasure to drive. It’s easy to get carried away on roads like the Taconic State Parkway. As long as you keep the engine awake, the twists and elevation changes do little to phase the composure of the Fusion. Rest assured, you can carry four adults and have fun with the Fusion.
As mentioned, the key to getting anywhere with the Fusion is to keep the engine awake. The turbocharged four-cylinder is capable of 240 hp and 270 lb-ft torque. No doubt a great and economical engine, the 2.0L Ecoboost felt underpowered when coupled with the seemingly outdated six speed automatic. Most competitors have gone to seven or eight gears, and I’m not really sure why Ford chose not to. Shorter gears would have allowed more opportunity for the engine to feel alive. Assuming full manual control of the gearbox is as simple as sliding the gear selector back into S and making commands with the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Holding gears longer results in a more responsive drive, but there’s no accompanying symphony. The Fusions isn’t one of the better sounding blown fours. You also pay a penalty for working the engine so hard. Our as-tested fuel economy over the week’s 600 miles came in at a disappointingly low 23.7 mpg. Pay more attention to the tiny digital tachometer and you can see consumption rise to the high 20s and even low 30s if you’re careful. The AWD drivetrain also accounts for a few lost mpgs.
Trying to compare the Ford Fusion Titanium AWD by price or performance is rather difficult. With an as-tested price just under $38,000, you get a car that boasts as much technology and driver assistance as a $62,000 Lexus GS350 AWD. From the seat of the Lexus, the Ford is an absolute bargain but falls short of the Lexus’ V6. The VW Passat TDI SE we tested recently came with far less equipment and returned much higher mileage, for well under $30,000. From the VW, the Ford seems a bit costly but much more engaging to drive. Neither is truly a fair comparison, though. Ford has forged its own path with the latest Fusion. Set up the way it arrived, perhaps a bit excessively optioned for our taste, the Fusion brings a great deal of class and very good driving characteristics to the family sedan market. It set a high bar for all other competitors to challenge, and the new face of Ford arrived ready and willing to do so. The family sedan has never looked so good, even from the driver’s seat.
|2013 Ford Fusion Titanium
|Ruby Red paint||$395|
|Active Park Assist||$795|
|Adaptive Cruise Control||$995|
|19″ aluminum wheels||$695|
|Driver Assistance Package||$1000|
|As Tested MSRP||$37,670|
Related: 2014 Ford Fiesta ST: Short Drive