The hairy Sport trim for the 2017 Fusion is more exciting on paper.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
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Ford dropped a few mid-cycle changes on us with the 2017 Fusion. It got mild revisions in the bodywork, making it look wider and more aggressive. It got quieter, smoother and smarter, and the interior was redesigned to make way more sense. There’s a top-trim Platinum with stunning wood trim and quilted leather seats, and then there’s this highly-anticipated Sport trim.
Other than the Sport badge on the back, Ford only throws in a couple of visual cues that set the Sport trim apart from a regular Fusion. And even those are details that only informed car enthusiasts would pick up on.
The Sport gets a high-gloss black mesh upper grille, which is flanked by handsome LED headlight pods and very attractive LED signature driving lights – you’ll find the latter on every other Fusion. In the back, there are four chrome exhaust tips. And that’s it. Suffice it to say, the Sport isn’t wildly different from every other Fusion on the road, especially in the sedate Ingot Silver my review car arrived in. That’s not a bad thing as the Fusion is a handsome sedan. Oh, yes, the 19-inch Tarnished Dark painted rims are Sport-specific, shod with meaty 235/40s.
Under the Hood
Okay, so here’s the real big news – under the hood. Ford stuffs their 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 – which puts out 325 horsepower and a staggering 380 lb.ft of torque at a low 3500 RPM and is found elsewhere comfortably pulling an F-150 around – into the unsuspecting Fusion engine bay. Interestingly, every bit of Ford online information indicates the Sport has 350 lb.ft of torque – which is nothing to sneeze at – but when I contacted them for clarification, they advised me that the engine puts out 380 lb.ft. The Sport is paired to Ford’s ubiquitous 6-speed automatic and all-wheel drive is standard. That kind of power doesn’t come free, of course, and the Sport trim is no fuel miser. Ford rates it at 13.5 L/100 km (17 US mpg) in town and 9 L/100 km (26 US mpg) on the highway. I averaged 13.1 L/100 km (18 US mpg) after a week of driving around town (mostly) with a heavy foot (mostly). Not bad.
Since the whole premise here is that this new Fusion Sport is the next big thing in sports sedans, let’s get right down to the meat of it. On the surface, it drives like every other Fusion for the most part. Which is to say it has a great ride, outstanding handling and a responsive drivetrain. It’s quiet, and it’s very well-behaved in virtually every driving situation.
But Ford really sells the Fusion Sport’s “Sport” button. These days, you’ll find that in the middle of the new rotary gear selector, and Ford is pretty proud of how that button transforms the car into what they call an “all-out sports sedan”.
In no particular order, this is what happens. A little Sport icon shows up in the gauge cluster. That’s really your only visual hint. The engine and transmission programming changes on the fly. The throttle is revised for more responsiveness and the transmission’s shifting pattern gets more aggressive. I noticed it would even hang on to gears through some turns, helping me maximize the Sport’s performance. Next, the continuously variable suspension firms up over the normal setting and adds even more spice when you start throwing the Sport into corners. It really does handle very well. Is it a night and day difference over the regular Fusion’s handling. I actually didn’t find that. Yes, it’s good. Yes, you can tell the difference. Is it completely transformational? Nope. And when the suspension firmed up in Sport mode, any kind of bump or road imperfection caused an incessant buzzing from the dash which got incredibly irritating. Especially in a brand-new car.
The steering’s tuning also changes in Sport mode, but again, it wasn’t hugely noticeable. If you’re a paddle-shifter kind of driver, the paddles become fully activated, and the manual shifting mode won’t turn off until you do it. The manual shifts aren’t quick enough to be exciting though. And finally, Ford pipes in more “engine sound” through the vehicle’s stereo. Ugh. With that said, it’s actually quite convincing, but I hate that we live in a world where manufacturers have tuned and dampened the great engine sound out of the vehicle, only to have to pipe it back in afterwards.
Is it fast? Yes. How fast? 0-100 km/h runs have been timed in the mid to low 5 second range. Is it responsive? Yes, of course. But with all that said, I came away somewhat disappointed. I guess I came into this with the bar set very high. And why shouldn’t I, when Ford is selling this thing as the next coming for sport sedans? Hey, this thing brings 380 lb.ft of torque to the table! But if you’re expecting neck-snapping moves, you won’t find them here. Everything this car does is smooth. And while that is a wonderful compliment to the Fusion line, it’s also an indictment of the Sport’s rounded-off character. I wanted some sharpness, some edginess. I wanted those shifts to bang off, violently even, when I put the hammer down. But it never happens. It takes off smoothly, with nary a hint of drama. Every shift is smooth, and the momentum builds in such a linear fashion, that it’s almost boring. Granted, part of the issue is likely that peak torque doesn’t arrive until 3500 RPM (which is pretty high for a turbo engine) but in the end, this car is so good at being good, that it’s not great at being sporty.
When it comes to feeling very Fusion-familiar, the interior falls in line with the exterior. It’s nice, but very very similar to the regular Fusion’s cabin. You’ll notice the Sport’s heated and cooled leather seats get perforated suede inserts. They’re actually called sport seats and have stiffer foam, but frankly they don’t offer a noticeable amount of bolstering or support over the regular Fusion seats, which makes me wonder if Ford really wants me to toss this thing into corners. They are very comfortable though. Oh, I did find one other thing inside that truly sets the Sport trim apart from the other pedestrian Fusions – the floor mats say “Sport” on them. And that’s about it.
The heated steering wheel isn’t any different, and neither are the configurable driver information screens flanking the central speedometer behind it. Ford also carries over the cool ambient lighting and the SYNC3 touchscreen that handles most everything, including your phone, navigation and the awesome 12-speaker Sony sound system. And the dual-zone automatic climate control. And the sunroof. And the driver assistance technology. In the Sport trim, you’ll get a backup camera, front and rear parking sensors and of course Ford’s ParkAssist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and a lane keeping system.
The two outboard seats in the back have just enough head room for me – at 5’10” – and I had more than enough leg room. There’s a small tunnel in the centre, which makes the raised middle seating position a bit cramped in every way when it comes to a third adult passenger. Rear passengers get a 12V and a 110 V household plug for charging. My three kids were quite happy with the space back there, but absolutely hated the inflatable seat belts. They are very rigid and difficult to wrangle into their receptacles for little ones that are already doing this for themselves.
Pop the power-release trunk lid and you’ll find a 453 L cargo space with nicely shrouded trunk arms to keep your luggage and stuff from getting pinched. If you need more room, you can fold the rear seats down in a 60/40 split.
The verdict: I was expecting a Fusion that exploded off the line, and kept me hanging on for dear life. I took Ford’s word for it, and expected an “all-out sports sedan”. Instead, I found a very refined sedan that builds speed very rapidly, but isn’t as sporty as I wanted it to be. And a sedan that looks pretty much like every other Fusion on the road. Is that a bad thing? Heck no! But this car simply doesn’t feel as fast as it is. And that made me sad. I hate that much of this will come off as negative, because there is really nothing wrong with the Fusion Sport.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was quite high. She loved the ride, how comfortable the car was inside and how refined everything felt. That says a lot because she hates sports cars. And she loved this car.
Hey, if you’re a fan of the Fusion (which you should be, because it’s a great car) and you find the 2.0 EcoBoost to be a bit too mild-mannered for you (which it is), the Sport is sure to satisfy at least some of your urges. But if you’re shopping for an out-and-out sport sedan, the Fusion Sport isn’t it. They should replace the “Sport” badge on the back with “Really Fast and Capable” because that’s the Fusion you’ll get here.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Ford Canada.
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Pricing: 2017 Ford Fusion
Base price (Sport trim): $42,288
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $44,038