MUSKEGO, Wisc. -- Just beyond suburban fringes of Milwaukee, we're following back roads in Racine County while skirting the lakes like Muskego, Fox and Wind which interrupt a prairie quilt of crop farms. The well-powered and smooth-riding vehicle we're steering over these Wisconsin back roads is Ford's fine mid-size luxury sedan, the 2015 Fusion in top-tier Titanium trim.
Fusion presents a muscular strafed hood and aggressive prow capped by a six-sided grille with chrome-beaded fins, squinty corner headlamp clusters, taut fender bulges over wheelwells and a crisp tail design with bisected LED lamps and the exhaust pipe protruding beneath smooth low fascia.
The 2015 editions of Fusion employ a stiff and strong front-wheel-drive (FWD) world-car platform that emerged with the second-generation Fusion of 2013.
Fusion's 2015 line includes three different gasoline-powered engines, plus a gas-electric hybrid model and a plug-in hybrid. Our review focuses on Fusion's gas-sipping engines which drop into three trims: S, SE and Titanium.
Fusion S and SE FWD models stock the base plant, a 2.5-liter in-line-four rigged with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and sequential multiport fuel injection. It produces 175 hp at 6000 rpm with torque tipping to 170 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.
Sole transmission is the Ford 6F35 6-speed electronic automatic with SelectShift manual control.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2.5-liter 4-pack amount to 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Fusion SE offers two optional EcoBoost 4-cylinder plants with turbo-charging, direct fuel injection and variable valve timing.
Ford's DOHC 1.5-liter EcoBoost 4-in-line delivers 181 hp at 6000 rpm and torque to 185 lb-ft at 2700 rpm yet fuel economy estimates of 25 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with the 6F35 6-speed auto-shifter.
Ford's high-powered yet fuel-thrifty EcoBoost engine, a twin-cam 2.0-liter 4-pack with turbo-charging, is the standard plant for Fusion Titanium or optional for Fusion SE and it serves up 240 hp at 5500 rpm plus 270 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm.
Tied to the 6F35 6-speed electronic automatic, the 2.0 EcoBoost plant earns EPA numbers of 22/33 mpg (city/highway) in FWD or 22/31 mpg (city/highway) with optional AWD (all-wheel-drive) traction for Fusion Titanium and Fusion SE Appearance and Fusion SE Luxury.
All Fusion '15 models carry independent suspension components -- front MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and a rear integral link plus stabilizer bar. Ford engineers tuned the Fusion suspension to deliver sporty handling characteristics, then added electric power assistance to the rack-mounted steering system to boost fuel efficiency.
Brakes on 2015 Fusion models consist of a disc at every wheel (vented front, solid rear) with linkage to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control (ESC) device.
Fusion S base model rolls on 16-inch sparkle silver aluminum wheels capped by 215/60R16 all-season tires and provides such standard equipment as air-conditioning, power controls for windows and door locks, automatic headlights, keyless entry system, cruise control, height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, tilting-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer and a 4-speaker audio system with CD deck.
Fusion SE adds 17-inch sparkle silver painted aluminum wheels with 235/50R17 all-season tires, heated exterior mirrors, 8-way power controls for the driver's seat, backseat fold-down armrest and rear air ducts, upgraded audio gear plus satellite radio service.
Fusion Titanium carries 18-inch polish-face premium aluminum wheels with 235/45VR18 rubber and suspension system sport tuning, a remote ignition starter, rear parking sensors, sport front seats with leather upholstery and dazzling electronic instruments.
A rearview camera is standard issue for all 2015 Fusion models, but Ford offers additional driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control and collision warning, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert, active park assist and lane-keeping system.
Ford sets MSRP figures for 2015 Fusion models in a range from $22,500 for Fusion S/FWD to $32,780 for Fusion Titanium/AWD.