It doesn't matter which 2010 Ford Fusion you pick, it's going to be good.
It could be the new Fusion Sport powered by Ford's 3.5-liter V-6. Or the overhauled base model Fusion that features a new 2.5-liter I-4 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that adds power and fuel economy. Or it could be the high-tech hybrid version powered by Ford's "Run Silent, Run Clean" mantra and a gas-electric system that breaks 40 miles per gallon without exerting any effort.
Pick one or start your own personal stimulus program and pick them all, because Ford now has the most complete -- and best -- lineup in the midsize car segment.
That's right. It's better than the Honda Accord and even the top-selling Toyota Camry. It's not going to outsell those vehicles, but it should.
No carmaker offers as much depth in a single model in this segment as Ford. Variety aside, the craftsmanship throughout the Fusion beats the competition -- during a time when domestic carmakers pride themselves on merely matching it.
After spending three weeks in the Sport, Hybrid and base model Fusions, I found it hard to select a favorite. Each seemed like a different model instead of a variation of the same vehicle.
I know; I can't believe it either.
Naturally, I'll be accused of being a homer by everyone outside of Detroit (as everyone in the Motor City tends to call me a traitor), but it doesn't matter. The second-generation Fusions are excellent. Each has a distinct personality, provides solid performance and comes with interiors that have moved from "this is nice" to "whoa, this is niccceeee."
After a decade of depreciating expectations in the midsize sedan segment, Ford has nailed a vehicle that should raise hope in Dearborn.
Like most of the changes to the Fusion, it starts with the inside and works its way out.
Yes, Ford did add a power dome hood, changed out the front fascia and replaced the headlights and taillamps. (The silver trimmed triangles on the backside of the previous-generation Fusion looked more like a futuristic yield sign than a taillight.) But the exterior changes pale compared to the rest of the overhaul. Engine responds superbly
First are the powertrains.
Ford brought the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine into the Fusion family -- replacing the 2.3-liter engine in the previous generation. This workhorse powers the base model Fusion as well as the hybrid. In both cases (though it is tuned much differently depending upon the car), the engine responds superbly.
On the base model I tested, the 175 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque provided plenty of pep. Better yet, the six-speed manual made this car outright sporty. A well-kept secret is the manual four-cylinder Fusion. (Between you, me and the world, the four-banger manual is much more fun than the automatic V-6.)
Instead of relying on the six-speed automatic, which does provide the best gas mileage, the manual provides more excitement. (There's also a V-6 model Fusion using Ford's nearly bulletproof 3-liter Duratec 30 -- to which Ford managed to add 19 horses while increasing the engine's mileage.)
Of course, the Fusion Sport also features a new engine for the Fusion: The 3.5-liter V-6. In my all-wheel-drive test vehicle, the Fusion Sport was a hoot. It attacked corners. Acceleration was quick, and the car felt surprisingly light when throttling it harder than most midsize sedan customers might.
The electric power assisted steering on the 2.5-liter and 3-liter models feels natural and well-weighted. This steering, developed for the hybrid, goes on all of the cars expect the sport model, which uses a hydraulic steering system.
Ford also retuned the Fusion's suspension, tightening it up to provide a more exact ride. On the highway, the ride is smooth and quiet -- there were a number of adjustments to make the ride quieter, such as adding an acoustic windshield, thicker glass, hood insulators, improving the door seals and using new carpet. The improvements are noticeable on all the Fusion versions, if you have the wherewithal to notice what you don't hear.
And if you want a scary-quiet ride, hop into the hybrid that glides along a cushion of smugness worthy of its Japanese competitors. It can hit 47 mph on electric power only and drive more than 700 miles on a single tank of fuel.
The hybrid uses a plethora of technology to limit fuel use, reduce emissions and capture nearly 94 percent of the energy typically lost in braking, sending that juice back to the car's batteries.
The Smart Gauge, exclusive on the hybrid, combines an analogue speedometer and two digital screens to coach drivers into better performance without becoming pedantic.
Add to that real car dynamics and the Fusion hybrid can easily hold the title of best all-around hybrid on the road today. Interior details improve
The other big improvement on the Fusion was Ford's attention to detail on the interior.
My Sport test vehicle arrived with a shocking blue interior -- almost too blue to be true -- and included all of the accoutrements you'd expect and a few you wouldn't.
Sync, Ford's infotainment system, continues to improve and remains the single best voice-operated, cell-phone working, iPod-playing, 911-dialing and optional navigation reading system available. Actually, when connected to Sirius Travel Link, it's even better than I make it out to be.
Ford added or refined even more features inside the cabin to make every driver, no matter which vehicle you pick, comfortable. The new instrument cluster looks much more sophisticated, and the dash has an easy flow. The touch points are soft, and every inch of the cabin uses high-quality materials. The Sport model includes a rubberized colored trim that is, gasp, fun.
From new seats to an unobtrusive blind spot detection system mounted on the outside mirrors, these Fords are ready to ride. The backup camera screen is logically hidden in the rearview mirror and disappears moments after you put the car in drive.
You can customize the interior lights, crank your customized play lists through 390 watts on the Sony branded stereo and breathe customized fresh air through the car's carbon air filter. Yes, this car caters to you, and it should, you're paying for it.
Ford has added new features to the Fusion and figured out ways to add features from its other vehicles without ever looking like it's showing off. There's no single piece I can point to that shows why this Fusion is so good, but rather it's the combination of all of these ideas that creates a machine greater than the sum of its parts.
Add them all up, and the Fusion is one of the best cars out, no matter what variation.
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Fusion Sport: *** 1/2
Fusion Hybrid: ****
Exterior: Excellent: New power dome hood and cleaner lines on the exterior give the Fusion a more athletic look.
Interior: Excellent. Upgrades in material and thoughtful placement of instruments create a comfortable and exciting interior. Sync still reigns supreme for voice-operated infotainment systems.
Performance: Excellent. No matter what model you pick, the Fusion offers a spirited ride and excellent handling.
Safety: Excellent: Electronic stability control, full set of air bags and other safety features make this midsize sedan one of the safest on the road.
Pros: Good looking, affordable midsize sedan stands out in a crowded segment.
Cons: The addition of the Sport model makes the 3-liter V-6 less desirable.
**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor