LOS ANGELES, California — You’ve heard that speech people tend to give when they’re offering advice on consumer-grade sedans—about smart choices, responsible driving, and adult standards of comfort. They tell you that a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry is what you should be driving and that your mom would approve. But just because you need a four-door sedan for everyday use, you don’t have to let your soul freeze. If you’re a reader of AUTOMOBILE, then the 2017 Ford Fusion is what you want. It’s the BMW of consumer-grade sedans—stylish and energetic as well as useful. Your mom will approve, too.
More flavors than an ice cream shop
The revised Ford Fusion looks much as you remember, but it gets a double handful of upgrades for 2017 that improve its performance, style, efficiency, and electronics. Also as before, the Fusion nameplate stretches across a lot of model variations, offering five different powertrains, front- or all-wheel drive, and both a conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. On top of that there are all the different trim levels, but every Ford Fusion is a sport sedan, especially compared with its dowdy competition.
The 2017 Fusion certainly looks the part, as its sculpted form and sleek cabin radiate confidence. There’s more flash to both the front and rear fascias of the 2017 Fusion, and the Sport, Titanium, and Platinum models now have LED headlights. The revised 2017 Fusion still looks great inside, and its handsome forms are now embellished by soft-touch upholstery. Meanwhile, the new Platinum trim level delivers the full Euro-sedan look with saddle-style leather upholstery on the dash, diamond-stitched upholstery for the seats and doors, and the availability of heated and cooled front seats.
Let’s look at some engine options
The 2017 Fusion comes with the choice of three different engines. (Well, four engines actually; an internal-combustion unit is considered an engine, an all-electric power unit is considered a motor, and a hybrid system blends both.) There’s the familiar 2.5-liter inline-four that puts out a fairly unassuming 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque while delivering 21/32 mpg city/highway. We think you’d be happier with the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 181 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, especially because it gets 23/34 mpg city/highway. (A standard stop/start function helps improve city mpg.) If you like to get places quickly, then the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is your choice with its 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, and it’ll give you 21/31 mpg city/highway in front-wheel-drive form and 20/29 mpg city/highway with all-wheel drive.
Most four-cylinder engines from other carmakers are growlers, protesting unpleasantly when asked to give their all, but Ford’s turbocharged inline-fours are conspicuously composed and yet surprisingly lively. (Or maybe the 2017 Fusion’s new acoustically insulated windshield works just that well.) The engines are most fun when you select Sport mode and use the six-speed automatic transmission’s shift paddles, seeing how eco-friendly programming will default to the six-speed transmission’s tallest ratios with the slightest lift of the throttle pedal.
Let’s get electrified
The 2017 Fusion Hybrid now has a more efficient motor to go along with its 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, and the drivetrain smoothly transitions from low-speed electric takeoff to the startup and engagement of the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine, thanks in part to the hybrid-specific continuously variable transmission. Personally we have always liked Ford’s driver-coaching instrument graphics, which reward you with green leaf icons as your mpg increases. Anyone can appreciate the Fusion Hybrid’s trunk, as the battery takes up less space than hybrids from other carmakers, and the rear backrest folds down to increase cargo utility.
The Fusion Energi plug-in’s electric-only range from its 1.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack doesn’t seem very special at just 22 miles, yet the ability of the electronic control system to give you the electricity now (when you’re leaving your neighborhood) or later (when you encounter a zero-emissions driving zone downtown) is the right thing for the future. When you combine the Energi drivetrain with the 2017 Fusion’s new suite of optional active safety features (such as active cruise control with full stop-and-go capability at low speed) and its optional electronics to park the car in a spot that’s perpendicular to you (in a parking lot) as well as in a parallel spot (on the street), well, this all sounds like autonomous driving to us.
More sport to come
The Ford engineers made the Fusion drive better than you’d expect. There’s a sophisticated, double-knuckle MacPherson strut-type suspension up front and a genuine multilink suspension in the rear, and the electric-assist steering is surprisingly alive and communicative. The Fusion really likes to carve through corners and feels planted on its low-profile tires; the 18-inch tires are just fine, and the optional 19-inch tires are good, too, but might be a bit much for some drivers.
Of course, we could feel differently when the 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport arrives later this summer. Although we’ve only been able to touch this car, not drive it, we’re pretty impressed by the thought of Ford’s twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 with its 325 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. We’ll see if the Fusion package is stout enough to take it, although the combination of all-wheel drive, continuously controlled suspension damping, bigger brakes, and 19-inch wheels and tires should cover all the bases.
One size fits all?
There is a lot about the 2017 Ford Fusion that will have you thinking that this is just another wideband, one-size-fits-all sedan. The new rotary transmission control on the center console helps make possible bigger, more useful cupholders, and we appreciate the console’s forward storage bins and clever slot for a cellphone. There are no less than 20 available safety features that have been engineered to be impressively functional, not merely affordable, the Sync3 infotainment system has a graphic layout on the center screen that matches with the standardized look we’re finally seeing from consumer electronics, and Siri has taught us all about the possibilities of voice activation.
Since you can have some sort of Fusion model over an incredibly broad range of price points, you can compare it to a Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, or Acura TLX depending on your mood. And yet the 2017 Ford Fusion reminds us again that the Fusion occupies the part of the sedan spectrum that appeals to drivers, not passengers. This suits Ford, as it admits that this car is actually a kind of halo car in the showroom since it delivers a spirited credibility that makes it possible for shoppers to pivot toward a truck or a crossover without any reservations.
Not that we care, really. We just like driving the Ford Fusion, whether it’s in a crowd on the Ventura Freeway here in L.A. or up in the Santa Monica Mountains on Mulholland Drive. Several times during our drive, we considered for a second whether we would have preferred to be in an Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. We doubt that the Germans would approve of our answer, but at least Mom would.
2017 Ford Fusion Specifications
|Engines:||2.5L I-4/175 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 175 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm; 1.5L turbo I-4/181 hp @ 6,000, 185 lb-ft @ 4,320 rpm; 2.0L turbo I-4/245 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 275 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm; 2.7L turbo V-6/325 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 350 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm|
|Hybrid:||2.0L I-4, plus 88-kw electric AC motor/188 hp (combined)|
|Transmissions:||6-speed automatic (engines), CVT (hybrids)|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD sedan|
|EPA Mileage:||20-43/29-41 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H:||191.8 x 72.9 x 58.0-58.2 in|