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2017 Ford Fusion Sport – Embrace Your Pragmatic Inner Child

2017 Ford Fusion Sport

2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V6, DOHC (325 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm; 380 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm)

Six-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

17 city / 26 highway / 20 combined (EPA rating, MPG)

13.5 city / 9.0 highway / 11.5 combined (NRCan rating, L/100km)

20.6 mpg [11.4 L/100km] (Observed)

Base price: $34,480 (U.S.) / $44,038 (Canada)

As tested: $34,480 (U.S.) / $44,038 (Canada)

Prices include a $875 destination charge in the U.S. and $1,750 for destination charge and federal excise tax in Canada.

“Dad, you need to buy this car!” screamed my godsons from the backseat, needling their Scion xB-driving father with an outburst fueled entirely by speed-induced adrenaline and youthful innocence.

I remember being just a little older than these two kids — I was in Grade 4 to be exact — when a low-budget field trip to nowhere brought me into contact with my kindly homeroom teacher’s adolescent son. Or maybe he was 26? You can’t make a call at that age. Anyway, volunteering-son-of-teacher’s daily driver that day was a Fox-body Ford Mustang GT, gray in color.

Already a tall kid, I folded myself into the backseat, excited to not be confined to the third row of the Caprice (or Safari) wagon hauling seven other classmates to look at frogs or tadpoles or whatever it was that day. Up front, the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 roared to life, the clutch dropped, and I suddenly forgot all about the abundance of loose change I’d discovered littering the Stang’s floor.

So, I knew how my godsons felt when I said, “Check this out,” and hoofed the throttle of the new-for-2017 Ford Fusion Sport on the way up to their dad’s cottage. A heavier car this time, but with more power on tap. Far more room, too, and the kind of stealthy anonymity you only really appreciate in the pragmatic embrace of adulthood.

It’s a large-ish midsize domestic family sedan, but kids dig it. The question is: can adults live with it?

Carrying a pre-delivery MSRP of $33,605, the Fusion Sport adds about $11,500 to the price of a base Fusion — no small bump for a midsizer, even a well-respected one. Of course, in this case, the “Sport” label isn’t just superficial BS, as the easily overlooked appearance upgrades mask an impressive powertrain that makes this already handsome model something special.

In a way, it’s a throwback. Once upon a time, Detroit automakers made a habit of shoveling their hottest engines into staid, intermediate grocery getters no one under the age of 35 looked at twice, placing a buzz-worthy cherry at the top of a generous powertrain sundae. Well, just try to find a low-priced sedan with as much engine choice as the Fusion. Off-the-shelf anchor to keep the base price down? It’s there. Two flavors of hybrids? Check. Two turbocharged four-cylinders and a screw-the-environment twin-turbo V6? At your service.

It’s something a stable automaker that carefully manages its pennies (and collects copious revenue from the world’s best-selling vehicle) can do.

Ford tapped its truck and SUV lineup for this powerplant, sourcing a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 from the F-150 and Edge Sport and combined it with an intelligent all-wheel-drive system and a hardly innovative six-speed automatic capable of handling the voluminous torque. The Fusion Sport’s power — 325 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque (when gulping 93 octane) — pushes the sedan into air much more rarified than one would expect of a midsize domestic.

Why, that’s BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz territory! And sure enough, beating those crafty Germans was all the talk after Ford announced the Fusion Sport — the automaker even encouraged it. Save money, get this instead, and support America. That’s dangerous talk for any company, as it inevitably opens the door to comparison and, usually, disappointment (though you’d need an extra stack of cash to squeeze the same horsepower from a Fatherland special).

It’s all too easy to recall former Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca doing the same thing for the then-looming Dodge Lancer and Chrysler LeBaron GTS. In a commercial, no less. Ford at least kept its boastfulness off TV, but the comparison exists. Does the Fusion Sport stack up against rivals from the continent?

In terms of power, yes. This vehicle delights its driver in nearly leaping off the pavement under full throttle, growling all the way (especially if you’ve engaged the seemingly superfluous “sport” mode, which amplifies engine note in the cabin via the speakers). Passing is an effortless joke, leaving other motorists wondering what your secret is. Likely, no one will notice the subtle lip spoiler and gunmetal gray 19-inchers as you whip past.

While we didn’t have carefully calibrated equipment to measure the Fusion Sport’s prowess, the 0-60 mile-per-hour time in the low five-second range reported by other sources won’t generate any argument from me.

Because I’m encouraged to compare it to a vehicle that vacations in the Alps, the Fusion is notably faster than a BMW 530i but not quite as quick as a 540i. Put another way, it’s a second faster to 60 than a Mercedes-Benz E300 but more than half a second slower than the Mercedes-AMG E43.

You’re taking notes before heading to the dealership, right?

The bold blue sedan had no trouble finding traction, either, though the low-profile rubber (admittedly, snow and ice radials) generated more road noise in the cabin than you’d expect in a Germany-fighter. Had there been some white stuff on the ground, perhaps the rear wheels would have made their presence felt. As it was, they didn’t, unless you count the absence of torque steer.

Befitting a sports sedan, this tester’s steering proved heavy and precise, though it lacked a certain refinement — a trait shared with the understandably stiff but not especially forgiving suspension. It wasn’t simply a symptom of the springtime roads, which around here bear more resemblance to the pavement outside the Reichstag circa April 1945 than the Autobahn. A modicum of extra damping might keep the northerners happy.

You’d think the extra power on tap might make this disguised beast a little hairy to drive in mundane daily driving scenarios, but a stiff accelerator keeps the extra power in check during low-speed maneuvers. Scared drivers who never go to leg day won’t unexpectedly knock the lid off this horsepower cache. Overall, it’s a well-behaved vehicle but not without the odd hiccup. On two occasions, the six-speed auto — clearly confused by the eggshells under the accelerator — jarred me with a very clunky upshift while cruising sedately through the ‘hood at about 25 mph.

With the power on, nothing cropped up aside from a desire for twistier, emptier roads and preoccupied law enforcement. I would have enjoyed the opportunity to push the vehicle to its limits, but alas, no dice.

Now’s the time when I inevitably mention my height. Don’t worry, secret Fusion aficionados, my Raymond Massey-esque physique fits behind the wheel just fine, and the very stiff but supportive seats quickly grow comfortable. Blame the slight delay in realizing this on the cushy Buick tester that preceded it. Unfortunately for the Dearborn-generated hype, it’s from this vantage point that the vehicle’s distinctly un-German elements come front and center.

From the light gray suede-and-leather surfaces that weren’t my cup of tea to the plasticky center stack and small, hard-to-see climate buttons positioned below the 8-inch touchscreen (with Sync 3, thank God), this tester’s interior doesn’t scream “Premium!”, nor should it, really. The added price buys a performance drivetrain, not a top-down makeover. Still, despite having seen a mild refresh for 2017, the Fusion’s interior remains a work in progress.

Another quibble is a gauge cluster that places the speedometer in the center, leaving scant room for a tach. While the Fusion offers two ways of measuring engine speed, a small digital gauge in the lower left side of the forward display doesn’t exactly scream “Sporty!” either. It’s simply a reminder that this is a family sedan that stumbled across a cache of steroids — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

During the truncated week I spent with this tester, the Fusion Sport — not surprisingly — guzzled firewater like Montgomery Clift (look it up) in urban surroundings, but its fuel consumption evened out somewhat as mixed driving brought down the average. This isn’t an economy car and it doesn’t try to be one; no cylinder deactivation, no eleventy-billion-speed transmission, no trying to be everything to everyone.

Combined fuel economy for a week of mixed driving was 20.6 miles per gallon (matching the 20 mpg EPA rating), helped by a long two-lane cottage cruise that returned 23.8 mpg over the 125-mile drive. The EPA city rating is 17 mpg, as this ain’t no plug-in.

Is the Fusion an alternative to a BMW? Sure, anything can be. I’ve got a Cruze to sell you if you’re looking for a change. But it’s hard to believe car shoppers exist who can be so easily swayed from acquiring a benchmark status symbol by a load of horsepower and a price just $155 more than a base (180 hp) 320i. More likely, the Fusion Sport represents a family-friendly alternative to Ford’s own Mustang, what with its all-weather traction, spacious rear seat and 16 cubic foot trunk.

If you’ve got money for just one new car but want to satisfy both practicality and primal automotive urges, Ford has an answer.

[Images: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

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