A ride for grown-up drivers

BY Haney Louka. Sep 23 04:00 am

Fellow automobile journalist Kelly Taylor was driving up to my house when he saw a new car in my driveway. That’s nothing unusual, but from a distance, he was asking himself, since when has there been a Jaguar press car in town, and why didn’t he know about it?

The “Jaguar,” it turns out, is the new Ford Fusion Sport, and that about sums up how much of an overachiever this new car is.

Even though it’s been eight years since Ford owned Jag and Land Rover, products from the Dearborn, Mich. automaker have continued to benefit from a distinct international flair in the design department.

For 2017, Ford has updated the Fusion line with an effective mid-cycle refresh. Looks-wise, we benefit from subtle yet effective tweaks that go a long way toward increasing the Fusion’s road presence: a restyled grille flanked by available quad LED headlights up front, as well as a new rump with a horizontal chrome bar, pay dividends in curbside sophistication.

Changes inside are fairly minor, with the exception of the car’s new Jaguar-esque rotary gear selector on the centre console. Replacing the more traditional shift lever found in last year’s model, the new knob frees up space by allowing the cup holders to be moved forward into a more convenient location and increasing storage space beneath the armrest. It’s an elegant solution that’s easier to become accustomed to than the push button shifting in the Lincoln MKZ.

But one of the most appealing aspects of the Fusion line is the variety of flavours on the menu: While not quite up there with Baskin Robbins, the Fusion can be had with a variety of powertrains, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid and a choice of four gasoline engines. Depending on the model, power can be put to the pavement through the two front wheels or all four.

The bidding starts at $23,688 for the Fusion S with a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. This is the only mill of the group that doesn’t take advantage of forced induction, and there are no such choices available on the S. The $25,588 SE has the same engine, but offers the choice of 1.5- and 2.0-litre EcoBoost engines.

The Titanium and Platinum trims come with increasing levels of equipment and technology along with their higher price tags; one can easily venture into the $40,000s when ordering a Fusion.

Ford wanted us to sample one such model, and lucky for us, it is the most sporting of the bunch: the 325-hp, all-wheel drive Fusion Sport. Carrying a retail price of $42,288, a quick check on ford.ca tells us that the “employee price” at the time of this writing is $40,311 including freight – quite a discount.

And that price tag is pretty much all-inclusive: leather and synthetic suede on the seats, heated and cooled front seats, Sync 3, 12 speaker audio, navigation, remote start, LED lighting all around, quad round exhaust tips, blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high-beams and a bunch more goodies.

As our depressing march toward autonomous vehicles continues, let the record show that the Sport also packs adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function, lane-keep assist and active park assist.

It was a relief, then, that once I got behind the wheel, thoughts of all of the technology at work quickly disappeared. I should note that I drove this Fusion immediately after returning the Focus RS. Now that’s a Ford for drivers, for sure, but the Fusion Sport is the Ford for grown-up drivers.

Dressed in Magnetic Metallic paint, this Fusion looks like a million bucks with a monochromatic theme punctuated by just the right amount of chrome accenting. The quad tailpipes lend some authority to the Fusion’s rear end, which is the only view most other drivers will get.

The Fusion has always been a user-friendly and practical car, but this power boost gives it a whole new persona. Driven gently, the Fusion goes about its business giving nary a hint of its capabilities. But get into the throttle and it responds with instant torque from the twin-turbo 2.7-litre V-6.

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