Ford Fusion Sport — Family sedan muscle

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It's been more than 50 years since big horsepower started showing up in family sedans. In 1963, the Ford-Chevy horsepower war heated up to the extent that the Ford Galaxie family sedan could be ordered with a variety of big engines including the brutish 427 cubic inch V-8 packing a whopping 425 horsepower.

Later in the decade American muscle moved to the smaller so-called pony cars — named after the breakthrough Mustang — and the large sedans of the time, and later the popular mid-sized four-doors, reverted to more mundane powertrains — although many with rather large V-8s. It was over the last 25 years — through the '90s and into the 21st Century — that the biggest powerplants to be found in the popular mainstream mid-sized family vehicles were of V-6 variety and very few could muster as much as 300 horsepower.

In our present environmentally conscience society, mid-sized sedans are moving to turbocharged 4-cylinder engines to wring the biggest numbers out of their top trim levels. Honda has abandoned the V-6 for its all-new Accord, likewise the Hyundai Sonata's lineup includes only four-bangers and the Chevrolet Malibu relies on two four-cylinder offerings in its lineup. Ford gave up the V-6 in its Fusion when the car was redesigned in 2013.

For 2018, Toyota decided to keep a V-6 in the lineup for the all-new Camry — A V-6 that actually exceeds 300 horsepower, rated at 301. But nevertheless, Ford retains the horsepower bragging rights with the addition of its 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V-6 that makes 325 horsepower and a prodigious 380 pound-feet of torque in the 2017 Fusion. Perhaps Ford was cognizant of the upcoming increase in Toyota horsepower and got ahead of the curve. If you are interested, it's called the Fusion Sport.

Ford perhaps figured that 380 pound-feet was too much torque for a front-wheel drive vehicle to handle — torque steer might have been excessive — so it outfitted all Sport models with all-wheel drive, which operates in front-drive mode until it detects wheel spin. Ford has even added a live graphical depiction to show torque being shifted to the rear axle in real time.

We admit that horsepower bragging rights certainly do not carry the weight they once did, but we still had to get our hands on a Fusion Sport to see just what kind of forward momentum is available in a modern family sedan. We weren't disappointed. Chew on these numbers — 0-to-60 in 5.1 seconds with a quarter mile time of 13.7 seconds at 101 miles per hour. That does qualify as modern muscle when compared to the aforementioned 425-horsepower V-8 in 1963 that had published times of 6.3 seconds from 0-to-60 and a quarter mile time of 14.2 seconds with a four-speed manual shifter.

We weren't disappointed in the Sport's go-fast qualities and we were satisfied with the car's road-carving abilities and steering feel, particularly when the S button in the center of the new dial-operated shifter was pushed sharpening the car's reflexes through an adaptive-damping system and increasing steering feel. But we still kept wishing for just a little more "sport" out of the car.

The Sport can be picked out of the Fusion lineup with its black mesh grille with a chrome surround, a subtly integrated decklid spoiler, four exhaust tips and good-looking 19-inch wheels. The Sport comes with a charcoal gray interior with leather, suede, contrast stitching, matte-finished metal, and faux-carbon-fiber accents. The Sport also has voice-activated navigation and an 8.0-inch center touchscreen with swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability, using Ford’s latest Sync 3 system.

The entirety of the Fusion lineup has been endowed with upgrades for 2017 including the new Sync 3 infotainment system which is quicker and easier to use than the outgoing system with larger smartphone-style menus and virtual buttons. It is far more user-friendly than before — and it's compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Fusion has also been endowed with a rotary shifter that frees up space for cupholders and bins. In addition to the Sport, the Fusion lineup gets a new high-end Platinum trim that includes virtually every option available including a leather package that would work quite well in many luxury cars.

The Fusion cabin is a nice place to live with a stylish dash layout and supportive seats that we think would work well on long-distance trips. Rear seat room is excellent and trunk space is generous at 16 cubic feet.

To enjoy the driving thrills that the Sport offers you will have to pony up some big cash and be satisfied with less-than-average gas mileage for a mid-sized sedan. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine is EPA rated at 17 mpg city, 26 highway and 20 overall on regular gas making it the least fuel efficient engine in the lineup.

The big cash outlay comes to $34,480 for the base Sport and if you add available options you can run the price up close to 40 grand. For example, our test car with a couple of options stickered for $37,765. Only the new Platinum trim is more pricey in the Fusion hierarchy. Trim levels for 2017 starting at $22,995 include S, SE, Titanium, Platinum and Sport.

What the Sport offers is modern American car muscle in a family sedan package. Its docile driving demeanor around town running everyday errands makes it just right for mom during the week, and its performance-oriented V-6 will entice dad on weekends when the back-road blacktop beckons.

Base price: $34,480; as driven, $37,765
Engine: 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 325 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 380 pound-feet @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 191.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,472 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Luggage capacity: 16 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.5 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 17 city, 26 highway, 20 combined
0-60: 5.1 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: 2018 Toyota Camry V-6, 2017 Honda Accord V-6

The Good
• Excellent performance in family sedan
• Well designed living area
• Exterior styling still wearing well
• Supportive driver's seat

The Bad
• Real-world fuel economy disappointing

The Ugly
• Performance comes at a high price