Last Friday while the update on my 2018 Chevrolet Impala company car was nice and fresh, I was taking a new Ford Fusion out for a drive. Since I had mentioned the Fusion in that article I figured something needed to be said about it also.
There’s a lot to say about this version of Fusion. Whether what I’m going to say is good or bad is something in which you can be the judge.
This is another company owned car, a unit assigned to the motor pool. With it turning over 2,500 miles on the odometer while operating it, everything is still new and shiny. It even still smells factory fresh on the inside.
Before getting in the car I had been warned about its lane departure warning system. While I haven’t researched specifics on its operation the explanation I was given was spot on. The sensors, which appear to be in the exterior rearview mirrors, detect the striping on the road and the car will provide resistance if changing lanes without using the turn signal. The turn signal will override the system.
That was good to know. It made itself obvious more than once and not just due to my testing its capabilities.
From a seat of the pants observation, it appears the lane departure warning system really isn’t activated below 35 miles per hour or so as revealed by the picture of the car on the instrument panel. The system also turns itself off at highway speed when going around sharper curves. I suspect it gauges tangential velocity as I was taking some curves at 55 mph in which the warning signs provided a advisory speed of 40 mph or so.
Incidentally, that advisory speed is not a speed limit. The methodology used to determine these advisory speeds is based off 1930s era tire and suspension technology and a tool called a ball-bank indicator is used. From having operated a ball-bank indicator, part of the process is measuring tangential velocity similar to how the Fusion appears to regulate the lane departure system.
I likely spent a wee bit too much time monitoring the lane departure feature but this was my maiden voyage with such a device. I noticed older, faded stripes on the highway didn’t always register and low volume roads without edge lines did not throw the system out of whack. Conversely, one location in which a driveway had had gravel wash onto the road, covering half the lane, threw the system a real curveball. Despite being in the middle of my lane (this was a rural two-lane road at this point), the system showed some uncertainty – I was a good distance from the centerline but drove on gravel on the right. The steering tensed up just as it would for drifting into the other lane.
This happened a second time in which the exit ramp had 12 inch to 18 inch dots in the lane, striping I have heard called chicken tracks. This is vastly different than the ten foot long skips of a passing zone or centerline of a divided highway, so it appears the system periodically has challenges distinguishing what is there.
On three occasions the steering tensed up while on a moderate curve at or below the posted speed limit and I was in the middle of the lane.
This feature may have been more inconspicuous had I not known of it, which I can envision being the case for most drivers. But the interference of a nanny got old in short order. Traffic was just heavy enough I didn’t care to experiment with what might happen in an evasive maneuver but the question was at the front of my mind.
For the first hour the Fusion was quite comfortable. The seat is remarkable squishy, in a good way, and you do feel like you are sitting in the seat instead of on it.
Yet after a while my arms started to get tired. A large part of that can be attributed to the seat being too low for my tastes thus making the steering wheel higher than I preferred. Being a base model there was no adjusting the seat height – or at least no way that was readily apparent.
A little while later my butt started to grow numb. Given the entire trip was a hair over 200 miles, my need to stop cropped up more frequently than what I am accustomed to experiencing. No doubt a higher trimmed model with seats that adjusted vertically would have reduced part of the seemingly premature fatigue.
Another fatiguing element is that damned console. Yes, I’ve growled about them before but I’ve also been complimentary of them. The intrusion of the console made me liken the experience to what it might be like wearing underwear that is too small. Yes, it functions. Yes, you still have movement. But your range of movement is hindered considerably and something will undoubtedly get rubbed the wrong way.
I’ve heard speculation modern consoles are so gargantuan because of their housing ventilation ducts and wiring. This makes me want to wave my flag. Here’s why…
First, this Fusion had no a/c ducts servicing the rear seat. Even if the fancier ones do, just how big is the duct to require such a console height? If there were a duct of that size beneath this console, it would be close to the size of the ones in my house that service a three ton unit. It would be much larger than the ducts in the dashboard and oversized for the capability of the air conditioning compressor.
Speaking of houses, that leads me to the second reason I’m wanting to wave the flag. Why? Wiring isn’t that large. When I ran a 220 volt wire from a new outlet and into my breaker box when relocating my clothes dryer, the wire was approximately the size of my thumb. Cars run a 12 volt system. Please convince me why the wire would need to be so profoundly larger.
Thirdly, I’m going to inject a parallel. There is abundant online bitching about the size of current pickups. Okay, fine, then I’m going to bitch about the asininity of consoles being the size of a baby hippopotamus. Unlike the pickups which have gained substantial capability in the last two decades, consoles haven’t.
Unless you consider cupholders.
One thing I won’t harpoon is the 2.5 liter four cylinder that powers this Fusion. Frankly I had some apprehension given my experiences with other 2.5 liter engines in a few Escapes I’ve driven as those act and sound terminally overwhelmed. That’s really not the case here. The 2.5 in the Fusion has an identical nasal sound but is comparatively muted likely due to better sound insulation. While this Fusion will never win any drag races, it repeatedly impressed me in how easily it would keep climbing to hyper-legal speeds. On the highway I found myself having to often back off the throttle.
This 2.5 isn’t as smooth as some of the Ecoboost fours I’ve driven in various Escapes nor is it as smooth as a number of other four cylinder engines I’ve driven. However, that’s okay and not a real surprise given its displacement. There is something oddly compelling about its relative simplicity given its lack of turbocharging and direct injection. This engine is meant to be a workhorse, not a racehorse. It does its job quite well and that is why it was purchased.
While listening to the 2.5 do its work, a weird thought occurred to me. The pecking order of engines in North American Fusions is completely inverted from the historic order of things. Once upon a time the largest displacement engine was an option and it made the most power. In the Fusion, the largest displacement four-cylinder engine is the least powerful (of the non-hybrid power plants) four-cylinder and the standard offering with the options all having smaller displacements.
Also, just for giggles, I researched the (nearly?) identical Ford Mondeo on the Ford UK website. The regular gasoline engine is the 1.5 liter Ecoboost although there is a 2.0 liter diesel on offer. I did not find anything about the 2.5 liter engine. Chalk this and steering wheel location up to differences in the intended markets.
Interior room for the driver was, apart from that console, much more generous than I had anticipated upon first entering the car. At first blush I had prepared myself to get claustrophobic but that didn’t happen. Perhaps my expectations were low and it took little to overcome them?
Sitting behind my 5’11” self, legroom was good but not generous. The only rub with obtaining this picture was banging my head on the roof as I entered the car. Lacking a low, head-banging roofline is one distinct advantage of most CUVs, SUVs, and crew cab pickups.
At the end of my trip I was remarkably tired. Was it a function of my staying up a bit later the night before to finish a novel or was the Fusion simply tiring to drive? What I can say is the trip I made was not an unusual one for me and it seemed remarkably longer than normal. I’m still trying to determine the cause.
For its intended purpose of being driven by umpteen people this Fusion was a solid choice. It isn’t fast, it isn’t exciting, and it will likely go 200,000 miles without any drama. It also reinforces the choice I made nearly two years ago when obtaining a new car at work. When offered a Fusion or an Impala, I chose the Impala.
Your mileage and experience may vary.