Vellum Venom: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Aside from the fame, fortune and talent, my design school stylings were criticized much like the early works of one Mister Lenny Kravitz. I felt, as idiotic as it seems now, both of us were pigeonholed for our unabashed use of “influence” in our art. Kravitz overcame. I left the College for Creative Studies to pursue a less interesting career. A career that makes me travel. With rental cars.

How fitting that I’d be blessed (cursed?) with The Son of Aston: the Ford Fusion Hybrid for 8 days and 800 miles.

This was my constant companion from Oklahoma City to Kansas City. The Texas plate made me feel more at home while avoiding a horrible storm that pummeled the city of Moore, but that beautifully disgusting Aston Martin grille was a constant reminder that I couldn’t be a car designer while THIS actually made production.

So beautiful, yet so offensive. Somewhere between Tulsa and the Kansas border, I decided that there’s simply no fv*king way this facade would get an “A” in a design school’s studio review.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, that’s for sure.

There are some vehicles that look overstyled when you mirror the elements from left to right. The Fusion isn’t busy, it’s downright perfect. Every crease and muscular fold compliments the other. The powerdome hood is too cool for any family sedan, the bumper cover is creased to perfectly compliment the grille, and the headlights sweep far back to give an aggressive appearance. And the lower valence’s speed holes add race car style without looking like an afterthought. (cough, Camry SE)

The Fusion looks expensive and assertive. There’s so much attention to detail presented here! Question is, how much of that detail was already hashed out by Aston Martin? And can we approve of this?

Dare I say it, the headlights look BETTER than the pods presented on the Aston Martin from whence this schnoz came from. From this angle, the Fusion looks like a low slung sports car, not a boxy sedan sitting as tall as a CUV.

Light absolutely dances on the Fusion’s bumper. The subtle bends turn the sunlight into logical extensions of line that doesn’t technically exist…but they somehow do. The line I’m pointing to blends nicely into the powerdome hood only inches behind. The details never cease to amaze on Ford’s Fusion.

Even the beveled silver border with recessed blue oval looks far more expensive than any other corporate logo at this price point. Damn.

Many of those logical lines in the front bumper sweep back into this power dome hood. And the plateau is far from a simple square or trapezoid in cross-section: as you can tell from the different grade of shadowing, the Fusion’s dome has (some of) the flair of a late-model 7-series BMW.

The fluted grille reminds me of my first car, a 1965 Ford Galaxie. Perhaps it’s a hat-tip to the Norelco chrome grille of the first Fusion. The detailing is absolutely stunning: this is Cadillac worthy.

Surprisingly, the lower valence’s grille is just as precisely designed…just without the chrome plating. Even the teeth’s bends and the frame’s shape compliments the main grille.

Of course they match for a reason. Ford even added a little crease in the bumper to make sure you noticed how both grilles “talk” to each other. Nice.

(Disregard the bug splatter, I wasn’t gonna wash a rental car just to make YOU happy!)

The lower valence has a sporty “body kit” feel to it, without being tacked on like many modern Toyota products. Ford has something to prove in this market, and prove it they do. Even the scalloped area near the lower grille looks like a far more expensive car.

Luckily the solid black plastic panel around the fog light brings us back to reality. Nice touch with the chrome ring’d fog light, however.

While most new vehicles are finally abandoning the googly-eyed, oversized plasti-chrome headlights from the last decade, the Fusion does it the best. Just the right amount of squinty, never small enough to get lost on this fairly large face…from any angle.

Massive power dome hood is…massive! Only now does this front end look more like a boxy, modern FWD sedan and not something from Aston Martin. Note how much painted fender there is relative to the front wheel. Things are getting chunky!

That said, I must compliment Ford on the transition from sexy Aston Martin to boring Camry-competitor. This transition shows great attention to detail.

By the way, I saw plenty of other rental cars during my travels. The only one I really wanted besides the Fusion was a damn Crown Vic Kia Optima. Note how both family sedans have a somewhat bullet-ish nose, but one doesn’t look like a Chinese knock-off of an Aston Martin.

This Fusion Hybrid sported 17″ wheels that wouldn’t look out of place on a baseline, super cheap to lease BMW sedan. Too bad the nose couldn’t move forward and downward…like the Aston Martin from whence it came. Sadly, nerdy family sedans are just that.

Welcome to Tallsville: population, this guy. The Fusion’s 17″ hoops are positively lost in the height and bulk of the body. The fenders need a good 6″ of length to justify that nose. The space between the cowl and the front wheel (dash-to-axle) is short and static. Which kinda ruins everything: the A-pillar obviously wants to begin at a point between the cowl and front wheel. Too bad it can’t flow right…because this chassis isn’t shaped like a Crown Vic an Aston Martin.

All the sculpturing of the Aston-inspired nose is gone…or is it?

Like modern BMWs, the Fusion creates many layers that hope to keep you from noticing its lofty height. With all this real estate, the good car designers make something that catches the light, plays with it, and fascinates the onlooker. Since demanding the cowl of a Panther Chassis is stupid even by my brain’s distorted standards, what we see here ain’t half bad.

Oh, except for that clumsy and fat A-pillar. And the DLO fail. Demanding the cowl (and resultant A-pillar) of a Panther would be nice, as it wouldn’t mean we’d need a black plastic triangle (with chrome trim!) to give the illusion that the greenhouse (the glass area) is sleeker than it is in reality.

Even worse, there’s a fixed vent window in the door. Nothing wrong with that on the Aston, because it has a far more “Panther Like” cowl and A-pillar. We can’t expect the Fusion to have a DLO as lovely as an Aston, or a 2004 Nissan Versa Hatchback.

It sure is a pity, that your DLO fail couldn’t be a 2004 Nissan Versa hatchback instead. But from here, the short (width) and tall (height) of the Fusion’s dash-to-axle ratio could branch out into a vehicle that doesn’t try too hard to be sporty, swoopy.

These fancy heated, bi-focal’d mirrors not only look cool, they definitely help with visibility. A good thing, since the greenhouse of this faux-Aston is pretty horrible when it comes to avoiding highway traffic. I felt like a kid in a school bus…which isn’t unique to the Fusion in this class, of course.

The different planes and textures of the side view mirrors were fun to analyze in the hotel parking lot. I only wish the signal light was flush, sharing the same external plane of the silver painted housing.

Everything is fun here. There’s plenty of surface tension in the fold below the glass work, and there’s a subtle yet speedy crease near the bottom that keeps this tall vehicle from looking static. It works, mostly because it does the job without looking busy.

The door’s stamping gives extra visual excitement to the form presented by the handle. The “30-60-90 triangle” look of the lower door handle area compliments the actual door handle, unlike the amorphus blob presented in same area by many other vehicles. It looks like it’s dying for an old school key lock! Me likey.

Wasn’t too thrilled about the slop in the plastic door handle itself. And this wasn’t an abused rental…at least not at 1200 miles.

The Lincoln-Mercury fanboi of the 1980s within me totally adores Ford’s new keyless entry interface. Flush, completely invisible until it’s needed: a logical extension of the flush-button’d 1980 Thunderbird that started it all. Too bad I couldn’t find the code to use it. I checked the trunk hinges for a 5-digit code like a proper Dearborn Man would…until I realized it hasn’t been there in decades, either. Rats.

Aside from the need for 20+ inch rims to put this body in proportion, this is a surprisingly sleek C-pillar and rear door. There’s a big window in lieu of DLO fail, the hard folds from the center section are starting to fade away, and the ever-so-gentle bend of the rear door’s cutline near the rear wheel: all are the marks of a well planned design.

My only concern is the harsh fold around the wheel arches: a more organic bend would keep one’s eyes from fixating on the oversized wheel arches and undersized wheels.

The big plastic pillar needed for the rear window to roll down is a nice, shiny one piece affair. Good enough.

There’s a mild taper in the C-pillar, and a shocking amount of sculpture in the quarter panels and rear doors. From this angle, the Fusion is just a two-tone paint job away from being an optimistic 1950s Jet Age design!

This is a faaaaaast C-pillar. It’s lovely to behold, unless you’re in the driver’s seat. Then you curse it for blocking everything in sight.

Much like the front bumper, notice how light and shadow dance in different shades at the top of the (upper) C-pillar, in the gentle bend of the (lower) C-pillar’s taper as it blends into the hard edge in the middle of the body.

Also note that the fuel filler door is smack dab in the middle of the crease. While not offensive, illogical, or asymmetrical, the door looks a bit silly with such a strong crease in it.

Our man Ronnie already covered this quality control snafu, and it’s sad to see he wasn’t lying. I love how many modern cars use “floating” rear glass with no fat black gasket, but what if they don’t finish the metal underneath to the same level of brilliance as every other panel?

The CHMSL lives within a unique polished black container that juts out from the natural sweep of the roofline. This looks cheap and unrefined, like the bad old days of pre-Bankruptcy General Motors designs. (except with better materials, ‘natch.)Why the CHMSL can’t be as flush and invisible as the keyless entry keypad is beyond me. Put it inside the cabin like everyone else!

Ain’t technology grand? This wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful if there was a big rubber gasket around the rear window. Just a lovely form.

Unfortunately the Fusion’s back end can’t mask the height nearly as well as the front. The trunk’s cutline extends far below the logical end point (where the bumper normally begins). The rear bumper is flush enough to make that CHMSL up there a little jealous. It’s all very flat and tall.

Something about these “furrowed eyebrow” taillights isn’t pleasant enough to go with the Aston Martin front end. If you were ripping off the Aston for the front, why not do the rear too? If it worked for the Jaguar XF…

And the plastic insert between the taillights looks out of proportion with…WAIT, WHUT? IS DAT HYBRID BADGE ON CROOKED? Damn son, are you kidding me?

Back to that plastic bit. I’d prefer that cutline started where my other finger’s located on the taillight.

Or even better, eliminate the plastic trim and be like my neighbor here in the hotel’s self-serve parking lot. Much nicer!

The panel gap around the trunk was also a bit unsettling, after you got over the crooked emblem.

And there’s something counter-intuitive about a trunk that cuts this deep into the body. Perhaps it will make more sense if I look at the cross-section of the trunk itself.

Chunky and clumsy. I wish the trunk wasn’t flush with the bumper, if only it was sunken in like the Optima in the above photo.

Luckily Ford didn’t cut corners down here, either. Just like the front valence, the rear’s chrome exhaust, black plastic “visual bulk reducer” and extra reflector (markers or fog lights in Europe, I suppose) lenses look suitably expensive from here.

Note the negative area in the black plastic, and how it matches the same area at the bottom of the silver painted bumper. Shades of the symmetry seen on the front bumper!

I also adore this little bevel to “introduce” the red taillight to the silver quarter panel. It’s a subtle bend that blends with all the more aggressive creases on the same quarter panel.

So what’s the end result? Is the Fusion too strongly influenced? Should we care since Aston Martin is also willing slap their face on anything to make a quick buck?

Too much influence!

This wouldn’t fly if a broke-ass design student (peep the tuition rates for design school) used this level of “influence” in design school. While any student would be publicly, mercilessly humiliated for grafting an Aston Martin nose on their family sedan proposal, they’d be dragged out of the studio by the short hairs for making the C-MAX.

No way in hell this would be considered “A” work for a design student. Is it worth a “B”? Maybe a “C,” I think. Then again, FoMoCo writes some big-ass checks to all the major design schools..and offers priceless internships for would-be designers.

In the end, I’d love the Fusion if it was on the same platform that pinned the GEN III Taurus. Such a low beltline, low taillights and an open and airy greenhouse. Put the Fusion’s design elements on this Taurus and you’d have a far more honest tribute to an Aston Martin. If that’s what Ford actually wanted.

This was taken in front of the birthplace Will Rogers, entertainer and informer extraordinaire. He famously remarked, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I suspect he never met the critics in a design studio…

or a snotty auto blogger, for that matter.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • LALoser LALoser on Jul 07, 2013

    This is good work Sajeev. Now I look at cars, some ugly, some not, and try to pick out the elements that make it that way...and then I ask "WWSD"...What Would Sajeev Design?

  • Imm Imm on Aug 06, 2013

    Like the front, hate the back of the car. Cal me when the station wagon is available ( see Ford Mondeo Estate)

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.