2017 Ford Fusion
2017 Ford Fusion Sport Review: Didn’t see this coming
By Dan Heyman
Jul. 19, 2017
A few years ago—well, many years ago—I was an avid video game fan, mainly (and this should come as no surprise) of racing games. I had all the Need for Speeds, Test Drives and NASCARs my job as a minor hockey league referee would allow me to afford. Sometimes, I’d venture off the beaten path in search of a more eclectic title, which introduced me to TOCA Race Driver 2, featuring a brace of British touring cars I’d never heard of. One of them was the Ford Mondeo, and it was one of the coolest-looking cars in the game, with its white-and-blue paint job and bright white wheels.
I didn’t know it then, but the Mondeo was nothing more than a mass-market midsize sedan, as opposed to a cool muscle car from the wilds of the Welsh moors, as my limited experience led me to believe. I also didn’t know we had a version of the Mondeo here called the Contour, and there was even a high-performance (and underrated) SVT version.
Fast-forward 20 years: the Mondeo is now a world car, and it’s called Fusion here. Its lineage, with the Mondeo cracking through the rain at Brands Hatch and Snetterton in the UK, might be one reason (along with Ford’s current NASCAR entrant being labelled a “Fusion”) we’re seeing a high-performance version of the Fusion here today.
Pros & Cons
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Sharp handling
- + Usable technology
- - Conservative interior design
- - Price
While our car’s Lightning Blue colour is available elsewhere in the Fusion line-up, the Sport gets a good selection of stylistic adds to differentiate it from the rest of the pack. The standard smoked-grey 19-inch alloys (your only choice) are a perfect fit for the job, while a mesh grille and redesigned front and rear bumpers and rocker panels give the Sport a squatter stance. I’m also a big fan of the dual rear exhaust outlets.
This conversion allows the Fusion to reach its full stylistic potential. Ford’s popular mid-sizer is already a pretty car, with its squinting headlamp lenses and cab-forward profile, but the conversion to Sport status manages to add a little something without going over the top. It’s something Cadillac (yes, I went there) has been doing for years with its subtle-yet-not conversions of the ATS and CTS sedans to “V” class.
Unfortunately, I can’t heap quite as much praise on the interior. For starters, if you want a Sport, taxicab-tint grey upholstery is your only choice. The use of suede and leather adds to the sportiness, but why not offer a black colour option? I don’t want to feel like I’m driving around in a vat of cement.
The other additions, however, are nice: carbon fibre, faux brushed aluminum and chrome are drizzled over all the right areas, while standard Fusion fare such as modern dash lines and lighting works well here. I’d like a little less scratchable plastic on the centre stack, though.
Comfort-wise, the Sport gets a set of nicely bolstered sport seats at the front (that come heated and cooled, and can be adjusted 10 ways) and new, thicker floor mats with “Sport” embroidery. The rest is all par for the course: average-sized trunk that’s a bit of a squeeze for larger items, 60/40 split rear seats, and a surprising amount of rear headroom, considering the swoopiness of the whole thing.
Opting for a Sport means you also get Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment, one of the best interfaces in the biz, as standard. It offers nice graphics, responsive eight-inch touchscreen, and intuitive menus. All the main submenus are accessible from the bottom of the home screen, which makes navigation much easier. If you prefer, you can activate Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and easily switch between them.
On the safety front, Ford has thrown the kitchen sink at this thing, offering lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning, hill-start assist and adaptive cruise control with stop-go capability. Even if you wanted to, there’s nothing more you could add to your Fusion to make it safer.
One of the highlights is the lane-keep assist system, which is a multi-stage affair: You can turn it off completely, set it to vibrate the wheel if you start to sway (at two levels of intensity), or actually have it steer you back on track. The latter’s also tuneable to two levels, and I recommend you keep it on the milder of the two, as it tends to be a little squirrely otherwise.
In keeping with the “kitchen sink” theme, AWD is also standard, and your only engine choice is a 2.7L EcoBoost turbo good for 325 hp and 380—three hundred and eighty!—lb-ft of torque. That’s more power than what’s made by either the four-cylinder turbo or V6 engines offered in the Mustang. That’s right; Ford’s family sedan makes more power than its pony car. Never thought I’d see the day.
Nevertheless, that day is here, and driving enthusiasts across the land should be happy that Ford’s making what’s technically a non-luxury sedan that can reach highway speeds in around six seconds. I applaud the Blue Oval for having the stones to go this way. Even the engine cover is in on the deal; the “V6” script found there is very hot rod, and no other models get it.
You feel it, too: coupled with the AWD and quick-shifting SelectShift automatic—quicker still if you select the Sport-specific “S” drive setting by pressing down on a button at the centre of the gear select dial—the Fusion Sport accelerates like you’d never expect. Activate the standard paddle shifters, and the experience gets even more engrossing. This is a car you can really drive, like all the traditional sports-sedan champs coming out of Germany and Japan. It’s no surprise that Ford uses twin-turbo EcoBoost power (just like what’s found here) for the GT supercar and last year’s entrant in the WeatherTech Sportscar Championship’s Prototype class.
Also standard on the Sport is a set of adaptive dampers that read what’s going on beneath the tires below and can adjust on the fly. They can’t be manually tuned like the ones on the Focus RS, but they do a fine job nevertheless. Body roll is pleasantly reduced, and while the ride is a little firmer than you’ll find elsewhere in the line-up, I wouldn’t call this a hard-riding car.
Instead, what you have is essentially a family sedan that can be made to do some pretty tricky things when asked, not something easily found in this segment. Other manufacturers have tried to walk that line—Nissan’s branding of their Maxima as a “four-door sports car” comes to mind—but never have those efforts been quite as successful as they are here. This is one fantastic drive.
I’ll say it right off the bat: The Fusion’s upscale Lincoln MKZ cousin actually starts at less than the Sport, and the Sport is the second-most expensive Fusion in the line-up after the Energi Platinum plug-in hybrid model. Which poses a bit of a problem.
It’s not that the Fusion Sport is under-equipped, as we explained earlier. It’s just that you have to ask yourself how many people are going to spend that kind of money on a mid-size sports sedan that doesn’t have a BMW or Lexus badge on its snout. I’m confident that once somebody drives a Sport, they will see its benefits, but the challenge will be for Ford to find ways to get people to sit in the Sport instead of the equally-priced but softer Platinum model, or one of the high-spec Hybrid or Energi versions, trims that are a little more at home in the mid-size sedan segment.
I sincerely hope people give the Fusion Sport a try when considering a vehicle of this type. It matches up well with more proven models such as the Cadillac ATS V-sport or Lexus IS 350 F-Sport, both slightly smaller cars that will cost you more to get into. Ignore the Fusion Sport, and you risk ignoring one of the best drives in the segment, and quite possibly a future classic.