The dog startled me, as much as I likely startled him. A blind corner coming over a rise, a low-hanging tree branch, and a bit too much aggression on early morning dew-sparkled tarmac conspired to pucker canine and human alike. The stability control kicked in moments after oversteer presented too much of the Fusion’s glowing taillights to Fido.
No, you aren’t reading the wrong review. It’s simply been too long since I’ve driven any car as the mobile portion of my personal fleet is of the SUV and minivan variety — none of which has a sporting ride height. The sports car in my fleet has been a shelf for a couple years now, falling victim to cascading failures, including the “can’t take two kids and their gear to soccer practice in a Miata” fault that has doomed so many sportscars for generations. So to be let loose on magnificent backroads in any low-slung car is exhilarating.
This drive was an early morning solo jaunt in the 2015 Ford Fusion SE, after a few hours’ drive with the family. Two kids spoiled by roof-mounted entertainment were noticeably disagreeable to the sparsely equipped sedan at first. They would have to manage with the few movies loaded on their tablets like cave people.
The first leg of our trip quieted the girls quickly as the expansion-joint-marked interstate that typically jarred them awake on the trip to the grandparents was muffled nicely by the Fusion’s solid chassis and well-damped suspension. The ride may not have been as compliant had larger wheels than the base 17 inchers been fitted, but the 235-section Michelins were silent — save for the brief dog encounter.
The Fusion has been a stunner for several years now. As ubiquitous as it is, I’ll still crane my head when a well-equipped Platinum edition is near. Ford has done a great job keeping the car fresh, Aston-inspired grille and all.
That said, the small 17-inch wheels don’t hide the bulk quite as well as their larger counterparts — there is a great deal of sheet metal above the wheel arches, when viewed from the side. The beltline crease extending aft of the headlamps does break it up visually, lengthening the car. The flat-black covers for the foglamp opening are disappointing.
Out back, the near-fastback profile of the rear window flows nearly seamlessly into the trunklid, both lengthening and lowering the car visually. I love this view: While the trunk is quite high, necessarily leaving a tall slab of sheetmetal and flexible bumper, the hexagonal nacelle for the license plate (wide enough for Euro plates) breaks the monotony and cleverly echoes the grille.
Basic black is the order of the day inside the base Fusion, though the matte aluminum surrounding the center stack breaks things up a bit. The cloth seats are remarkably comfortable thanks to their six-way power adjustment that allowed for plenty of options while driving long distances. Interestingly, the inflatable lumbar support became firm and uncomfortable when starting the car after sitting in the cold for hours; deflating it briefly seemed to correct the issue.
When trying to pair my Samsung phone with the base SYNC infotainment system, I was stymied for the first day. The owner’s manual was missing, so I turned to Google. No dice. The menus that should have been appearing weren’t. Only through sheer happenstance did I realize that the car needed to be in Park to pair a phone.
SYNC worked well after my bout of idiocy. Streaming music was nearly as clear as a proper CD. The lack of a touchscreen was surprising, however, and attempts at changing tracks often led to increased volume or reduced cruise control speed as the thumb controls on the steering wheel were not well defined for eyes-up use.
I may have flat-spotted the right-front Michelin as I charged through Southeastern Ohio’s Appalachian foothills at a pace somewhat out of character for a two-ton family sedan. The car was solidly planted as I dove for each apex. Dropping the six-speed automatic transmission into “Sport” mode held the transmission in lower gears much more willingly than the standard “Drive” mode, though the rocker switch to “manually” select cogs is poorly placed. Useless, too, as it will upshift entirely too early as redline approaches. No, simply allowing the ‘box to figure it out is the answer to fun times in the Fusion.
I’m still thinking about the drive a few weeks later, which is remarkable for a fleet-spec American sedan. Before driving the Fusion, I’d have picked the Accord without hesitation if pressed to recommend a family sedan. Not anymore. The Fusion tops my list as a great value, with an incomparable ride and good fun in the twisties.
Oh, and the dog is still in one piece.