CARS.COM — With its extensive refresh for 2017, the Ford Fusion has a new Platinum trim level that tops off the model lineup. In the test car I drove, that cost (inhaling deeply) $40,080, including destination charges.
Related: Our View: 2017 Ford Fusion Review
That price made me raise an eyebrow — $40,000 is a lot of scratch for a mid-size sedan. Competitors like the Honda Accord ($35,665) and Toyota Camry ($35,075) top off at much lower prices, with upgraded engines and all their safety options included. Granted, those two have fewer features than the Fusion, but this still pushes the Ford's pricing territory up into a higher echelon — one occupied by Lincoln.
This is why I was excited to test-drive the 2017 Lincoln MKZ, which received a full redesign that added new styling, an updated center console with more buttons, and updated safety technology matching what's in the Fusion. The updates to both cars means that the two are close on features, with the same Sync 3 infotainment system as well as similar menus and controls all around.
There are mechanical similarities, too. Both ride on Ford's global mid-size platform and the test models I drove had the same 245-horsepower, 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission and identical all-wheel-drive systems.
The Fusion Platinum has premium materials with comfortable quilted-leather seats and Ford's Sync 3 and Sync Connect. The 2017 Fusion also added a long list of safety technology and driver aids. New to the Fusion for 2017 are stop-and-go capability for the adaptive cruise control, automatic parking (parallel and perpendicular), forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and lane keeping assist. All of these systems are standard on the Fusion Platinum.
The biggest difference between the two to me is their styling and dashboard setups, such as the Fusion's rotary shift knob versus the push-button gear selector in the MKZ. The MKZ has two options that the Fusion doesn't offer: massaging front seats ($595) and my personal favorite feature, a panoramic moonroof that lifts up in one piece and slides backward to open up the MKZ to the sky ($2,995).
The MKZ I tested came with those two options, as well as the Technology Package ($2,395), Luxury Package ($4,400) and Climate Package ($695). The MKZ's Technology Package added the safety technology to match the Fusion Platinum's offerings and the Luxury Package includes an upgraded audio system and adaptive LED headlights. These additions pushed the cost of the 2017 MKZ I tested to $53,900, almost $14,000 more than the Fusion. Even if you knocked off the panoramic moonroof and the massaging seats, the MKZ would still be some $10,000 more than its Ford counterpart while merely matching it on safety and technology features.
The big question becomes how much MKZ you can get for Fusion money. The answer? Not a lot. Keeping the powertrain constant (2.0-liter EcoBoost and AWD), the best MKZ I could build near that price ($40,990) was a Select trim, with the Select Plus Package that adds navigation and a blind spot warning system but lacks the Fusion's advanced safety systems and a few other amenities as well, such as ventilated front seats and an upgraded audio system.
Though I prefer the Lincoln's styling — especially the new grille — and its interior setup, I can't justify that price difference; $10,000 is a lot more to pay for a car with the same features as the Fusion Platinum. And $41,990 is a lot to pay for an MKZ that's missing so many of the features I liked in the Fusion.
While both sedans are improved for 2017, the Fusion seems to have taken the larger leap. Don't get me wrong — I like the MKZ quite a bit. It's comfortable, quiet, the novelty of the giant glass roof doesn't wear off and it came in a screaming red, which I enjoyed. But the MKZ's value proposition doesn't add up compared to the Fusion, which has basically the same features, technology and an interior that's rather luxurious on its own. If I were to spend $40,000 on a mid-size sedan, the Fusion would be my choice. And if I had more money, I'd still get the Fusion — and as many cupcakes as the extra cash could buy.