Review: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi
Compromise, but in a livable way
Ford has come a long way in the past decade. Previously, they were making piles of shit encased in plastic. Now, they’re making solidly-built cars that can take the Japanese and Europeans head-on. I was previously satisfied — not impressed — by the Focus. The Escape also delivers an adequate experience. But you can tell effort was put into the Fusion to make it super refined.
You don’t realize how noisy the outside world is until you close the properly-weighted doors of the Fusion. Plus, if you’re driving the Energi version as I did, turning on the car merely starts the A/C fan: the engine doesn’t kick in until you accelerate harder than the electric motor can handle. So it’s basically dead silent. In fact, a green light with arrows comes on to let you know you can start driving.
The seats are couchlike in a good way. They provide ample support and the headrests are not intrusive. The steering wheel is a nice plastic and is just the right size: not too thick, not too thin; not too large, not too small. I didn’t try the backseat, but it looked spacious. My only concern is with the trunk: in the Energi, just like a lot of other plug-in hybrids, trunk space is minimal.
Thanks to the QNX partnership, Ford Sync has gotten good. It’s by no means aesthetically pleasing. The iconography looks like someone who has finished the HTML5 book but hasn’t gotten to the CSS book. It’s really unappealing and looks out of place in the otherwise-pleasant interior. But this means the system is super functional. Every button responds as fast as a Kindle, which is to say fast enough for a car. The digital and analog buttons are labeled in large, clear fonts, and everything is easy to understand quickly.
And now, we get to the driving experience. The 2017 Fusion rides well, has weighty steering (which I like), and is generally serene while driving. Call me a fool, but I believe the active noise cancelling works.
It wasn’t too hard to get the front wheels to squeal from a standstill. Having an electric motor makes it too easy. The Energi is a plug-in hybrid that can move on all-electric power if charged enough, which means that it’ll creep around parking lots as quietly as a Tesla. But once you’re out of the parking lot and trying to merge onto a highway, the car is a bit of a let-down. Just like in any other plug-in hybrid, the gas/electric combo is still a compromise. You don’t get the instant-torque-at-any-speed electric grunt, and you don’t get the good old fashioned power of internal combustion. Instead, you get a wheezy jog to 60. Trying to pass on the highway? You better have a lot of room.
Something about the Fusion Energi tells me that it wasn’t designed to be the cool kid in class. Maybe that persona fits the Energi’s gas-powered Sport brethren. The Energi was built to be an unashamed geek that has the best intentions. It’s happily an eco-car (not an econo-car, mind you) and will keep you calm while driving all day. In mixed driving, I briefly touched 40mpg — this includes some hard acceleration, so I consider it admirable.
In the end, the Fusion Energi is a reasonably-priced, midsize car designed to move you in comfort and distance you from the otherwise tiresome act of driving. Thanks to a well-executed electric drivetrain, the Fusion Energi nails serene driving. It not only checks the right boxes, it does so with pride. While the Malibu and the Camry are the bare minimum to pass as family sedans, the Fusion Energi goes beyond to deliver a smooth experience.