2017 Ford Fusion in Portland: First Drive

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It’s the moment we all dread. That time when you look around the room and realize you’re the oldest guy there. The people those youngsters are talking about aren’t just non-celebrities to you, they’re deeply uninteresting. You’ve started to appreciate that your parents were right about a lot of things. Your kids talk back to you, and they find your retorts kind of lame. You’re middle age.

If you’re a human, middle age dread is best fought by renewing one’s commitment to not giving a damn. But when a car gets paunchy after three or four years in the market, the only answer is the mid-cycle refresh. And the second-generation Ford Fusion, now age four (52 in car years), has gone under the surgeon’s knife for 2017. Look at it. It seems somewhat younger, doesn’t it? You know, like Meg Ryan after a skin peel.

The big goal for Ford on this refresh is: Don’t. Screw. It. Up.

It’s tough to remember all the way back to the 2012 Detroit Auto Show when the current Fusion made its debut. Built upon Ford’s CD4 architecture, the second Fusion had a sleek fastback shape that replaced the dowdy first Fusion. Its face was very Aston Martin looking, which was ironic because Ford’s divestment of that brand was still fresh in many minds. But the CD4 Fusion was an enormous hit. During 2015 Ford pushed out 255,143 of them making it the company’s best selling car and the sixth best selling car from any manufacturer. The big goal for Ford on this refresh is: Don’t. Screw. It. Up.

And it hasn’t.

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Most of the substance from the 2013 Fusion returns intact for 2017. The basic body shell hasn’t been touched and most of the interior pieces are more-or-less familiar. The superficial changes include a tweaked grille with different textures depending on trim, new LED headlights on higher line models, and of course new wheels. Inside the forward storage bin has taller sides to hold things in more securely, the center arm rest is a bit longer, and the driver’s dead pedal has been reshaped. There’s nothing radical in all that.

One prominent functional change is the move from a conventional shifter to a Jaguar-like rotary dial. This new dial sits directly in front of the electronic parking brake on the center console where the old shifter once sat. The new dial works fine, but its position in center console is a compromise. In cars and trucks where such a shifter is native – in particular Chrysler products – the dial is often positioned up on the dash so that the real estate between the seats can be freed up for additional storage. The assumption here is that the rotary shifter will be part of a lot of future Fords and will be positioned more advantageously in those products.

That in mind, the new shifter did open up enough space in the console for larger cupholders. And that’s an important consideration in a world where the Bladder Buster cups we all use demand accommodation. So bravo Ford. Bravo.

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The names of the various trim levels have been reimagined for the 2017 Fusion too. The base model is still the “S” powered by the lackluster 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four rated at 175 horsepower. Expect to see this trim Fusion mostly wearing municipal seals on its doors and running errands for low level bureaucrats. The SE will be the mainstream model and available with either the 2.5 four or Ford’s EcoBoost 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter turbo fours. The sort-of luxurious Titanium gets the 245-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four standard. And the ritzy Platinum is the Titanium model with more stuff stuffed in. All these models use a standard six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels.

This one has the potential to be the very quickest Ford four-door yet built.

An all-wheel drive system is optional on some Fusion models. None of the vehicles I drove at the press event were so equipped. Plus it was in sunny Southern California and the only way to test it would have meant driving on the beach.

Not yet available is the new Fusion Sport which goes rocket ship with a turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 rated at 325 horsepower rocking through an all-wheel drive system. This one has the potential to be the very quickest Ford four-door yet built. But it won’t be here until later this summer.

There are also Fusion Hybrid and plug-in hybrid Energi models that will be covered in a separate story. The prospect of reading that already has you quivering.

2017 Ford Fusion

Ford didn’t have any models powered by the 2.5-liter four on hand, but I’m pretty confident that it’d kind of suck. Its fuel mileage is EPA rated at 21 in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

The 1.5-liter turbo four is a $900 option and its rated at 181 horsepower. But its big advantages over the 2.5 is that it delivers better EPA-rated fuel mileage (23 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway) and a nicely flat torque curve that makes it easy to live with around town. Climbing into the Santa Monica Mountains, the 1.5 will eventually feel strained, but it’s a decent compromise for most buyers. New for 2017, the 1.5 now comes with a standard start-stop feature that shuts off the engine whenever the car comes to a complete stop. It’s not a particularly obnoxious system as these sorts of things go, but if you’re sensitive to the starter’s whir, well, it can drive you nuts.

The 2.0-liter turbo four does a fantastic job of imitating the V6s used in competitors like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Rated at 240-horsepower, it’s very smooth for a four and its torque delivery is generous. It’s the secret weapon in the Fusion arsenal. And it’s rated at 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

2017 Ford Fusion

It’s tough to get excited about a mid-cycle refresh. But the updates to the Fusion are worthwhile with just enough novelty to keep those owners coming out of the three-years leases on a 2014 Fusion signing up for another hitch in a 2017 model. This is a sweet natured, easygoing car with a good ride, decent handling and an interior that’s easy to like. Just the sort of mainstream appliance that buyers keep buying, even if enthusiasts are mystified by the lack of compelling content.

Fusion prices for 2017 start at around $23,000 after the usual $875 destination charge extortion, with nicely equipped models still comfortably under $30,000. The high-end conventional model, the Fusion Platinum, starts at $37,495. Hybrid models can crest at more than $40K.

Oh yeah, one more thing. The third generation of Ford’s Sync entertainment and communications system is also available. It has a bunch of new app-like functionality. So there’s that. Play it loud enough and you can feel young again.

[Source: Autoblog]

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