Los Angeles – If you were there at the introduction of Ford’s Taurus in 1986, you’ll remember the jaw-dropping that accompanied its rollout. At that time, in a decade absolutely awash in automotive mediocrity (Ferrari’s 308 – while eminently watchable – struggled to reach sixty in eight seconds…) the Taurus redefined both the American sedan and consumer expectations. While Ford’s heir to that legacy of innovation, the 2013 Ford Fusion, may wear a different moniker, it’s no less of a step for the Brain Trust in Dearborn.
In what was one of many across-the-country introductions of the Fusion, automotive journalists were invited to Los Angeles for a ride-and-drive of Ford’s newest. With three gasoline options, along with a hybrid and hybrid plug-in, the line-up isn’t lacking in available choices. First up was a Fusion 1.6 liter EcoBoost, with both automatic transmission and its Auto Start-Stop option. Ford’s start-stop system isn’t, of course, one of the first, but in its relentless effort to save every drop of gas (so it – along with many others – can be used for F-250 customers) Ford has gone with the flow in adapting start-stop for this volume offering.
Before getting to the miracle of auto start-stop, we gotta’ tell you: The combo of Ford’s 1.6 liter EcoBoost, with 178 horses and – more significant – 184 lb-ft of torque at just 2,500 rpm, is nothing short of miraculous. Response is immediate, cruising at highway speeds is leisurely, and the balance of this midsize sedan feels ‘just right’. At roughly $27K in SE guise, the car felt like an absolute steal. The point of the drive, the Auto Start-Stop, was both interesting and relevant, but not a revelation. That was provided by 1,600 cc’s of DOHC four and a 6-speed auto.
Next up was the hybrid. As was the case for the previous Fusion Hybrid, this is the alternative drivetrain for those eschewing (hadn’t used it in a while – this is a chance to do so…) alternative architectures. Of course, this new Fusion sheetmetal doesn’t exactly wrap you in anonymity, with its Aston-inspired snout (the last time an Aston encountered a Ford James Bond was behind the wheel!), coupe-like profile and expressive character lines. In point of fact, whereas in many markets Toyota’s Prius has become almost ubiquitous the Fusion looks to stand out in any crowd, even if that crowd is colored green.
The Fusion Hybrid’s likeability was, as expected, immediate. Its 2.0 liter four produces 141 horsepower, while the combined net horsepower is 188 at 71 miles-per-hour. Operation is seamless, and its 47 city/47 highway/47 combined (47/47/47) makes the Fusion the nation’s most fuel-efficient sedan. And its base MSRP of $27,200 (and an as-tested price of $31K) knocks this newest Ford out of the park, without knocking any prospect out of the marketplace.
The 2013 Fusion which served up the most surprise-and-delight, however, was provided the following morning, when getting behind the wheel of the new Fusion with a 1.6 liter EcoBoost and six-speed manual. Traffic was moderately heavy on the Pacific Coast Highway, but opened as we headed up Topanga Canyon Road. The Fusion’s balance was almost unnaturally good, while its ballast – just 3,300 pounds – was seemingly absent. The torque-laden four, when matched with the slick-shifting 6-speed manual, produced all of the goodness you’d want in a sedan using ‘sport’ as an adjective. If put to a stopwatch this new Fusion wouldn’t prove blindingly fast, but by any subjective measurement it’s the midsize 4-door to own if your pursuit of four doors is an automotive choice and not automotive purgatory.
Our return leg, from Thousand Oaks to Santa Monica, was supposed to be in the Titanium-trim Fusion with two liters of EcoBoost and (possibly) all-wheel drive. Regrettably, another journalist placed his needs ahead of ours and never made it to the switch point. Another writer, with years of experience making these same evaluations, judged the 2.0 EcoBoost as “almost another car,” with significantly more mass (almost two hundred pounds more), moderately more refinement and – of course – costing more money.
Were it our order blank we’d spec out a 2013 Fusion SE with the 1.6 liter EcoBoost four, 6-speed manual transmission, leather interior and modest appearance upgrades. For the privilege we’d spend roughly $26K plus T,T&L, along with god-knows-how-much on cosmetic dentistry. If you’re smiling this much behind the wheel the teeth oughta’ sparkle.