Ford updates Fusion with new Sport, Platinum trim level

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. is expanding its Fusion midsize sedan lineup with a new Sport model and upscale Platinum trim level to challenge segment leaders like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The Ford Platinum Energi plug-in electric sedan is on display Monday at the Detroit auto show.

The Dearborn automaker refreshed its third-most popular vehicle for the 2017 model year with updates to the driver-assist technology, interior design and suspension of its already existing gas, hybrid and Energi plug-in versions.

New this year is an upscale Platinum trim level — a trim name shared by the F-150 and Explorer — with high-quality leathers, custom 19-inch wheels and a new honeycomb grille.

The new V-6 Sport, an all-wheel-drive sedan that gets 325 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, has a honeycomb grille, 19-inch wheels and larger front and rear brakes. It will be powered by a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, new to the Fusion lineup.

“Fusion offers people a lot more car — including helpful technology, beautiful design and a more rewarding driving experience than other midsize sedans,” Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president and chief technical officer, global product development, said in a statement.

Ford unveiled the vehicles Monday morning at the auto show.

Wade Jackson, Fusion’s marketing manager, said the new offerings will help it better compete in the crowded midsize sedan segment.

Fusion sales fell 1.9 percent in 2015, but have doubled to about 300,000 since its first full year on sale in 2006, and it’s achieved record market share for three-straight years.

Jackson said Ford cut the market share gap between the segment-leading Camry from 14 points to 5, and the Accord from 10 points to 2.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader.com, said that in a segment like the midsize sedan market, which is increasingly being overlooked by customers who want trucks and SUVs, automakers must find ways to increase profits, and Ford appears to be doing that.

“It’s not about a pure sales volume race, it’s about how much profit automakers can generate from each sale they make,” Krebs said.

“Richer editions and more availability of technologies; that’s adding to the bottom line and is appealing to what the consumer is demanding.”

Visitors to the auto show will see a number of technology enhancements.

New this year is a perpendicular park assist to go along with the parallel park assist; a pedestrian detection system that will automatically brake as part of its adaptive cruise control; and the latest Sync 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Jackson said the Fusion team discovered customers were happy with the car’s exterior, so they didn’t change much on the outside.

The inside, though, features a new gear shift dial that frees up space in the center console and allows for roomier storage bins. This year is the first that Fusion will come standard with push-button start, Jackson said.

Officials said roughly 10 percent of Fusion’s sales are of the hybrid version, while 3-5 percent are of the Energi plug-in. The 2017 model-year includes updates to both.

The Fusion Energi plug-in is expected to get about 19 miles using electric power only, and a combined 500 miles of range when combined with its 2.0-liter gas engine. Recharging can take just 2.5 hours, Ford said.

The automaker said final numbers are not official because EPA tests have not yet been completed.

Both electrified Fusions — Energi and Fusion Hybrid — can go up to 85 mph on electric power only.

The 2017 model-year Fusion will be available this summer. The sport version will hit dealerships a few weeks after that.

“Fusion is so important to Ford’s lineup,” Krebs said. “The interesting thing, when it was introduced it was selling at very high transaction prices. People seem to want it loaded up. Adding even more is a step in the right direction.”