published Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Test Drive: Buckle up; the new Fusion has arrived

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    The dramatically designed new Ford Fusion has arrived at Mountain View Ford. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
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FAST FACTS

Model: 2013 Ford Fusion SE with EcoBoost.

Exterior color: White Platinum Metallic Tri-coat.

Interior color: Charcoal Black.

Engine: 1.6-liter EcoBoost (turbo).

Horsepower: 178.

Transmission: six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy: 36 mpg highway, 23 mpg city.

Dealer: Mountain V

Wow. What's that gorgeous new car the neighbors down the street brought home this week?

Is it an Aston Martin? An Audi? A Mercedes?

Look again, y'all.

Hitting dealerships (and driveways) this month is the 2013 Ford Fusion, a car some are calling the most beautiful mainstream, mid-sized sedan on the road today.

That might be up for debate, but there's no denying that this is a head-turning statement car for the Blue Oval company.

For well under $30,000, you can impersonate a luxury car owner and still get fun, frugal family transportation in the deal. That's why Ford expects to sell a quarter of a million Fusions a year.

I snagged a ride in one of the first 2013 Fusion's to hit the city this week at Mountain View Ford, and I got some serious grins and horn taps from motorists on Interstate 24 and Ringgold Road.

STYLING AND OPTIONS

Our test car's exterior is White Platinum Metallic, a deep-luster tri-coat paint option that adds a mere $495 to the sticker price and showcases the Fusion's curvy new sheet metal.

Many in the automotive press have noted that the Fusion's dramatic new front-end design is derivative of Aston Martin grilles. So what? It's gorgeous. (Frankly, some automakers are going overboard with flashy grilles these days, and their cars, to my eyes, look like catfish with braces. The Fusion, on the other hand, looks refined and expensive.)

Raised character lines run horizontally the length of the car, and the hood has V-shaped tiers, which define lines that ripple down through the fascia. Headlights are recessed into slots that taper nicely into the front quarter-panels. Face-to-face with the Fusion, a small blue-oval emblem above the grille is your only hint this isn't a $60,000 import.

The Fusion has more than just a pretty face, though. A high belt-line and steeply-raked windshield give the Fusion the look of a four-door "coupe." The rear features tear-drop shaped tail-lights and trunk lid architecture that echoes the shape of the grille. Our test car also has an appearance package ($1,510) that includes custom, 18-inch painted wheels and a rear spoiler.

Inside, the Fusion is a study in simplicity. The dash is bereft of dials and switches. Two unobtrusive knobs control the sound system volume and radio tuning. Besides that, the dash is flat, simple and elegant. The instrument cluster includes an analog speedometer and two programmable LED displays for gauges.

Options in our mid-level SE test car included a $1,000 tech package that features Ford's MyTouch system, a touch-screen interface that controls MP3 players, phones, radio and climate control. (So, that's where all the buttons went.)

The interior of the Fusion is spacious and includes thoughtful ergonomic details, like indentations in the rear-seat headliner to increase headroom a fraction of an inch. That low-slung roof so gorgeous on the outside, does limit visibility some. A few extra minutes adjusting the rearview and side mirrors are in order.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Our test car came equipped with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with EcoBoost. The little turbo-charged, direct-injection engine makes 178 horsepower and moves the Fusion along nicely. A 2.0-liter EcoBoost and a normally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder are the other engine choices. (A six-cylinder variant has been dropped.)

On our highway test drive, the Fusion was remarkably quiet and composed.

The hum of the tubo-charged engine was barely audible and yet the car sprinted eagerly through traffic. Steering is precise and secure. For those wanting a bit more of a thrill, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, available soon, will make 240 horsepower and should be a blast to drive.

BOTTOM LINE

Our Fusion SE with tech and appearance packages is a good value at $28,605. According to the car website Edmunds.com the base price range of the new Fusions is $21,700 to $32,200. Fuel economy for our midline SE is 36 mpg highway, 23 mpg city.

The 2013 Fusion proves once and for all that family transportation doesn't have to be dull.

In a segment packed with top-notch competitors from the likes of VW, Honda, Toyota, GM, Kia and Nissan, the Fusion needed an edge. Fabulous looks are not a bad place to start.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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