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November 02, 2012

The 2013 Ford Fusion-A Triumvirate of Models is a Home Run

Fusion 2Santa Monica, California: The view from my panoramic window took in the sun’s orange globe setting over the Pacific, a small cluster of beachgoers relaxing on the golden-colored sand, a parade of strollers and bikers along the boardwalk, and the famed Santa Monica Pier with its trademark Ferris wheel spinning its riders high into the salt air above the ocean punctuated by ribbons of neon lights.

I was in trendy Santa Monica, staying at the upscale and amiable  Casa del Mar Hotel—to drive the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion over the course of two days. Not long ago, it would have been a fairly-short,  one-day drive, but Ford has expanded the offerings of Fusion models to three model types, and there are now three powertrain choices to select from, as well. The mid-sized sedan market today is a new, highly-competitive arena and the Blue Oval automaker has stepped up to the plate loading the bases with good product and also bringing seven new whiz-bang technology features to the game. It’s bound  to pay off!

Fusion 1Now available in all-gasoline-powered, gas/electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, the 2013 Fusion claims up to 47 mpg (on hybrid models), and up to 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) with the plug-in hybrid. All models are on sale now, with the exception of the plug-in; base Fusion pricing starts at $21,700. Three trims include a Base, SE, and uplevel Titanium model.

From the outside, the mid-sized Fusion has clearly grown up and has gorgeous aerodynamic styling that makes you stop and stare, as you drink it in. This 2010 North American Car of the Year looks sleeker and more sophisticated than its predecessor, with an elliptical front grille and narrow, slanted headlamps that recall iconic Thunderbird styling. “Character lines” – those sheet metal accents that draw the eye in – sweep up and back toward the rear, which is clipped and slightly jaunty; it might also remind you of the styling of the Ford Focus, as well as new sedans from Hyundai and Audi.

Accents such as squared-off dual exhaust pipes (on higher end models) channel a sports car vibe. Standard wheels are 16 inches, with up to 19 inchers available on top-of-the-line trims. 

Inside, this all-American sedan speaks with a European accent, with a driver-centric cabin that is comfortable without being cushy and technologically well-equipped without looking cluttered. There’s a sense of seamlessness – smaller gaps between the interior and exterior, and more pleasurable surfaces thanks to soft-touch materials and upholstery throughout.

The instrument panel has been pushed forward, so the cabin feels roomier overall. The car seats five, and trunk space is ample for a couple sets of golf clubs or a weekly stock-up at the supermarket. Standard upholstery is fabric, with leather trim available. Also available is the latest, updated version of
MyFordTouch and SYNC, a combination of entertainment, navigation and communications through voice commands, touch screens and traditional buttons.

 Fusion’s three gas-powered engines include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 175 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque; a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost version that delivers 178 hp. and 184 lb.-ft.; and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost that pumps out 240 horses and gets a healthy 270 lb.-ft. of torque. The 2.5-liter four and the 1.6-liter EcoBoost each are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, though a 6-speed manual is available for models set up with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, which also get stop/start technology, active grille shutters, and an “underbody shield”-all great fuel-saving measures employed by Ford The 2.0-liter EcoBoost gets the 6-speed automatic with SelectShift manual shifting capability. All models are front-wheel drive although an all-wheel-drive version is available on top-of-the-line Titanium editions. Ford claims its gas-powered models have a top fuel economy of 22/34

The 2013 Fusion Hybrid also features an all-new 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine and all-new lithium-ion batteries that save weight and generate more power than previous nickel-metal hydride batteries. Its aerodynamics have been accentuated, with full underbody cladding, grille shutters, and streamlined mirrors. The Energi plug-in hybrid will be available this fall and is anticipated to deliver more than 100 MPGe – Ford says it’s better than either the Chevy Volt or Toyota Prius plug-in.

Front and rear independent suspension and electric power assisted steering keep things steady on the  road, and stopping is powered by four-wheel disc brakes with ABS – vented in front, solid in the
back –are standard. Ford hopes to achieve 5-star safety ratings for the updated Fusion that gets eight standard airbags--front, side, and knee bags for front-seat passengers and side curtains that cover the
full window opening front and rear--for all outboard passengers. A host of safety and performance technologies are available, including lane-keeping assist to help detect drifting into the wrong lane, adaptive cruise control, parking assist and a blind sport monitoring system.

Fusion-3We drove all models of the 2013 Fusion, starting with the Fusion Hybrid, which travels up to 62 mph on battery power alone. It’s identified by hybrid badging on the outside and inside provides drivers with coaching” information to enhance smooth and fuel-efficient motoring. You will be rewarded at the pump and also with a graphic of cascading “efficiency leaves” on the instrument cluster; they grow more plentiful with your success at using battery power! Notable is the sedan’s quietness, attractive and airy
interior and ride comfort.

Next in line was the Fusion with the 1.6 and stop/start technology that aids in fuel economy. We noted that there is some shudder and shake to this automatic transmission version, when the system stops and restarts, but is fairly non-intrusive and clearly adds value, especially for urban commuters. We also drove the Fusion set up with the 1.6-liter engine and a 6-speed manual transmission—a true pleasure to drive this smooth-shifting manual model, in a car market that has few remaining. The transmission and engine work together for on-the-ready power and exhilarating acceleration in a family sedan.

Our longer drive route with tight and twisty roads also let us evaluate Fusion’s electric power steering, as well as the Fusion’s brakes and independent suspension, finding a tight and responsive package, with
good handling characteristics. Our final evaluation was of the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo engine, which Ford says is a “rocket ship”; its power and torque found low in the rpm range are a treat and make it quite fun to drive, despite its large size. Fusion engineers explain that parts of its engine depend on
technology and materials “tried and tested in outer space”, as both turbo parts and materials used on the Fusion were used on the Space Shuttle, hence bringing reliability and dependability.

The base Fusion S gets standard 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, full power accessories, an
integrated blind spot mirror, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, the voice-activated Sync audio and cell phone interface, 4-speaker audio system with Cd player and auxiliary jack. Fusion SE is equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), rear air ducts, a rear fold-down armrest, enhanced audio and satellite radio. Optional equipment includes an Appearance package that adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and special cloth upholstery. A Luxury package brings leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver memory settings, a power-reclining passenger seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while a Technology package bundles dual-zone automatic climate control, the MyFord Touch electronics interface ( 8-inch center display and configurable gauge cluster display), an upgraded version of SYNC, two USB ports and rearview camera.

Top-of-the-line Titanium comes standard with 18-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension, keyless ignition/entry, remote ignition, auto-dimming side mirrors, rear parking sensors, sport front seats, a
12-speaker Sony sound system, HD radio and Luxury and Technology Packages.



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