A couple of premium automakers have tried tossing pedestrian engines in their premium cars, and the results were disastrous. Acura shoved a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder in the ILX, and buyers stayed away in droves. Cadillac plopped the Malibu’s 202-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder in the ATS and undercut its own mission of challenging the BMW 3-Series.
Now Ford is going the other way. For 2017, the Blue Oval is installing a premium engine, its EcoBoost twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6, in the mainstream Fusion sedan. Will it be a disaster or a godsend? I drove the car on Ford’s home turf in Michigan to find out.
Not just a Fusion with a big engine
You don’t just throw a twin-turbo V-6 into a front-drive sedan and expect the car to handle it. Ford had to make quite a few other changes to make the Fusion Sport a complete package.
That starts with standard all-wheel drive to send the power to all four wheels and avoid torque steer. The system is front biased, but it can send 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels when needed, such as during a hard launch. The power is routed through a 6-speed automatic transmission that is beefed up to handle all the torque.
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The suspension is also unique. The MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspensions are unchanged, but the spring rates are optimized to handle the weight of the new engine. The big difference is the standard electronically controlled dampers, which can be set to Normal or Sport modes. This continuous damping control system constantly monitors the road and can adjust the dampers every two milliseconds. If the system detects a pothole, it will adjust the affected damper to its firmer Sport setting to prevent the tire from falling deeper into the hole and hitting harder on the other side. Ford says this system helps prevent tire damage due to potholes. That is especially important for the Fusion Sport because it comes standard with low-profile 235/40R19 tires (all seasons are standard and summer tires are optional).
The Sport mode also adjust the steering weight, transmission programming, throttle mapping, paddle shifters, and sound in the cabin. In Sport mode, the paddle shifters hold whatever gear the driver chooses up until redline.
Ford has made interior and exterior changes as well. On the outside, the front fascia is revised to provide more airflow for cooling, and the grille has a unique mesh pattern with a gloss black finish. LED fog lights join the Fusion’s available LED headlights. The 19-inch alloy wheels have a dark finish, and the rear end features quad exhaust tips.
Buyers can choose any interior color they want as long as it is Dark Earth Gray. They also get leather and synthetic suede front sport seats, a black headliner, carbon trim on the dash, aluminum pedals, and a steering wheel wrapped in a soft leather. Acoustic laminated glass is used for the windshield and front doors, and active noise cancellation is standard. In the Sport mode, the active noise cancellation system lets in more of the engine’s meaner, more sonorous sounds.