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2017 Ford Fusion: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Jason Fogelson May 2016

Midsize sedans are the heart of a manufacturer's lineup. According to Ford's marketing department, they represent the No. 1 point of entry into their brand, so the new 2017 Ford Fusion is a very important vehicle for Ford. After all, the Fusion has been one of the top 10 most-sold new cars in the U.S. for the past 10 years running, with over 300,000 sales per year over the past 2 years. Ninety-four percent of all Fusions ever sold (since its debut as a 2006 model) are still on the road. When we had a chance to sample the new Fusion lineup, we jumped at the opportunity.

Broad Selection

While no midsize-sedan lineup can be everything to everyone, Ford has made sure that the Fusion collection comes close to meeting the needs of many drivers. There are 12 Fusion models coming for 2017, all the way from a base S model (starting at $22,120) and a Hybrid S (starting at $25,185) to an Energi SE plug-in hybrid (starting at $31,120), a V6-powered all-wheel-drive Sport (starting at $33,475), a full-zoot Energi Platinum (starting at $41,120) and several in between. Ford proudly points to the leading competitors, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, and states that neither lineup offers a plug-in hybrid or the option of all-wheel drive like the Fusion does this model year.

Exterior Refinements

When the current Fusion design debuted in the 2012 model, many reviewers noted its passing resemblance to an Aston Martin -- high praise indeed. There is a similarity between the grille shape and the creased hood lines on the Fusion and the look offered on the current DB9. The sleek styling of the rest of the vehicle is also elegant, with big wheel arches and a sloping roofline. The Fusion's grille is unique from trim level to trim level, with some models featuring chrome horizontal bars and the Sport model wearing a blacked-out egg crate.

LED headlamps are standard on the Titanium, Platinum and Sport trims, and available on the SE trim. Wheel sizes start at 16 inches on the S and go all the way to 19 inches on the Sport.

Spiffed-Up Interior and Technology

Competition has forced all manufacturers to up their game when it comes to interior styling, materials, fit and finish, much to the benefit of buyers. The Fusion offers new interior colors, upgraded materials and options for this year, as well as some functional changes. Keyless entry and push-button starting are standard across the model range, with 4-door passive entry on some models. A new rotary gear selector lives in the center console, paired with an electric parking-brake switch; the simple operation is a welcome change, with foolproof control and a low-profile presence. The cabin is roomy and comfortable, with ample legroom and headroom in the second row for adults.

In the center stack, Ford's newest SYNC 3 infotainment system is available with integrated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with an 8-inch capacitive color touchscreen display. The clunky MyFord Touch is a thing of the past, and the new optional SYNC Connect system works smoothly. Two USB charging ports live in the base of the center stack, with a bin to hold devices.

Engine and Chassis

Along with the trim levels, a dizzying array of powertrain options are available with the Fusion. The base engine is a 2.5-liter Duratec inline 4-cylinder (on the S and SE). A 1.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost is the next step up (optional on the SE), followed by a 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost (optional on the SE and standard on the Titanium and Platinum). A 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 EcoBoost is standard on the Sport, which will be available later this year (it was not available to drive at the launch event that we attended).

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models get a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine and lithium-ion battery packs. Regenerative braking helps keep the batteries topped off. The Energi HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) can travel up to 19 miles on a fully charged battery, and recharging from empty takes about 6.6 hours on 110-volt current or 2.5 hours on 220-volt lines. A 110-volt charging cable is included.

All-wheel drive is available or standard on all models except the base S (front-wheel-drive only). A 6-speed automatic transmission is hooked up to all gasoline engines, with available paddle shifters on some models; an electronic continuously variable transmission is fitted to the hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

The Fusion's 4-wheel independent suspension system has been upgraded -- with MacPherson struts in the front and Control Link multilink suspension in the rear -- and handling is smooth and controlled. There's a noticeable difference in the ride between the gasoline-only and hybrid models, probably due to a shift in weight balance with the rear-mounted batteries. Be sure to drive both to see which one suits you -- we preferred the gasoline-only setup. Continuously controlled damping will be standard on the Sport trim, but we didn't get to drive that one.

Ford has gone to great lengths to assure quiet operation in the Fusion, adding a full-perimeter hood seal, an acoustic windshield and acoustic side glass to the first row. Active noise cancellation adds additional sound deadening to the Sport and plug-in models.

A Ton of Tech

There's barely room to touch on the wide range of standard and available driver-assistance technologies on the Fusion. The highlights include adaptive cruise control with full stop-and-go functionality, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, park assist for parallel and perpendicular parking, a blind spot monitoring system with cross-traffic alert, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and even driver-attention warning. Many of these features have trickled down from premium vehicles and can really help make driving a Fusion a much safer experience.

Staying in the Top 10

If the midsize sedan really is the point of entry to a car brand, then the 2017 Ford Fusion has the potential to bring a lot of drivers into the Ford fold. The Accord and Camry should be looking over their shoulders. Drive a Fusion before you make a decision, and be sure to take the time to unlock the many possibilities in the wide range of standard and optional features. The right combination might just convert you into a Ford driver.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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2017 Ford Fusion: First Drive Review - Autotrader