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2013 Ford Fusion

2013 Ford Fusion: The Fusion front end introduces the distinctive new face of Ford cars.  (01/09/12)
2013 Ford Fusion: The Fusion front end introduces the distinctive new face of Ford cars. (01/09/12) Wieck

The next-generation Ford Fusion is more than a new mid-size sedan; it’s really the marriage of high-fashion style with league-leading fuel economy. Oh, and some significant technological treats are also coming along for the ride.

The Fusion’s latest powertrain array borders on overwhelming, with all seemingly geared for a world where gasoline prices threaten to reach stratospheric levels.

But if content is king, then the other half of this royal equation is the king’s new apparel. The Fusion’s recent launch at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., caused a palpable buzz amongst the assembled media. The dramatic sweep of the roofline suggests kinship with the Audi A7, Volkswagen CC and CLS-class Mercedes-Benz, while the open-mouth grille veers 180-degrees from the current triple-bar fixture. Simply put, the Fusion will possibly be the classiest-looking mid-size sedan on the road when it goes on sale in the third quarter of 2012.

The Fusion’s high fashion extends to the cabin where passengers are greeted with fancier trim, comfier seats and a freshly pressed control panel. Ford says that passenger space has increased by relocating the dashboard closer to the windshield.

Ford has also let out the Fusion’s pants and lengthened the cuffs a bit. The distance between the front and rear wheels has grown by nearly five inches and the width and height by about an inch each. Trunk room has been reduced (likely due to a shorter deck), but only by about six percent.

However the under-hood changes will really rock Fusion fans. The car joins the Hyundai Sonata and 2013 Chevrolet Malibu in abandoning its V6 option, but there are now no fewer than five distinctive engine picks, including two gasoline-electric hybrid systems, as well as front- and all-wheel-drive availability.

Price-leading models get a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Optional is a 179-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged “Ecoboost” four-cylinder as well as a 237-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecoboost that’s required when all-wheel-drive is specified.

All three are matched to six-speed automatic transmissions, but it’s an option on the 1.6, which is the only engine that comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission.

Among this trio, the 1.6 turbo earns a top rating of 26 mpg city and 37 highway, aided by technology that shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped, then instantaneously restarts it once the brake pedal is released.

Those are decent numbers, but the fuel-economy leaders are the two hybrid models.

For 2013, the Fusion Hybrid swaps its 2.5-liter four-cylinder/electric motor (worth 191 net combined horsepower) for a new and smaller 2.0-liter-based combo rated at 185 horses. That’s a bit less power, but the system increases maximum speed on electric power to 62 mph from 47, and raises the fuel-economy bar to 47 mpg city and 44 highway from 41/36. The Hybrid also bests the league-topping Toyota Camry Hybrid’s 43/39 rating.

Top greenie honors, though, go to the new Fusion Energi plug-in model that uses the same powerplant-combo as the Hybrid but with greater electric range before the gas engine kicks in. Ford is touting a 100-mpg equivalency rating but as of this writing there’s no word on what the electric range actually is. If 100-mpg equivalency is accurate, that would be on par with the Chevrolet Volt, although the Volt is guaranteed to go much farther on its electric charge.

Ford is also introducing a full assortment of available communications and safety content, such as a keep-you-in-line lane-monitoring system, keep-your- distance adaptive cruise control, confidence-boosting parking-spot assist, and a shoulder-check-replacing blind-spot system. You can also order the newly updated “SYNC” voice-controlled communications and entertainment wizard.

With near-revolutionary improvements in looks and content, Ford appears determined to become the leading innovator within the mid-size sedan pack and at the same time improve its standing in that ultra-competitive segment.