Last weekend, Road & Track Snapchat Editor Aaron Brown needed someone to drive him up to Vermont from a questionable advertisement on Craigslist. Fortunately for Aaron, I had a brand new 2017 Fusion Sport on loan from Ford, so we decided to use it for the 600-mile journey. Here are some things we learned and think you should know.
It looks Good, but Not as Good as Before
The newly refreshed Fusion keeps the same Aston Martin-esque styling featured in most of Ford’s lineup these days, but has a busier, less streamlined design than the previous model. The Sport goes a step further and replaces the nice horizontal chrome slats with a blacked out honeycomb grille found on cars like the Focus and Fiesta ST. I think it looks a little bit out of place for a mid-size sedan, honestly. So do those four tailpipes and 19-inch painted “Tarnished Dark” wheels. Part of that can be the contrast from our testers red paint. A darker color like blue or black would hide some less slightly parts of the design, we think.
But those are minor quibbles, it's still one of the most attractive mid-size sedans on the market.
It’s Actually Nice Inside
Ford is pretty good at interiors these days, and the Fusion is no exception. Every control is clearly and logically laid out in the cabin, without any silly “touch-senstive” buttons to speak of. The responsive eight-inch center-mounted LCD touchscreen is equipped with Ford’s easy-to-navigate SYNC 3 infotainment system and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard.
Sadly, Ford felt it necessary to put some of the climate controls in the SYNC 3 interface, a fad we wish would just go away. We can understand having a touchscreen around for media controls, but c’mon, don’t make us shuffle through menus to control the air.
The gauge cluster consists of two digital screens on either side of a center-mounted analog speedometer. The left displays fuel level, RPM, and your choice of speed, fuel economy, or remaining range. The right screen is used to control audio. At first the setup feels a little busy, but it becomes second nature after a day of fiddling around.
The seats are another highlight worth mentioning simply because they aren’t fully leather. Ford gave the Fusion Sport a gray suede and leather upholstery combination that looks and feels exceptionally nice for a car in its class. The front seats provide more than adequate bolstering and comfort for long trips, while the rears have plenty of leg room.
It Feels Like a Front-Wheel Drive Car Unless You Put it In Sport Mode
Like in most economy-minded all-wheel drive systems, the Fusion Sport’s setup sends power only to the front wheels under normal driving conditions. That means full throttle accelerations from low speeds trigger some noticeable torque steer, which isn’t great. Of course, once the car notices you’re trying to put all 380 lb.-ft. of torque to the ground, it starts to send power to the rear. Pressing the Sport mode button fixes that by distributing power to the front and rear right from a stop.
But it’s not like that’ll matter much in everyday driving, where most owners will use this car. Power from the 325-horsepower turbocharged 2.7-liter Ecoboost V6 is good enough for freeway on-ramps and left-lane passes, but comes at a cost. We only managed 23.6 miles per gallon during our trip according to the onboard computer, 2.4 mpgs shy of the car’s EPA estimated highway number.
The Transmission Doesn’t Have Performance in Mind
A six-speed automatic is the only choice of transmission for the Fusion Sport, controlled via a center console-mounted electronic rotary gear selector. The selector itself is extremely responsive, unlocking with the brake pedal pressed at a stop with solid clicks through Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive. But since there’s no actual mechanical connection to the transmission, it takes a second for the computer to place itself in your desired gear position once you’ve selected it, which can be annoying if you’re trying to make a quick maneuver that requires a three-point turn.
During normal conditions, you don’t really notice the transmission in action, which is nice. Digging into the throttle causes it to grab the next lower gear, as any other auto would do. Things start to go downhill once you try to shift yourself, though. There’s a significant delay between any press of the steering wheel-mounted paddles and an actual gear change—not totally unexpected, but still unfortunate. This isn’t Ford’s new quick-shifting 10-speed found in the F-150 Raptor, after all. Again, you won’t notice this in every day situations unless you’re driving like Senna on your way to work.
If you’re expecting the Fusion Sport to be a 400-horsepower Ford GT-engined super sedan, sorry to break it to you, it’s not. The Sport is more of an athletic-looking Fusion with some extra power, and that’s just fine. At $41,675 as tested, the Fusion Sport isn’t cheap, but if you want a sporty-looking commuter car that can fit your family, it remains a solid choice.