2013 Ford Fusion first drive
A midsize star is born
Santa Monica, Calif. — There's a good chance that even if you haven't been to L.A., you will recognize it immediately. Even if you've managed to somehow live in a pop culture vacuum, the names will ring a bell: Ocean, Sunset, Wilshire. Even if you only watch TV or movies once in a blue moon, you can probably identify the muscleheads pumping iron on Venice Beach, the larger-than-life mansions of Malibu and, of course, the hills of Hollywood complete with the, uh, giant Hollywood sign. Even when it's not explicitly L.A., you know it's L.A. It really is inescapable.
You might look at the new Ford Fusion that way. One look at its long, sleek profile and striking — no stunning — visage and it'll have you wondering where you've seen it before. The comparisons to Aston Martin are inevitable. It's the grille, complete with chrome strakes that glint in the sun like a starlet's pearly whites, and the cut-eye headlamps that really make the car. Add to that the fastest roofline this side of an Audi A7 (or an actual coupe), plus taut fenders and a pert rear end, and what you have is one of the best looking midsize sedans money can buy.
I imagine if Aston Martin were to step away from the Xerox machine and be a bit more logical, the Rapide would've looked a lot more like this, and a lot less like, well, every other Aston Martin made in the past decade.
You can't take the Europe out of Ford
Said Rapide would have benefitted from a reasonably sized cabin, too. Ford may not boast class-leading rear-seat legroom with the Fusion, but there's plenty of space even for long-legged NBA wannabes. Headroom may be more of an issue; there's ample for my 5'10" frame, and so six-footers shouldn't have any issues. Beyond that, slouching may be necessary.
Up front, there's little to complain about, and plenty to praise. It feels very European in here, drawing from its nations' great cars. Ford benchmarked perennial leader Audi for quality, with all major touch points using low-sheen soft-touch plastics with tight panel gaps and deceptively real metal and wood accents. There are shades of Sweden in terms of seat design, which rivals Volvo for comfort and Saab for unusual head restraint design.
Then there's the technology, which seems to challenge BMW not only for complexity and advancement, but for the ire it has drawn. Depending on the model you select, there are either traditional instruments with a speedometer and a tachometer; upscale models receive a semi-digital dash with two LCD displays that flank a central speedometer. Entry level models have standard climate and stereo controls, while pricier ones receive the latest version of MyFord Touch, complete with capacitive touch controls and a touchscreen. Having learned its lesson from the smartphone-style glass finishes of the Edge and Explorer, the new design now has indents that group functions together. It's a more fluid and intuitive system, but it's likely to still attract ire from the likes of Consumer Reports et al.
But you can take the Ford out of Europe
All of this European-ness should come as no surprise. The Fusion is the latest push in Ford's global initiative, which has seen the arrival of the C-Max, Focus, Fiesta, and Transit Connect. Convergence is the reason why the Fusion and its all-new platform were developed jointly between Ford's teams in Dearborn and Cologne, with engineering and design done on both sides of the Atlantic (it will be sold elsewhere as the Mondeo, a riff on "mundus" the Latin word for "world"). It's also why the Fusion has grown by a meagre 23 mm compared to the outgoing model. Any bigger, and it'd simply be too big — too American — to squeeze its way through medieval European villages. And if it looks notably bigger, your eyes are to blame — it's that radically lower height and broader hips that make for the visual illusion.