You may not know it from looking at it, but a “Sport” version of the Fusion midsize repmobile is not quite so outlandish a proposition.
For starters, it’s something we’ve seen before from Ford; we’ve had numerous generations of the Taurus SHO, and true Ford-ophiles will remember with acute fondness the Contour SVT – essentially this Fusion’s forebear – of 1998-2000. This latter model is especially notable when you remember that its European twin, the Mondeo, enjoyed some success in the British Touring Car Championship around the same time the SVT model was surprising journalists and buyers alike on our side of the pond.
Now, having spent considerable dollars developing about 1,200 versions of their EcoBoost 3-, 4- and 6-cylinder turbo engines, the time is right on the money to send the Fusion a little performance love.
Speaking of myriad engine choices: of all the cars, trucks and SUVs in Ford’s lineup, the Fusion offers the most choice, ranging from a naturally aspirated inline-4 all the way up to a plug-in hybrid Energi version. The 2.7L V6 turbo found in the Sport is the most recent addition to the engine lineup.
Unsurprisingly, it’s also the most powerful, making 325 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. I’ll save you the trouble of checking and tell you that’s more torque than what’s made by the Cadillac ATS Vsport or the BMW 340i xDrive. Needless to say, that’s some pretty heady company.
The rest of the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport is notable, too. A deeper front splitter, smoked 19-inch wheels, a honeycomb grille and quad exhaust outlets all point to this being the most special of all Fusions, and if I may, the result is a very appealing styling package. The Fusion is, to be sure, already a good-looking sedan – one of the best in the segment – but this kicks the whole shebang up to 11, and we love it, especially dressed in Lightning Blue as our car was. It’s a colour that’s available elsewhere in the Fusion lineup, but you have to think it was meant for the Sport all along.
Inside, the changes aren’t quite so obvious. The seats get a special Alcantara/leather finish but it was kind of hard to tell in our car from looking at it, thanks to the flat grey colouring (sorry, “Dark Earth Grey” according to Ford). Not our first choice in that department, that’s for sure, but it’s the only way you can get it. Other additions include trim finished in a mix of matte aluminum, carbon fibre and chrome and an “S” in the middle of the dial shifter, where other Fusions get an “L”. More on that in a moment.
Otherwise, it’s standard Fusion fare which is a mix of the good and the bad – good thanks to the modern look of the interior and dash as a whole, bad in the heavy use of plastics, especially on the centre stack.
The Sport also gets Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment as standard fitment, and it remains one of the best in the game. Its 8-inch display has big buttons that are responsive to the touch, and the way the main sub-menus are aligned at the bottom of the screen is intuitive. It makes having to hunt around for commands much less of a thing.
Other standard features that come with the Sport package include 10-way power passenger seat, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone climate control, premium 12-speaker Sony audio, active lane keep assist (that can be configured to either steer you back on-line, or just warn you as you wander) and adaptive cruise control.
All the right tools
But you aren’t reading a story about the sportiest of Fusions to hear about climate control, are you? I mean, it’s nice that it comes with all that stuff, but so does the more laid-back Platinum version.
Indeed, this particular Fusion is fully deserving of the “Sport” name and that’s refreshing, as in the past, “sport” would often mean a few decals and maybe some special wheels and not much more.
Not here, though. Those power figures aren’t a lie; the Fusion springs off the line with gumption, helped along by its six-speed automatic transmission and standard AWD. It’s a front-biased system, however, only really sending power rearwards when required such as under hard acceleration. Otherwise, you’d certainly burn through those front tires quickly and be massaging your forearms after controlling all that torque steer.
Instead, you have a sedan that works with you, shuffling power to the wheels so quickly that the little display that shows you what the power is doing can barely keep up. You can switch the display to a mini digital tach, though, which is actually somewhat appropriate to the Sport’s performance bent. The same can be said for the standard paddle shifters and the quick shift response they provide. You’ll use them more than you might think…
… especially when you depress that little “S” button at the centre of the dial, which transforms the Sport into a whole other beast. It sharpens the throttle, tightens the standard adaptive dampers and changes the shift patterns to limit delays in power delivery as much as possible. Even in this mode and with the paddles active, however, it will automatically shift up as you near the redline. I guess that’s a bit of a shame, but hardly a deal breaker by any means.
Those dampers work in concert with the AWD system to keep everything in check, from stability through turns to keeping body roll in check. It really does provide a handling package that you wouldn’t expect from the Fusion, with the result that it can effortlessly slice through the bends on your favorite driving road. What, you don’t have one? Well, opting for this particular Fusion may incite you to try to seek one out.
Drive to surprise
I know I would. In fact for this test, I took the Fusion Sport to the same roads I test proper sports and performance cars on, because I honestly felt like it deserved a shot at it.
To my delight, it made the most of it, doing a good job of demonstrating how the Fusion’s switch to a world car that needs to sell in all markets for this generation has necessitated some tweaking. If it’s going to sell in European markets, it’s going to have to handle properly, as Europeans tend to lean towards an able handler more than a soft ride as we North Americans do.
Of course, if that soft ride is really what you want, there are plenty of Fusions that will fit the bill, and for a lot less than the $42,288 Ford is asking for the Sport. That begs the question of much room there really is in this market for a midsize sports sedan that’s not from a luxury manufacturer. The Sport is definitely at risk of falling by the wayside as a result. I sure hope it doesn’t, because there’s lots of motoring joy to be had here without sacrificing all the benefits of a midsize sedan. As of now, the Fusion Sport stands as one of my surprise drives of the year.
Want a second opinion? Read our 2017 Ford Fusion Sport Review by Miranda Lightstone.