When we conducted our first test of Ford's new-for-2017 Fusion Sport with its 325-hp 2.7-liter turbocharged powerhouse, we expected to take delivery of this muscular family sedan on the model's available summer tires. That didn't happen.
Instead, it arrived wearing Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric all-season rubber. It performed admirably, certainly in acceleration tests, garnering a 5.1-second zero-to-60-mph time. And it ran the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 101 mph. That's at least a half-second fleeter, in either measure, than the quickest V-6–powered competitors. So there's no doubt which family hauler is the hauling-est on the market.
Riding on the all-season tires, as is standard operating procedure for family sedans, the all-wheel-drive Fusion Sport delivered 0.84 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad, putting it near the sharp end of the segment, and stopped from 70 mph in 178 feet, near the bottom of its competitive set.
But what are the costs and benefits of replacing the standard rubber with summer tires of the identical 235/40R-19 size? The cost is fairly easy to figure. Ford offers a set of Continental ContiSportContact 5 tires for a piddling $195. That consumers in the cold and snowy states will need to buy a set of winter tires ups that outlay considerably. Winter tires in the original-equipment size cost between $850 and $1100, not including mounting and balancing or a spare set of wheels. We advise that even owners of all-season-equipped vehicles—all-wheel drive or not—should switch to winter tires if they drive in any area that gets significant snowfall. But if you bask in a year-round warm and sunny climate, $195 is a steal.
As for the benefits, there are a couple of measurable ones. The weight difference between the two 2017 Fusion Sports—which were optioned nearly identically—is only a single pound, and the addition of the summer rubber comes with no changes to the all-wheel-drive system or the tune of the suspension. The summer tires helped the Sport generate 0.89 g on the skidpad, 0.05 g greater than with the all-seasons. The vehicle is still stability-control-inhibited on the skidpad, but the summer tires provide more stick before the electronic overlords come a-callin'. That puts the car in the grip league with the Mazda Miata Club and the Chevrolet Camaro LT V-6 instead of in direct competition with other family sedans. More compelling is that the summer tires chop 23 feet off the 70-mph-to-zero stopping distance, the deed having been done in 155 feet. That means the Fusion Sport goes from one of the most lackluster-braking cars in the class to the best, by 12 feet over its next closest competitors (the Chevrolet Malibu 2.0T and the Hyundai Sonata 2.0T).
In addition to the financial cost, the summer tires also cost the Fusion Sport one-tenth of a second in both the zero-to-60-mph run and the quarter-mile. Why is the car equipped with summer tires slower than the car with all-seasons? Well, first, it really isn't slower. A tenth doesn't mean much in the world of family haulers, even ones called "Sport." Our test driver noted that the all-season-shod car was able to get a bit of wheelspin on launch where the grippier summer-tire car couldn't, which might have accounted for the tenth. Or perhaps the engine in the all-season-tire version was just a touch more powerful. Or perhaps the tectonic plate on which Michigan sits rose slightly without our knowing it, putting us into thinner air. Or maybe it doesn't matter at all. Also, our sound-level test showed no meaningful difference between the two sets of tires.
How does it feel on the road? Well, predictably, it feels much like a Fusion Sport with all-season tires. The car turns in with slightly more verve and, of course, hangs on a little longer before washing out in corners. But tires can't change the character of the car, which is a competent, powerful family sedan in which the engine scores a capital-S "Sport" and the chassis, steering, and brake-pedal feel rate a lowercase "sport." This Continental tire is classed as a maximum-performance summer tire, but it didn't impose the penalties we found when we recently tested the Lincoln MKZ equipped with Michelin Pilot Super Sports from the same category.
In the end, if the object that you're trying to avoid colliding with is closer than the distance that the all-season-tire car needs to come to a stop, the summer-tire option will seem like an exceptionally good deal.
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