2013 Ford Fusion Review
We drive the redesigned Fusion.No Comments
Hit the corners, and the Fusion feels stable and sure-footed, driving like a larger car.
Ford is faced with a difficult challenge in the mid-size segment as it introduces its redesigned 2013 Fusion. It's akin to the Red Sox trying to beat the Yankees (before 2004, anyway), except in this case, there are two sets of Yankees.
Those would-be Bronx Bombers are the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. The outgoing Fusion finished third in the sales race in 2011, so this is Ford's chance to shoot to the top of the heap.
We've been hearing about the 2013 Fusion for some time now, as it's been one of the most anticipated new-car launches of the year. We already knew the car was a looker, but does it have the dynamic chops to take down the champs?
There are three trims: base S, mid-level SE, and top-line Titanium. The SEL trim is gone, replaced by Titanium, and the Sport is also discontinued.
Available features, depending on trim level and options package, include: Ford's MyFordTouch infotainment system, a lane-departure warning system, a blind-spot alert system with cross-traffic detection, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a navigation system, 16-, 17-,18-, or 19-inch wheels, electric power steering, dual-zone climate control, fog lamps, a rear spoiler, an automatic parallel-parking system, adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision mitigation system, all-wheel drive (Titanium only) and a power sunroof.
Pricing starts at $21,700 (with a $795 destination fee) for a base S, with a top-line Titanium starting at $32,200 with all-wheel drive (again, not including destination). One all-wheel-drive Titanium we tested topped out at $35,980 after destination. That car had the Driver's Assist Package (blind-spot alert system, 110-volt outlet, a lane-departure warning system that alerts drivers when they're veering into another lane, auto high beams, and rain-sensing windshield wipers), navigation, and 19-inch wheels as its major options.
The bulk of our drive took place in a 1.6-liter car equipped with the six-speed manual followed by the 2.0-liter with the six-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive (2.0-liter cars are automatic only, while the 1.6 can be had with either the manual or automatic--all Titanium-trim cars get the 2.0-liter). What we found while bombing the canyon roads north of Malibu bodes well for the enthusiast who needs a family car.
The 1.6 with the stick is clearly the enthusiast's choice. The 178 horsepower/184 lb-ft of torque mill feels stronger than the numbers indicate, and the shifter itself satisfies, as does the clutch, with its smooth take-up.
Hit the corners, and the Fusion feels stable and sure-footed, driving like a larger car. It gives the driver a confidence not always found in a family sedan--it feels like the car has your back.
It's a different experience than that of the previous Fusion, which felt nimble and light on its feet. This one feels heavier. Both cars are fun to drive, just in different ways.
Only a tiny bit of body roll spoils the fun, otherwise the Fusion carves corners in a way not many mid-sizers can match. It's hard to say if Camry buyers will be swayed by a mid-size that actually engages the driver, but enthusiasts will want to take a long look.
Switching to the 2.0-liter gets you more grunt (240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque) but our tester didn't feel that much faster than 1.6. That might be due to the extra 300 lbs of curb weight that an all-wheel-drive car carries around compared to the 1.6 manual. Still, the extra go power was appreciated when launching from the line. We wish Ford would offer the manual transmission with the 2.0--that could be a potent combo.
The all-wheel-drive system didn't seem to change handling characteristics one way or the other. As for ride, we found it to be balanced and composed for the most part, with some float and wallow when traversing dips in the road.
Stab the brakes, and they feel a bit average, with late bite in the pedal travel--the braking might be the biggest let down in the car's performance. Still, we never felt nervous when slowing for a corner.
Titaniums have dual exhaust pipes that poke out from the bottom, flush with the rear bumper. The Ford badge moves from the grille to the top of the front fascia. The available rear spoiler integrates well without looking tacky. It's details like this that give the car its distinctive look.
Mid-size buyers are a conservative lot, and some will stick to less-stylish sedans. That's too bad, because this is one of the few family cars that will draw looks at the strip mall.
The cabin is quiet--although some tire noise does trickle in--adding to the quality feel.
Safety features are par for the course, with ABS, traction control, stability control, a standard complement of airbags (including knee airbags), and the aforementioned available advanced systems, such as lane-keeping assist.
The bigger challenge for Ford is getting Accord and Camry loyalists to switch sides. Many mid-size buyers care not a whit about style and pizazz, so being fun to drive and good-looking won't help the Fusion. The Accord has never been a slouch in the fun department, either, even if it rarely turns heads with its styling. That means the Fusion isn't guaranteed to win at the box office, no matter how critically acclaimed it is.
From an enthusiast's point of view, the Fusion may have won the crown--it's certainly a better car dynamically than its foes. But to the wider buying public, the game is still very much in doubt.