Ahead of the 2013 Fusion's on sale date, Ford hosted events in five cities around the country, giving journalists an up-close look at the new car. In San Francisco, Ford had the new Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion 1.6-liter EcoBoost on hand, along with Chief Technical Officer Paul Mascarenas to explain some of the new technologies in the model.
The Fusion Hybrid earned an EPA rating of 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway, making it the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan, according to Ford. This car uses a 1.4 kilowatt lithium-ion battery and electric motor to assist its 2-liter gasoline engine.
During a brief drive in San Francisco, the car operated like a full hybrid, turning off the engine when braking to a stop. The SmartGauge, an LCD in the instrument cluster showing efficiency information, indicated regenerative braking. At the start of the drive, the Fusion Hybrid's battery was nearly depleted, so the engine remained on while driving. It was barely audible, and added very little vibration to the car. By the end of the drive, the SmartGauge display indicated the battery was up to half full.
The Fusion Hybrid felt a little heavier and slower than the EcoBoost model, but not by much. The total output from the hybrid system is rated at 188 horsepower.
The non-hybrid Fusion with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine achieves 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway in EPA testing. This engine uses direct injection and a turbocharger to maximize efficiency. However, the car also has an idle-stop feature, shutting the engine down at stop lights and other stopped traffic situations. The EPA testing does not take into account idle-stop.
Driving this Fusion in San Francisco, the idle-stop feature was noticeable, as the engine shut down at stops, then fired up again when we lifted off the brake pedal. Being a small engine, it started up easily. However, there was a minor pause, a beat, for the engine to start up, meaning we could not get on the gas immediately after lifting the brake. Otherwise, the car operated very smoothly, and was almost too easy to drive.
The EcoBoost engine produces 178 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, plenty for a midsize sedan. Ford offers it with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Ford will also offer a 2-liter EcoBoost Fusion, with 240 horsepower and all-wheel-drive.
Later, there will also be a plug-in hybrid version of the Fusion, called the Energi. Ford expects it to earn better than 100 mpg equivalent in EPA testing. Using a more robust lithium-ion battery pack than the Fusion Hybrid, it will go 20 miles in pure electric mode.
Ford Chief Engineer for hybrid vehicles Chuck Gray, who was also on hand during the event, noted that of the 48 million nickel metal hydride battery cells it used in its previous hybrid car battery packs, only 6 had failed, and those in the first generation of Ford's hybrid system. The new Fusion Hybrid will use a lithium-ion battery pack made up of 76 cells.
Instead of petroleum-based foam, Ford uses a soy-based foam for its seats for many of its models, including the new Fusion. The Fusion Hybrid also uses seat coverings made from recycled plastic bottles. Ford also uses recycled plastic automotive battery casings to manufacture its wheel well linings.
Electronic driver assistance
Ford boasts that the new Fusion will have far more available driver assistance features than any of its competitors. Even among luxury vehicles, the Fusion offers more driver assistance features than most. Ford points out, for example, that the Tesla Model S only offers a rear view camera, where the Fusion can be optioned with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, collision warning, blind spot monitor, and automatic parking.
The 2013 Fusion uses cameras, radar, and sonar sensors to help drivers avoid collisions and enable convenience features.
The collision warning feature lights up a warning icon and sounds a tone when the forward-looking radar calculates a collision with a car or object in front of the Fusion. Similarly, the blind spot monitor lights up an icon in the side mirrors when a car is in the next lane to the Fusion.
For automatic parallel parking, the Fusion can identify a space in which it can fit, then steer while the driver works the brake.
The Fusion can be had with either MyFord or MyFord Touch. The MyFord Touch system is similar to what we have seen in other Ford models, such as the 2012 Focus Electric. However, Ford made some interface adjustments, such as restoring a tuning dial for the radio and putting the seat heater switches on the center stack. Those functions had been relegated to the touch screen. The Fusion Hybrid also gets the SmartGauge display in its instrument cluster, which shows a variety of energy-efficiency information.
The MyFord system offers fewer features than MyFord Touch, so will likely be on lower trim models. It has a single LCD in the instrument cluster, and a 4.2-inch LCD on the center stack. The instrument cluster display shows trip information, while the center display shows phone and stereo information. Sync is included with both infotainment systems, offering voice command over connected phones and MP3 players.
Sync AppLink will now include integration with TeleNav's Scout app in Fusion's with the MyFord infotainment system. In these cars, drivers will be able to select a destination with the Scout app, and get turn-by-turn directions on the car's center LCD.
Ford says the new Fusion models will begin hitting dealer showrooms this fall.