2013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD Review By Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

…Exotic looks without first-class road manners would be false advertising to my mind. No such problem with this 2013 Ford Fusion!

2013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD Review

Midsize sedans are the most popular motor vehicles in this country, but Ford has not been a major factor in that class since the heyday of the original Taurus, long ago. Ford would like to be at the head of the class again, and the newest Fusion just might do the trick.

The 2013 Fusion is more evolutionary than revolutionary, although that may not be readily apparent. Its appearance is more "expensive European" than "Middle American", with the coupe-like roof line that's high fashion among the premium luxury brands. Built on a new platform, it has grown about five inches in wheelbase, all the better for interior space and comfort, but only an inch in length compared to the previous generation. Greater use of high-strength steel results in a stronger, more rigid unibody structure for improved safety, quiet, and ride quality.

Choice is a necessity for popularity, and the 2013 Fusion lineup offers plenty of that, both in trim levels from basic middle-class S through popularly-equipped SE to near-luxury Titanium with gasoline power, plus gasoline-electric hybrid and plug-in hybrid models in the upper levels. Like most cars today, the Fusion has its engine transversely mounted in the front, driving the front wheels. All-wheel drive is an option at the Titanium gasoline level.

The base engine is the familiar 2.5-liter, 175 horsepower four-cylinder. But if you're looking for the V6 option, as before, there isn't one. Ford has discovered "EcoBoost" -- direct fuel injection with turbocharging to get the power of a V6 when needed, with better fuel economy when the power isn't needed. The two EcoBoost engine upgrades are a 1.6-liter four with 178 horsepower and a 2.0-liter four with 240 horsepower -- comparable to the old 3.0-liter Duratec V6 but with more torque, 270 vs 223 lb-ft. Transmissions are all six-speed, automatic mostly but a manual is offered with the 1.6-liter engine.

Looking for the latest in electronic safety and infotainment technology? Look no further. Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, a rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and driver-alert systems, navigation, satellite radio, and even Ford's self-parallel parking Active Park Assist system are all available, at least on upper trim levels.

It sounds good on paper, and looks good both in photos and in the sheetmetal. How does it work? After a week with a comprehensively-equipped all-wheel drive Titanium model, with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, I can say "very well." As in a driving experience more like what you'd get from a prestige European brand than from the Fusion's traditional American and Asian-brand competitors. Comfort and performance were first-rate, and fuel economy, at around 18-22 mpg around town and 27-30 on the highway -- with no attempt at getting the best possible mileage -- was not bad at all. Spacious and stylish, with good manners, power, and economy‚€¶¬ Ford has a world-class sedan in the 2013 Fusion.

APPEARANCE: Exotic looks in a mainstream American sedan? Why not? Car nerd that I am, my first impression upon seeing photos of the `13 Fusion was "looks like an Aston Martin grille, hood too! Hey, Ford owned Aston for a while, so, and it's not quite the same shape. It also looks good on the car. The Fusion's shape is elegant and cohesive with a fine balance between curved shapes and delineating edges. It's no box, nor is it a 1996 Taurus, the oval personified. The hood bulge gives the impression of a longitudinal inline six-cylinder engine mounted beneath, and so rear-wheel drive. Chalk it up to unintentional humor. Chrome trim is tastefully minimal, and repeater turn signals are mounted in the outside mirrors. Careful attention to detail is apparent underneath, where plastic panels direct air to reduce drag.

COMFORT: At Titanium level, the Fusion is in entry-luxury territory. A tough neighborhood, but the Fusion compares well with anything there, including premium brands. Soft-touch materials, close panel gaps, and understated design are expected, and will be found. Good soundproofing and attention to aerodynamic detail make for a relaxingly quiet cabin. Front seat comfort is very good, with power adjustment. Leather, of course. As in other top-level Ford vehicles, instrumentation is multi-configurable "glass cockpit", centered around a bright electroluminescent speedometer. Access to safety and vehicle systems is on the left, controlled from the left side of the steering wheel spokes, with navigation and entertainment to the right and controlled from the right side of the steering wheel. It's fairly intuitive, with further control via the touchscreen at the top of the center stack if all possible options are specified as in my test car. Outboard rear passengers get a good amount of space; the center position is useable for smaller people and short distances -- as with nearly every sedan made today. A 60/40 folding backrest provides useful extra cargo ability, but the trunk should be large enough for most uses. A space-saved spare is found under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: Since the Fusion is a world car -- it's sold as the Mondeo in Europe and Asia -- it has to meet worldwide safety standards. Which can be conflicting. So plenty of computer modeling took place before anything was built, and even more testing afterwards. Ford expects it to get the highest ratings for crashworthiness. Good road manners and fine antilock four-wheel disc brakes with the AdvanceTrac stability enhancement system help drivers to avoid accidents. Available technology including radar-based blind-spot and rear cross traffic monitoring, a lane-departure warning system, and adaptive cruise control are available, as is Active Park Assist, which automatically drives the car into parallel parking spots.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Exotic looks without first-class road manners would be false advertising to my mind. No such problem! The revised MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is tuned in a European manner, moderately soft for comfort but with good damping so road irregularities are dealt with comfortably but with no negative effect on control. The electrically-assisted steering is not too light, and does allow some road feel to be transmitted to the driver. Attention to soundproofing and aerodynamics means a quiet cabin. Brakes are very good. This is an American family sedan that is enjoyable to drive in a spirited manner on what is usually considered a "sports car" road.

PERFORMANCE: V6 power with four-cylinder economy has been promised by turbo installations in the past, and rarely successfully. Theoretically, a turbocharger produces power when it's needed, as under acceleration or when passing or climbing a grade, with less power and so less fuel used in steady-speed highway cruising. But the turbo kick can be addictive for the driver; and feeding a hungry turbocharger does not make for good fuel economy. Ford gets 240 horsepower (at 5500 rpm) and 270 lb-ft of torque (at 3000 rpm) from the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four. That compares well with the late 3.0-liter Duratec V6's 240 hp (at 6500rpm) and 223 lb-ft (at 4300 rpm), and at lower engine speeds. Torque is strong at the bottom and in the midrange, just what you want, and the six-speed automatic is a great match. It doesn't have to shift often, thanks to a nice flat torque curve. When it does, it's quick, smooth, and unobtrusive. Manual shifting is possible, with paddles mounted behind the steering wheel spokes, but it's rarely necessary. EPA mileage estimates are 22mpg city, 31 highway, 25 overall; I got 24 overall, the same as in a V6 Fusion tested back in 2010. With a lighter right foot, I could have done better, but the engine's torque is much too entertaining.

CONCLUSIONS: With its 2013 Fusion, Ford has a world-class midsize sedan.

SPECIFICATIONS
2013 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD

Base Price			$ 32,200
Price As Tested			$ 37,050
Engine Type			turbocharged DOHC 16-valve aluminum
				 alloy 4-cylinder with independently-
				 variable cam phasing and direct fuel
				 injection.
Engine Size			2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.
Horsepower			240 @ 5500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			270 @ 3000 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		112.2 in. / 191.7 in.
Curb Weight			3681 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		15.3
Fuel Capacity			17.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
				 permissible, 91 octane unleaded premium
				 for best performance
Tires				235/40R19 96V Continental Conti Pro Contact
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 31 / 24
0 to 60 mph				est 7  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Ruby Red Clearcoat paint				$   395
Driver Assist Package - includes:
  BLIS¬ģ with Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning
  and Lane Keep Assist & Driver Monitoring, Automatic
  High Beams, Rain-sensing Wipers, 110 VAC power
  outlet						$ 1,200
Active Park Assist					$   895
19" Aluminum Wheels					$   695
Voice-Activated Navigation System			$   795
All-Weather Floor Mats					$    75
Destination Charge					$   795

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