Ford is injecting performance into the fading midsize segment with the 2017 Fusion Sport. With the revival of sports cars, and the rash of performance crossovers, the time is right to bring back the Fusion Sport for the first time since 2010.
Carving out a more distinct look than the refreshed Fusion, the Fusion Sport gets sharp LED headlights, a unique black mesh grille, standard 19-inch dark wheels, a rear spoiler and quad tip dual exhaust.
Ford is going for subtlety with the Sport. It's perfectly reserved for Sunday family drives or for PTA pickups, but once removed from watchful eyes it can open up a pleasing can of wow.
The turbocharged V-6 EcoBoost engine is lifted from the Ford Edge Sport and Ford F-150 pickup and dropped in here to make 325 horsepower and a boa*******l 380 pound-feet of torque (with 93 octane gas) driving all the wheels. Its heavy weight of just under 4,000 pounds and less direct feel keeps it from topping the Germans but that's not quite the point.
It's one of the most powerful and well-equipped midsize sedans under $40,000, making it competitive if not better than the Mazda6 Grand Touring or the Nissan Maxima SR. (The new Maxima is closer in size to the midsize Altima than the full-size sedans with which it is historically compared.)
It's a car that can do double duty as the daily driver or family hauler while providing enough performance to stop that jones for the impractical sports car. It's a compromise semi-enthusiasts will be happy to make, and still hit 60 mph in an estimated 5.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Sport mode is accessed with a button on the gear knob in the center console, which is otherwise empty, compelling the driver to push it. Once pressed, the shift points are delayed to let the V-6 rev higher, more engine purr is piped into the cabin and the pedal is more responsive, providing plenty of boost with little lag thanks to the twin turbo. It adds zing to the daily commute, and is dangerously tempting on winding single-lane country roads.
All of this power taxes fuel economy, but that's why there's a hybrid.
The handling is tight thanks to what Ford says is the only car in the segment with an active damping system, borrowed from Lincoln. It mitigates body roll so you don't slide into the door or center console when aggressively hitting the on-ramp. It also dips in and out of corners more like a low-slung hatchback than a family sedan. And for highway cruising, the car is remarkably soft, smooth and quiet. It's a car I wanted to drive, and made the forced train commute feel less like an opportunity to catch up on work and more like being withheld from the privilege of driving.
The six-speed transmission is supplemented with diminutive paddle shifters, though neither impressed. I defaulted to automatic; it felt less forced.
The interior gets some tweaks, including a black headliner, and some carbon fiber dash accents that are easy to overlook. The black leather and chrome combination of the titanium trim might look better. The Miko gray suede seats were a curiosity; the kids loved the feel in the spacious back seats, and they were plenty comfortable up front. Without a flat-bottom sport steering wheel, or more heavily bolstered seats, it's easy to be lulled into a more comfort-oriented ride. That's not a bad thing for a midsize sedan, but may leave something to be desired if "sport" is the default instead of operative adjective.
Ford's suite of available technology options, including self-parking ($995), the excellent adaptive cruise, which adjusts the speed to maintain the gap of the lead car ($1,190), and the beep ding yellow red alerts of the Driver Assist package ($1,625), all make for a safer, easier driving experience once acclimated to all of their capabilities.
I was critical of Sync3 in the Ford Escape, largely due to the narrow shelf under the screen that makes a nuisance out of pressing icons, but the flat interface on the center stack in this iteration makes it easy to use. The redundant steering controls let you scroll through two information displays, one on either side of the speedometer in the gauge cluster. The one on the right is for phone and audio, accessed with a simple arrow sequence on the right side of the steering wheel; same goes on the left side of the wheel, but with a deeper dive into vehicle information more nuanced than just trip odometers. There's a small but cool display on torque delivery to the axles, for instance, that shows how the all-wheel drive is reading inputs from both road and driver. Ford is quietly evolving its tech packages to surpass Chevrolet in functionality and capability.
A hockey stick fits flat in the trunk, so take that, crossovers.
The niche might be narrow for a car like this, but the total package feels less like a compromise and more like a win.
At a glance
- Vehicle type: midsize sportish sedan
- Base price: $33,475
- As tested: $40,080 (excluding $875 delivery)
- MPG: 17 city, 26 highway
- Engine: 2.7-liter turbo V-6
- Transmission: 6-speed auto to AWD
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