I like ice cream.
I know that’s not exactly a ground shaking tidbit of personal information since pretty much anyone who doesn’t suffer from dentinal sensitivity or lactose intolerance falls into that same category. There are probably even people in those groups that eat their favorite flavor of ice cream anyway, all the while saying, “Ouch! That tastes good! Ouch, that still tastes good!” Interestingly, according to the International Ice Cream Association, of all the flavors available to the ice cream eating public, the single most popular flavor is vanilla. Yup, plain ol’ vanilla. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me, but I wonder why. Sure, vanilla is good, but there are so many more exciting flavors in the frozen treat palate, vanilla is so… basic. That explains why the word vanilla has become an adjective describing various people or things as no frills, conventional or uninteresting.
I guess you’re asking right about now: What exactly does vanilla ice cream have to do with the Fusion Titanium AWD?
Absolutely nothing, and that’s my point.
Hear me out before you file a petition on the White House web page demanding the last thirty seconds of your life back. The analogy between ice cream and cars isn’t that farfetched. Whether it’s made in Michigan or Mexico, the process for making any flavor of ice cream is the same: Mix cream, sugar, a dash of salt and a lot of cold. The ingredients you add in are what separates vanilla from, say, black forest. It’s the same with Fusions. The foundation ingredients of a Titanium are the same as every level Fusion: striking good looks, roomy five passenger interior with lots of safety features and transverse mounted four cylinder based drivetrains. It’s the options list that adds flavor.
The analogy between ice cream and cars isn’t that farfetched. The foundation ingredients of a Titanium are the same as every level Fusion.
It seems like enough can’t be said about the Fusion’s appearance. Even in the base S model the Astonesque grille flanked by a pair of frowning headlights give the front of the car a bit more attitude than most cars in this segment. With the sculpted hood and bodysides flowing to the wraparound taillights, the 2013 Fusion is a dramatic change from its vanilla predecessor. Opting for the Titanium model ($30,200 FWD or $32,745 AWD) cranks the flavor up a notch with 18 inch polished aluminum wheels, driving lights with bright trim, a rear spoiler and bright dual exhaust tips to finish off the exterior package. Our all wheel drive tester was sprinkled with Ruby Red paint for $395 and a 19″ wheel package with “H-Spoke Dark Stainless” Aluminum Wheels and 245/40R19 all-season tires for $695. I love the “dark stainless” effect on the rims. They stood out without being too shiny or too dark especially against the red paint, as well as most other colors on Fords site, and I wouldn’t have minded if all the brightwork matched that finish. Outwardly, the appearance seems in line with our car’s $37,670 as tested price before incentives.
Between the seat and the tilting and telescoping wheel, if you can’t find a comfortable driving position, JJ Abrams is looking for you as an extra in the next Star Wars feature.
While the rims weren’t too dark, that’s an apt description of the passenger compartment. As pleasant a place as the interior is with its perforated leather, soft touch plastic and aluminum look trim, some two-tone interior styling would have been appreciated. In the SE package you can opt for a “Dune” color, sort of a sandy tan, that brightens up the interior by adding color to door panel inserts, lower dash and console plastic, the seats, pillars and headliner. In the Titanium, you have to live with a near black monochromatic interior. Like I said, its not unpleasant by any stretch, just very dark in appearance. That darkness is filled to the brim with comfort and convenience items, though. The driver gets a 10-way power seat with lumbar controls while the passenger settles for 4. Both seats are heated and have 4-way adjustable headrests. Between the seat and the tilting and telescoping wheel, if you can’t find a comfortable driving position, JJ Abrams is looking for you as an extra in the next Star Wars feature. Cushioning is firm, which I happen to like. On a three hour drive to Hartford, CT, other than some butt cheek numbness from sitting for that long, I didn’t feel any need to get out and stretch to relieve any other muscles.
The rest of the Fusion Titanium’s standard equipment list is filled with as many tasty features as a variety pack of Ben & Jerry’s, such as the usual power windows and door locks, automatic dual zone climate control with rear seat vents, Sony 12 speaker HD audio system with CD and auxiliary inputs, Sync with MyFordTouch, reverse sensing system with rear view monitor, remote start, keyless entry and push button start. The seats, steering wheel, shifter and assorted surfaces are swathed in leather. There are redundant buttons for cruise control and audio functions on the wheel, as well as toggles to change information on the gauge displays that flank the central speedometer. Voice activated Navigation is a $795 dollar upgrade our tester carried as well. As usual, the voice activation worked almost flawlessly. Every test I use Sync, and every test it suffers at least one case of automotive brain freeze in its understanding of a few of my commands. In this case, while I was showing the photographer some of the features by looking for a car wash it decided I didn’t want to use the POI menu, so I did it by touch. Such is life…
Beyond the standard safety features including front, side and knee airbags up front and side curtain bags front and rear, three point belts at every position, Stabilitrak and post-crash alert, this Fusion Titanium was equipped with optional features. The $1000 Driver Assist package added BLIS blind spot and cross traffic alerts (in conjunction with the reverse sensing system and camera), Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep assist with driver monitoring, Automatic high beams, rain sensing wipers and 110v outlet. It also had the option of Parking Assist for $795 and Adaptive Cruise Control for $995 which, using radar, reacts to the actions of the car in front of you by slowing down or resuming speed as necessary. BLIS works as it should with the warning light in the side mirror indicating a vehicle or obstruction, while a tone sounds if you engage the turn signal to that side. The lane departure system also works as advertised.
If the system senses the car approaching the lane markers it turns that line yellow on the display. If you cross the line it gently turns the wheel back in the direction you should be going. If you’re making the correction at the instant the vehicle does, the car will dart back in that direction as if the steering is over assisted which, at that moment, it is by design. Some people won’t like it, if not they can simply not activate it. I didn’t try the Park Assist or experience the Adaptive Cruise Control, so I’ll make no claim as to their operation. If I were the one checking option boxes, I would have taken both of those systems and the Ruby Red paint off the table which drops the list price by almost $2300. Those are just personal preference decisions, not complaints about the features. The Ruby Red paint is a pretty color, I just don’t like my cars red.
A comment on the paddle shifters: Unless you’re the type of driver that has to be totally in control of every aspect of the driving experience, their use isn’t really necessary.
All Fusion Titaniums are motivated by the GTDI 2.0 liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine that makes 240 hp @ 5500 RPM (231 on regular) and 270 lb. ft. of torque @ 3000. I didn’t take any timed runs for performance gauging, but other outlets seem to put it under 7.0 sec to 60 mph with 1/4 mile times in the 15 flat range at over 90 mph. Even though they seem like respectable numbers, the seat of the pants experience doesn’t give that impression. At very low speeds and hard launches from a standing start, the 270 lb. ft. of torque was seemingly invisible getting the 3700 pound car up to speed. The EPA estimates of 22 city/ 31 highway/ 25 combined were fairly easy to match at relatively moderate speeds. On that drive to Hartford I mentioned earlier, I drove the meandering back roads of Sussex County NJ and Orange County NY before merging onto Interstate 84. Looking back, that’s where the this car’s strength lies. The Titanium’s seats have thick bolsters holding you in place which encourages exuberant cornering. The “European inspired” Macpherson strut front and multi-link rear suspensions do their job well.
After my experiences with Ford’s regenerative brakes in the C-Max and Focus Electric, the 4-wheel ABS disc brakes of the Fusion worked so well, they deserve an honorable mention. Paired with the 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and AWD, the Titanium has good grip with just a bit of FWD push at the limit. The 40 to 50 mph two-lane twisties were fun to drive as a result and the Fusion gave back about 25 mpg before I reached the interstate. A comment on the paddle shifters: Unless you’re the type of driver that has to be totally in control of every aspect of the driving experience, their use isn’t really necessary. The transmission tuning seems well matched to the 2.0 EcoBoost in most driving circumstances. On downhill coasts with the selector set in D it down shifted to generate some engine braking just as I was making the same decision instead of freewheeling for the sake of fuel economy. While I might have held the upshifts a bit longer, it wasn’t short shifting by any stretch. If you are a more aggressive driver than I am, you might feel differently, but I doubt you will in this car.
On Route 84, the Fusion Titanium continued to gain mpg as I crossed New York state at barely over the posted limit. By the time I crossed the Hudson river the trip computer had me at over 29 mpg which seems fair in comparison to its 31 mpg claim, but once I crossed into Connecticut, all bets were off. The CT DOT might as well have installed a red brick stripe across the highway at the New York State line. Instantly, traffic that had been sedately traveling between 65 and 70 jumped up to 75 and 80 mph. Apparently, my crew chief didn’t yell “GO!GO!GO!” into my helmet radio to let me know the green flag had dropped. Cars started passing me on the right as if I missed a shift coming out of turn four. Hoofin’ it up to traffic speed kept me from being black flagged, or at least one finger flagged, but dragged down the fuel economy.
By the time I reached Hartford, it had dropped back to 24.6 mpg. Even with a six speed auto, the EcoBoost motor had to stay relatively high in the rev range to maintain that speed. The all wheel drive Titanium has a slightly taller gear ratio than the front drive variant (3.36 vs 3.21), so I guess that’s where it shows up, which is a shame, really. I don’t know what the torque curve looks like, but it feels narrow in the 2.0 turbo. The sound of the engine at highway speeds, while not loud, is definitely noticeable and not particularly sporty. Where the aerodynamics nearly eliminate wind noise and the suspension does a good job of keeping tire noise at a minimum, the engine is the main source of white noise contributing to a bit of long drive drowsiness late in the day that made me wish I could call the front desk: “Hi, this is room 684 S, can I get a wake up call at the Thruway?”
That being said, I’d still be happy to keep the Fusion Titanium on my dessert menu. My only points of concern are the color of the interior, but not the quality or comfort. Also, the lack of torque getting to the ground, and the lack of sporty sound from the 2.0 EcoBoost. I think a more ST like tune would give this car the power to back up the handling and grip, while perking up the tone.
A more ST like tune would give this car the power to back up the handling and grip.
I kind of feel like the person with dentinal sensitivity getting that black forest ice cream and finding out it has artificially flavored cherry syrup instead of real marinated black cherries mixed through its rich chocolate ice cream and real whipped cream. The Fusion Titanium feeds me a delicious, rich and creamy combination of excellent chassis tuning and intuitive brakes, comfortable accommodations and good looks that outweigh what seems to be an underwhelming, artificially flavored engine.
I’ll eat it, but all the while I’ll be thinking, “Ouch, it still tastes good!”