Renowned journalist Allan Fotheringham once called Vancouver the Canadian city with the best climate and the worst weather. Snowfall is rare in winter, but rain is the norm – especially in November and December, Vancouver’s rainiest months.
Environment Canada meteorologist David Jones reported that September 2013’s rainfall at the Vancouver airport was 144 millimetres, making it the third wettest in 77 years of records, behind 2004 at 169 millimetres and 2010 with 166 millimetres.
Think that Seattle is a rainy city? Think again! Seattle’s yearly average rainfall is 36.2 inches versus Vancouver’s 44 inches.
So it’s no surprise that all-wheel drive cars are very popular in our Pacific Northwest to deal with all of the varying intermittent weather.
If you’re looking for a capable all-wheel drive mid-sized family car, you can now add the Ford Fusion EcoBoost AWD to the short list that also includes the venerable Subaru Legacy, as well as the 2014 Buick Regal AWD.
Stretch your budget a little more, and you’ll also find yourself in the same price range as a base Audi A4 Quattro, a base BMW 320i with xDrive, or a Mercedes-Benz C250 with 4MATIC. However, all of those 3 German cars are significantly smaller than the Fusion and therefore don’t really compete directly.
Those of you who have been following my reviews for a while probably also recall that I tested a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid a few months ago and commented about the many choices that Ford offers its consumers as far as the Fusion global portfolio.
This EcoBoost Fusion AWD is certainly another variation on the same award-winning formula that has won over many consumers from their Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys.
The Fusion brings alive the next generation of more expressive vehicles from Ford, and is the first sedan to offer gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions.
My 2013 Bordeaux Reserve Red Metallic (yes, that’s actually the colour) all-wheel-drive tester came in the top-of-the-range Titanium specification which includes all of the bells and whistles that you would expect in one of the aforementioned German marques. More on those active safety systems later.
In this top spec, my test car was shod with some gorgeous looking 19” H-spoke dark stainless aluminum alloy wheels fitted to Continental all-season rubber. These wheels were probably one of my favourite aspects of the car, and help to set it apart from the crowd of ordinary family looking family sedans on the road.
It wouldn’t be a stretch for me to say that this Fusion Titanium looked more entry level luxury than rental agency fleet car.
And as Martha Stewart would say, “That’s a good thing”.
Oh my, don’t you have a pretty face?
Chris Hamilton, the chief exterior designer for the fusion explained that “Our design brief was to give the mainstream sedan buyer a top-drawer visual experience, adding some emotional appeal to an already sensible choice”.
The Fusion’s “silhouette innovation” profile is what sets it apart from the traditional midsize sedan “three-box design” (i.e. engine, cabin, trunk) by blending sweeping character lines from the front to the rear and thin roof pillars to evoke a sense of nimbleness and efficiency. Even the Fusion’s hood has not been left out as part of this refined surface language.
The functional design elements such as the projector headlamps, LED tail lamps, and rear bumper integrated polished exhaust tips also communicate a sense of sportiness.
Aside from the pretty Aston Martin inspired front end, the rear is also impressively handsome with integrated chrome exhaust outlets, and a small lip above the taillamps that curves in the right places. Even the trunk lid spoiler doesn’t look out of place.
I do wish, however, that the projector headlamps were at least available as high intensity discharge Xenons rather than the rather ho-hum halogens. With the latest Honda Accord Touring now equipped with the jewel-eyed multi-lens LED headlamps, Ford has a bit of catching up to do.
Regardless of my little niggles though, I really do think that this car has a great sense of high style and massive curb appeal.
I never thought that I would stop and look at it in the morning and think, “Damn that’s a good looking car”. But I found myself doing that frequently! When was the last time you did that with your family car?
The Fusion’s cabin, however, is more function over form. Spacious, functional, and attractive enough with its high centre console and clever storage areas, it checks off all the right boxes with styling that is tasteful luxury and restrained.
I’m not sure that I buy into Ford’s marketing department’s spin about a “sporty driver-orientated environment” though
I will, however, completely agree with the marketing brochures that by moving the instrument panel towards the windshield, the cabin has a far more airy, open feel to it. I especially appreciated the quarter vent windows in the front doors that allowed for added visibility around the A-pillars.
The comfortable front leather seats make way for 44 inches of legroom and there is a 3 position memory configuration for those of you with multiple drivers in the family. Unfortunately it only works for the seats, and not the wing mirrors or steering column. The latter is a do-it-yourself manual rake and telescopic adjustment.
Out back, the rear seats are fantastic, with 38.3” of legroom and almost as much headroom.
All Fusions have acoustic underbody shields to minimize road and powertrain noise while boosting aerodynamic efficiency to help save fuel. The engineers have even gone to the lengths of fitting a full perimeter hood seal to reduce wind noise.
And with all of these noise reduction measures put in place, I was better able to enjoy the upgraded Sony premium audio system that is included in all Titanium-spec Fusions. It was a notable improvement over the Fusion Energi SEL’s base sound system, adding in a switchable digital surround sound mode and better speakers.
Controlling those speakers was the integrated MyFord Touch headunit with the large 8” touchscreen. This car seemed to be equipped with a newer version of the Microsoft Sync system as it was much faster to respond than the previous Ford vehicles I have tested.
That being said though, it still suffers from some user interface confusion that I’ve mentioned in the past. And I still dislike the redundant soft-touch buttons under the LCD screen.
The only software glitch that I came across was when the interface refused to recognize my iPhone under certain circumstances (e.g. when the phone’s Bluetooth was turned on only after the car was started).
Even after turning on/off/on the iPhone’s Bluetooth, the head unit refused to pair with the iPhone or in fact even see it. This was all resolved by a Ctrl-Alt-Delete-like Master Reset of the system. But that took 15 minutes to reboot.
Hopefully Ford keeps improving on the firmware updates, and our next car’s system will be even better.
Giddy-up: Engine and Transmission
The “EcoBoost” nomenclature refers to the 2.0L turbo-charged 4 cylinder engine fitted to my car. This all-aluminum mill produces 240 hp and 270-ft-lbs of torque and employs sophisticated direct fuel injection for maximum efficiency.
Ford also offers a smaller 1.6L EcoBoost engine with 175hp, but that is only available on the front-wheel-drive Fusion.
I was initially concerned that there would be a fair amount of turbo lag but was quickly proven wrong. Not only does this engine have no turbo lag, but its torquey (at low rpms) nature made it fun to drive while sounding surprisingly sporty. This is one 4 cylinder engine I can actually live with on a day-to-day basis. Jaguar seems to think that it’s a good powerplant too, and has fitted the engine to its base XF 2.0 Luxury Sedan.
If you’re worried about the lack of a V6 option, don’t be. Most Fusion buyers don’t seem too concerned, with 51% of of them choosing the EcoBoost option.
A little less successful in execution is the dual clutch SelectShift 6 speed automatic transmission, but let me give you some context first.
If you are expecting SelectShift to be as responsive and quick as the dual clutch gearbox that VW and Audi vehicles employ, you will be disappointed. Ford’s variation is programmed for efficiency, and behaves more like a conventional automatic slushbox.
The shifts while smooth, are not lightning quick even when using the steering wheel mounted paddles. I also didn’t like how the trip computer screen reverted back to the small analogue tachometer whenever I used the paddles to downshift for engine braking.
If you don’t care about shifting manually, the gearbox works well and feels like an auto transmission that probably 90% of people will be used to in other vehicles.
As far as fuel efficiency, I thought that the “Eco” part was only acceptable. While the 2.0L EcoBoost engine is rated by the US EPA at 22 city/33 hwy/26 combined mpg, according to the trip computer, I averaged 12.6L/100 kms in mostly city driving in the 500+ kms that I drove the Fusion. This is around 19 mpg, and definitely lower than the advertised figures.
That being said though, I think that part of the reason why this average fuel consumption is lower was because I took advantage of the factory-equipped remote starter frequently to pre-warm the car before getting into it. During my test week, the temperatures dropped lower than their seasonal norms and I really came to appreciate this feature!
Of course, idling the car for an extra 2-5 minutes each time is going to contribute to increased fuel consumption, but with the reward of getting into a warm vehicle with seat heaters already “blasting”.
The key remote has impressive range, and I was even able to remote start the car from inside our office building!
European Ride & Handling
Despite the big 19” wheels, the Fusion soaks up bumps with European firmness but without compromising American levels of expected comfort. The ride is on the slightly firmer side, aka not like a pillow, without being busy on rough pavements.
With its MacPherson strut front suspension, and a premium-level multilink rear suspension, Ford’s vehicle handling and ride team has done a good job at striking a nice balance between handling and comfort.
The fact that the Fusion is offered with all-wheel-drive sets it apart from the two kings of the mid-car segment: The Camry and the Accord.
Ford’s Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive system works automatically, transparently, and gives you grip when you need it. Using a myriad of sensors, the clutch-based system is primarily front wheel drive until slippage occurs. It then balances torque between the front and rear wheels to enhance handling and maximize traction, transferring up to 55% of torque either way as needed.
I couldn’t find a whole of technical information from Ford on the system past the above. Suffice it to say though that when accelerating on icy roads during the week that I had the car, the system worked as advertised.
For the ultimate in winter handling, I would still equip the Fusion AWD with dedicated winter tires.
Technology lovers galore!
This segment is probably better titled “active safety features”, but I wanted to touch on the high level of driver assistance and convenience technologies that the Fusion Titanium was equipped with.
It’s nice to see that all of the Ford’s systems are so easy to use, and offered at such a great value these days. It was only a few years ago that something like adaptive cruise control was a $2500 option available only on the flagship Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan.
The Fusion’s specific technologies include the following:
- Lane Keeping System: This class-exclusive technology consists of three elements to help a driver maintain proper lane position. Using a small, forward-facing camera behind the inside rearview mirror, the system “looks” down the road, monitoring lane lines to determine that the car is on course. The system will alert a driver if drowsiness or erratic lane-keeping is detected. The second element warns a driver with a steering wheel vibration if the Fusion drifts too close to lane markings. Finally, lane keeping aid will actually apply pressure on the steering to help bring the car back into proper lane position
- Adaptive cruise control: Using forward-looking radar, this system “looks” down the road when activated, slowing the Fusion when slower traffic is detected ahead. Adaptive cruise control enables collision warning with brake support to help slow the car if the potential of a crash is detected
- Active park assist: Employing sensors, this technology can identify a suitable parallel parking space, calculate the trajectory and steer the car to properly position it within the spot. All a driver need do is operate accelerator and brake pedals. This system is not just a party trick, but in fact was able to consistently place the Fusion within 1 foot of the curb each time. It is also able to read the size of a parking space faster than many competitors’ systems on the market.
- Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®) with cross-traffic alert: Sensors in both Fusion rear quarter-panels are able to detect traffic in a driver’s blind spot, providing both audible and visual warnings if traffic – unseen by the driver – is detected. BLIS technology enables cross-traffic alert, warning the driver of oncoming traffic when backing out of a parking space with obstructed views, such as between two large vans or SUVs.
On the passive safety front, high strength steel such as boron is employed in the car’s structure, along with adaptive front airbags, side curtain airbags, and dual front row knee airbags..
Because the Fusion has also been designed for the European market, it also comforms to Europe’s tough pedestrian protection standards.
A few niggles
Aside from my one major issue with the MyFordTouch system, it was difficult to find much about the car to complain about. However, there are two that stand out in my mind.
Firstly, with lane keeping assist activated on twisty highways with undulating road surfaces, the electrically assisted steering felt a bit artificial. Similar to that of a game console’s force feedback steering wheel. While precise, the steering just felt a bit strange at times with extra steering assist when it didn’t seem necessary. Turn the lane keeping assist off when in these situations and all is well.
Secondly, the trunklid spoiler combined with the thick plastic valance (that fills in smooth back end) makes the trunk lid too heavy for the springs to handle when the vehicle is parked nose up on a slope. I definitely bumped my head into bottom of the trunklid a few times when reaching for something deep inside the expansive 16 cu.ft trunk! Stronger springs are needed here. For some reason, the grab handle is also on the left side of the trunk lid’s interior. Not on the right where you would expect. Perhaps the designer was a lefty?
If you’re looking for a mid-sized family sedan with the safety and security of all-wheel-drive and aren’t too hung up on the name badge, give the Ford Fusion EcoBoost AWD a try. It strikes the right chord when it comes to value for money, styling, technology, luxury, drivability, and safety.
It’s definitely a fantastic mid-sized 4 door sedan for Vancouver’s fussy weather. At this the time of this review, it remains my favourite car in this category, and one that I would seriously recommend to friends and family!
I don’t think I can give a much more positive review than that. I’ll take mine in white Titanium-spec please!
My ratings (each category out of 10)
Ride comfort: 8
Fuel consumption: 7
Value for money: 7.5