A keeper of the flame from a time when a high performance family car didn’t need to look like one.
As I am sure most of our readers are aware; Ford recently announced that they would begin phasing out sedans and hatchbacks from their lineup, opting to focus more on light trucks like CUVs, SUVs and trucks. The company says that by 2020, 90% of their North American volume will be light trucks. That seems to mark the end for Ford as a manufacturer of traditional family sedans, like the current Ford Fusion, and that’s a bit of a shame.
Ford sedans have been a staple on the road dating back to the 1920s, and over the decades they had some real winners in the segment. In my lifetime it was the Ford Crown Victoria and the Taurus that really made a lasting impression, earning themselves a rightful place in automotive culture. With all that on my mind, we got behind the wheel of the 2018 Ford Fusion Sport to find out what exactly we’re about to lose.
The Fusion in its current generation was originally released for the 2013 model year, and despite a minor facelift for 2017, hasn’t seen many visual changes since. It has a very business-like and agreeable exterior with long swooping lines and rounded curves. When this generation of Fusion was launched it did look quite unique, but the last five years have brought a lot of change to the segment, and the Fusion now does a good job of blending in.
The fun part of that however, is when you opt for the Sport model, the visual tweaks remain very conservative. Unlike many sedans where choosing the performance trim comes with obvious visual cues, the Fusion holds onto its conservative appearance. You do however get charcoal colored 19” wheels, revised front and rear fasciae, and some nicely executed quad exhaust tips.
The reason its ultra conservative appearance is fun is because what the Fusion Sport does get is plenty of power! The only Fusion in the lineup to get a V6, the Sport gets a 2.7L EcoBoost engine lifted from the F-150; it puts out a very healthy 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft. of torque at 3,000RPM. Combine that with the AWD system standard in the Sport and you have an unassuming sedan that absolutely hauls in a straight line.
Whether launching from a stop or passing on the highway, the torque comes on strong, thrusting passengers firmly into their seats with a nice low growl from the quad exhaust. The acceleration is enough to catch many sportier cars off-guard, and it is a refined power with a nice linear feeling, decently quick shifts from a traditional six-speed automatic, and no fake or intentionally tuned in noises. It really is quite impressive and stealthy, making it very reminiscent of the Taurus SHO from the early 1990s.
What you have to remember though is that while the Sport is quick, it is not a sports car, or even a true sports sedan. It is a fairly standard family sedan underneath, so the driving dynamics of the Fusion Sport, even when in Sport mode which firms up the suspension, tightens up throttle response, and adds some weight to the steering. It’s not going to handle the way its power might lead you to believe. The steering feels disconnected from the road, it rolls notably through hard corners, and the chassis is upset rather easily on uneven road surfaces.
As long as you know what to expect, the Fusion Sport is actually a very pleasant car to drive; much more like a powerful luxury sedan than a sports sedan. It’s quiet, rides softly even on city streets, the unique leather and suede seats are comfortable, and it’s well composed on the highway. This is a great long distance cruiser or commuter, with some extra kick.
The interior of the Fusion is a bit underwhelming, but it fits in really well with the mission of this car. It contains lots of black and grey plastics, and a very simple dash and console layout. The digital gauge cluster is a bit of a standout; it’s configurable to display exactly what you want to see. The Sport seats are great, but in the case of our tester came finished in a grey color that looked permanently dirty, and didn’t flow well with the rest of the interior. Where the interior does shine is on space; there is plenty of storage up front, rear head and legroom is in abundance, and the trunk is massive.
While on the plain side, the interior in our Sport model tester was far from lacking equipment. At $43,388 the Sport comes fully loaded including ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, navigation, and a 12-speaker Sony sound system. You also get some less traditional features like a rotary dial style gear selector, which takes a bit of getting used to. A full suite of electronic driving aids is also on board including lane keep assist, blind spot and cross traffic alerts, and Continuously Controlled Damping (CCD) with Pothole Mitigation Technology.
If you’re just looking for a roomy sedan for basic transportation you can get into a base model FWD Fusion, with the much less exciting 2.5L four-cylinder for only $22,488. That’s really aggressive, and it’s a lot more car than anything else you’d likely find at that price.
The Sport trim comes with the latest toys, plus the stealth-like muscle of the 2.7L EcoBoost engine, but where it does hit back is at the pumps. After a week of commuting, our average sat at 10.6L/100km. In retrospect that’s quite good for a 300+ horsepower sedan, but it is thirsty compared to its more mundane competitors. Despite being turbocharged, the Fusion Sport is happy on regular fuel, though running premium can help unlock the motor’s full potential.
With sales in the crossover segment moving steadily upwards, it’s not surprising that Ford has decided to move away from sedans. It was Ford who gets the credit for the massive SUV craze of the 1990s and early 2000s, leading the way with their Explorer early on. Of course, that market came to a screeching halt with an increase in gas price. It may or may not be gas prices next time, but the lesson is that consumer preferences can change rather suddenly, and hopefully Ford is taking that into account as they chart this new course.
For the time being, the 2018 Ford Fusion Sport remains a unique option in the mid-size sedan segment, a keeper of the flame from a time when a high performance family car didn’t need to look like one. It’s also one of the last remaining V6-powered mainstream sedans, offering good value and a comfortable, relaxed driving experience.