Ford gave the Fusion an extensive upgrade three years ago at the midpoint of its first generation.
For 2013, the company is giving it a complete redesign with a more aggressive exterior, more creature comforts inside and more safety features throughout.
Throw in enough technology to satisfy the geek in most of us, the Fusion goes from also-ran to legitimate contender in the midsize family sedan segment.
The Fusion is all about choices.
It comes in three trim levels (S, SE, and Titanium) with three different power sources (gasoline engine, gas-electric hybrid, and plug-in hybrid) and two different transmissions (six-speed manual and six-speed automatic with manual shift mode).
The most common configuration is front-wheel drive, but the Titanium model also is available with all-wheel.
The Fusion S and SE trims come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as standard. It produces 175 horsepower and has an identical number for torque and is rated at 22 miles-per-gallon city, 34 highway.
Of course, that’s not a lot of power to move its 3,615 pounds, so Ford offers a couple of other engine options.
One is a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder that boosts horsepower to 178 and torque to 185 pound-feet with an actual improvement to fuel consumption to 23/36 with the automatic, 25/37 with the manual transmission.
The other is a 2.0-liter turbo with a more robust 240 hp and 270 lb.-ft of torque. This is the standard engine in the Titanium edition and with the six-speed automatic is rated at 22/33 mpg with front-wheel drive, 22/31 all-wheel.
Keep in mind that even with the bigger, turbocharged engine you are not going to get Mustang GT performance out of the Fusion, but you’re not going to be left lagging when the stoplight changes either.
The Fusion Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg city, 44 highway, and the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid, is rated at over 100 mpg, assuming you keep it charged up. The Fusion Hybrid, by the way, was the Southern Automotive Media Association’s pick as “Green Vehicle of the Show” for the 2012 Miami International Auto Show last fall.
Whatever is under the hood, the Fusion offers a wide assortment of technologies in a very attractive package that is sportier and more upscale than the previous generation. The grille especially is a real eye-opener. At first glance, it looks like that on an Aston Martin, once a member of the Ford family.
The Fusion is also a bit roomier inside. Front legroom in the Fusion is increased by a half-inch, legroom by two inches over the 2012 model, and the backseat passengers get about an inch more hip and legroom.
Available features include adaptive cruise control, active park assist, a lane-keeping system, and MyFord Touch, a voice-active system for operating various functions.
I have had mixed success with voice command systems. Though the Ford system seems to be one of the best, it still is not without its quirks.
Once I learned the right commands to change radio stations, I thought I had it made. But after I worked it to perfection once, I had to state my wish to switch from FM to a Satellite channel three times the next time I tried it.
By the time I finally got the right station, I could have gotten there much quicker by simply using the touch-screen, even though that can be on the fussy side as well. You have to wonder how the system handles accents.
Sigh. Maybe it’s the accent.
Pricing for the Fusion starts at just under $22,500 for the base S model and the Titanium starts at just under $31,000 before you start adding extras. The SE is about $2,000 more than the S.
The Fusion Hybrid MSRP is just under $28,000, but the Energi plug-in starts at over $39,000 when you add in the destination and delivery costs.
Frankly, that last price is a bit high for this vehicle, but the other Fusion versions are well within market range for what you get.