Test Drive:2017 Ford Fusion

Christian Wardlaw | Jun 06, 2016
Research the Ford Fusion on the J.D. Power Cars website and you might conclude that this midsize car isn't worth consideration. It rates about average in terms of initial quality, and it rates below that for overall appeal. The current-generation Fusion also rated below average in the most recent J.D. Power U.S. Vehicle Dependability StudySM (VDS).

If you could peer more closely at the data, you would discover that Ford's infotainment system, called MyFord Touch, is responsible for much of the Fusion's ratings malaise. There is good news on that front, however, as Ford has ditched that technology in the refreshed 2017 Fusion.

2017 Ford Fusion Platinum front quarter left photoIn its place is the company's new Sync 3 system, which the automaker says can respond to inputs with greater speed, has more sophisticated voice-recognition technology, features improved graphics on a capacitive-touch display screen, and provides an expanded number of capabilities.

Additionally, the 2017 Ford Fusion gains a more luxurious Platinum trim level, performance-tuned Sport version, and upgraded Hybrid and Energi variants. Structural changes are designed to improve the Fusion's safety ratings, and the car gains new driver-assistance technologies include a pedestrian-detection system and automatic emergency braking.

To sample Ford's changes first-hand, I headed to Long Beach, California, to drive the new Fusion Platinum and the updated Fusion Hybrid. Driving time proved short, but I spent enough time behind the wheel to gather meaningful impressions of each car.

Likes

Midsize family sedans infrequently attract customers on the strength of their styling, but the Fusion is one of the few exceptions. Despite subtle tweaks to the lighting, grille, and bumpers, as well as new aluminum wheel designs, the Fusion remains one of the best-looking models in its segment.

That sentiment carries over to the interior, and especially in the new Platinum trim level. Equipped with matte-finish wood trim, premium leather on the seats and multiple interior surfaces, and quilted patterns on the seats and door panels, few clues signal the Fusion Platinum's humble beginnings.

2017 Ford Fusion Platinum interior photoComfort levels are high, front and rear, and it is easy for the driver to find a perfect position behind the steering wheel. Heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel are available, and while the Fusion's sleek roofline is low and tapered, occupants sit up high with excellent thigh support.

Sync 3 is a big improvement over the old MyFord Touch technology. Equipped with a brighter display, with larger and more modern graphics, and larger touch-sensing main menu buttons, the Sync 3 system is easier to use, simpler to navigate, and responds with greater sensitivity and speed compared with the old one.

While Ford's structural changes are designed to improve the 2017 Fusion's crash-test ratings, new data was not yet released as this review was written. If the car does achieve top scores in federal government and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, that will be a great new thing about this car.

Already offered with a number of driver-assistance technologies, the Fusion gains two important features for 2017: a pedestrian-detection system and an automatic emergency braking system. The latter is especially important, as it has been proven to dramatically reduce accidents.

Ford's new transmission shifter–a rotary knob with a knurled outer edge and a Sport driving mode button–is a work of art, and is quite intuitive to use. Plus, it has the added benefit of improving the Fusion's cupholders and expanding console storage space.

2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium rotary shifter photoIn the Fusion Platinum, that rotary shifter controls a 6-speed automatic transmission that is bolted to a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Thanks to 245 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque, this engine delivers strong, almost thrilling, acceleration. If that's true of this power plant, just imagine what a rocket the Fusion Sport promises to be.

Riding on large, polished, 19-in. aluminum wheels, the Fusion Platinum delivers responsive handling and a taut ride quality, and on a short twisty portion of road the car proved predictable and enjoyable to drive. An optional all-wheel-drive system improves the car's traction in rain and snow.

The Fusion Hybrid receives what Ford claims is a more efficient electric motor as well as revised software designed to improve the car's driving character. This might be true, though without driving the 2017 model back-to-back with the 2016 it's difficult to tell.

In any case, the Fusion Hybrid effortlessly returned 35.4 mpg in a mix of driving in hilly terrain. That's less than the EPA predicts, but I frequently drove the car in energetic fashion. That explains why I was not quite as successful as I wanted to be at growing leaves on the Fusion Hybrid's addictive "Efficiency Leaves" display screen.

2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium efficiency gauge photoIf you like a quiet car, the Fusion Hybrid deserves consideration. Even at 80 mph on the highway it is relatively quiet and noise isolated. If you're so inclined, the Fusion Energi is a plug-in hybrid version of the car, one delivering 21 miles of electric range and a total of 610 miles of combined electric and hybrid driving range, according to Ford.

Dislikes

Based on my brief time with the new 2017 Fusion, dislikes about the car are few and far between.

Neither version of the car came close to getting the city fuel economy the EPA suggests they might, and I didn't drive them solely in the city. Nevertheless, a longer test on a route containing a greater variety of driving situations would be necessary before drawing any firm conclusions in this regard.

Sync 3 represents a big upgrade over MyFord Touch, but there is room for additional improvement. In my experience, the navigation map's pinch-to-zoom function seems to take forever to zoom, and the screen is not proximity sensing, which would help Ford to maximize screen display options.

2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium rear seat photoWhile the front and rear seats are undeniably comfortable and supportive, the rear seat backrest is reclined a bit too much, fostering a slouched seating position. If you like to sit up high behind the steering wheel, the Fusion's low roof and wide windshield pillars can impede visibility.

Finally, most of the 2017 Fusion's paint color choices are rather drab, and the new Fusion Sport comes only with a black interior.

Conclusion

Consumer complaints about infotainment systems and technology have taken a toll on vehicle reliability ratings in recent years, and no modern, technologically sophisticated vehicle is immune to the trend.

Ford's addition of Sync 3 to the 2017 Fusion should improve owner satisfaction, and because the software can be updated via Wi-Fi, the technology behind it should remain viable over the course of ownership.

2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium rear quarter right photoOtherwise, the new Fusion is stylish, comfortable, and enjoyable to drive. The range of powertrains and trim levels is a broad one, making it easy to find a Fusion to meet your requirements.

That is, unless you want a Fusion Sport with something other than a black interior.








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