By KBB.com Editors
Now in its sixth year as Ford's point player in the ultra-competitive mid-size sedan segment, the Fusion arrives for 2011 fresh from last year's major makeover ready to do battle against the likes of the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. Although much of the basic platform engineering on this front-drive/all-wheel drive four-door remains shared with its former Mazda stable mate, the MAZDA6, both its exterior and interior have be transformed to reflect a more youthful and contemporary flavor. The final piece in the 2011 mix is the Fusion Hybrid variant (reviewed separately) that complements the conventional lineup, which includes S, SE, SEL and a high-performance Sport model.You'll Like This Car If...
If you need the practicality of a well-appointed, well-engineered and crisp-handling family-sized four-door that also offers a choice of fuel-efficient four-or six-cylinder engines and available all-wheel drive, the 2011 Ford Fusion merits serious consideration for a spot in your garage.You May Not Like This Car If...
Even this latest and greatest Fusion may not be enough to convince hard-core Accord and Camry owners that it's time to head down to their local Ford dealers. Those who prioritize interior space would likely prefer the Chevy Malibu or the latest-generation Accord, which has grown sufficiently to now qualify as an EPA "large car."What's New for 2011
HD Radio is now available, as are rain-sensing wipers, "MyKey" programmable vehicle key and two new equipment groups: Luxury and Comfort. Integrated blind-spot mirrors are now standard on Fusions not equipped with the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).Driving It Driving Impressions
With increased power and torque plus advanced six-speed transmissions, even four-cylinder 2011 Ford Fusion models have plenty in hand to cope with all normal city/highway traffic demands. Those willing to forego a bit of fuel economy will find the Fusion even more appealing when equipped with the 3.0-liter V6, while the 3.5-liter makes the Sport variant downright quick. Buyers can opt for front- or all-wheel drive with either engine. All but the Sport trim use Ford's Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) that improves feedback and helps boost fuel economy. This new EPAS hardware also cuts nearly a foot out of the Fusion's turning circle to ease maneuvering in tight confines. Numerous refinements and suspension geometry tweaks carryover from last year, imparting a more precise feel with better roll control across the lineup. Complementing those dynamic improvements are decreased ambient noise levels in the Fusion's hushed cabin.Favorite Features
Impressive Powertrain Combinations
Advanced engines and transmissions make all conventional Fusion models more engaging to drive. Both the four-cylinder and V6 engines offer outstanding comparative mpg and drink regular unleaded (and/or E85 in the case of the 3.0-liter). Ford's newest six-speed automatic employs a manual-style SelectShift gate and can be paired with either V6 engine.
SYNC Voice-Activated Communications
Standard in the Fusion SEL/Sport and available in S/SE models, the SYNC package is arguably the most useful and user-friendly multi-purpose input/output system on the market today. For 2011, it's been upgraded to include a new 911 Assist capability, Traffic, Directions and Information, Vehicle Health Report diagnostics, and can integrate with the optional on-board navigation system.
Where the original Fusion's interior was a bit hard edged and lacking in sophistication, the 2011 model demonstrates a much more elegant approach. Ford made the Fusion's passenger compartment more inviting by adding richer character and more user-friendly elements to all models in the range. Soft-touch surfaces and metallic accents dominate this well-appointed, well-isolated realm, which is highlighted by a recently restyled dash fitted with highly-legible 3D-look instrumentation and a more logically arrayed center stack. Enhanced bolstering on the front buckets provides greater support and comfort while the rear quarters have sufficient head and leg room to comfortably accommodate two adults or carry three for shorter distances. A 60/40 split-folding seatback adds even more utility to the Fusion's already spacious 16.5 cubic-foot trunk.Exterior
The Fusion received a major refresh last year, beginning with design tweaks that impart a sportier look and improved aerodynamics. Everything ahead of the A-pillar was redone, from the prominent power bulge on its hood and smartly flared fenders to bolder fascia/lamp/grille treatments that impart a lower, wider look. Complementing the revamp, new underbody shields help channel air aft more efficiently, while its rear quarters gained added distinction with reshaped taillamps, a redrawn decklid and a lower-fascia "diffuser" panel with dual exhausts. Fusion S trims get V-rated all-season 205/60 tires on 16-inch aluminum wheels, SE/SEL models step that up to 225/50 rubber on 17-inch steel (SE) or alloy (SEL) wheels while the Sport wears 225/45s on 18-inch alloys.Notable Standard Equipment
Regardless of trim/powertrain choices, all Fusions are very well equipped. Even the Fusion S boasts power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, keyless remote entry, six-speed manual transmission, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering column, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system and a 60/40 split/folding rear seat plus AdvanceTrac stability/traction control, anti-lock brakes and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags. The SE steps up with items like SIRIUS Satellite Radio, an enhanced sound system, power driver's seat, redundant steering wheel controls and fog lamps, while the SEL brings dual-zone auto climate control, leather-trimmed full-power seats and SYNC voice-activated communications. Beyond more power and a dedicated suspension/wheel/tire package, the Sport adds special exterior/interior trim and 911 assist to its SYNC system.Notable Optional Equipment
Fusion S extras are limited to a six-speed automatic transmission, remote start, and floormats, while SE buyers can opt for the automatic transmission, a 3.0-liter V6 with SportShift automatic transmission, electrochromic mirrors, SYNC with 911 Assist (with or without a sunroof), rear spoiler, a monochrome appearance package and the Reverse Sensing System. The SEL offers the 3.0-liter V6, Driver's Vision Package (Rear-View Camera plus Blind-Spot Info System with Cross-Traffic Alert) and the Luxury Package (illuminated door sills, unique leather heated front seats, chrome door pulls and mirror caps.) SEL/Sport trims allow voice-activated Navigation, a Moon & Tune Package (moonroof plus 12-speaker/390-watt Sony premium audio), and all-wheel drive. Only Sport buyers can choose a convenience-oriented Rapid Spec which adds the Moon & Tune, Comfort Package (dual-zone climate control, heated seats, four-way power passenger seat, puddle lamps and driver's keypad) and the Driver's Vision Package. A Sport Appearance Package that includes a tauter suspension is available for the SE/SEL.Under the Hood
2010's significant powertrain upgrades carry over for 2011, bringing technology that elevates the pony count, fuel economy and driving experience in all Ford Fusion models. The 2.5-liter Duratec in-line four-cylinder makes 175 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, whether mated to the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic. Available in SE/SEL trims and paired with a mandatory 6-speed automatic transmission that adds a manual-style SelectShift feature is a 3.0-liter Flex-Fuel V6 that develops 240 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. The Sport level brings a potent 3.5-liter V6 rated at 263 horsepower, 249 pound-feet of torque and is paired with the 6-speed SelectShift automatic. The SEL/Sport models also offer optional on-demand all-wheel drive.
2.5-liter in-line 4
175 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
172 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 (manual), 22/30 (automatic), 23/33 (SelectShift automatic)
3.0-liter V6 (Flex-Fuel)
240 horsepower @ 6550 rpm
223 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (gasoline, FWD), 13/20 ( E85, FWD), 18/26 (gasoline, AWD), 13/18 (E85, AWD)
263 horsepower @ 6250 rpm
249 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/27 (FWD, automatic), 17/24 (AWD, automatic)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on a 2011 Ford Fusion runs from just under $20,500 for a base S with manual transmission to roughly $29,000 for an all-wheel drive Sport variant, putting it well within the range of its competitive set. Opting for the six-speed automatic on any four-cylinder Fusion will bump its tab by about $900 and popping for the 3.0-liter V6 will add anywhere from $1,600 (SEL) to $2,500 (SE) – but that does include the SelectShift automatic transmission. Navigation on the SEL and Sport is only available as part of a dedicated Rapid Spec Package that includes more features but ultimately adds several thousand dollars to the bottom line. Historically, the Fusion has retained better five-year values than the Chevrolet Malibu, but still falls far short of key rivals like the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry.