MANjr takes on Mother Nature herself with the 2017 Ford Fusion Sport

It’s difficult to write this review without first setting the scene.

It was November of 1846 and the Donner party had hit a snag. After nearly 6 months on the trail, an early snowstorm pummelled the Sierra Nevada Mountains and trapped the party of 87 near Truckee California. As livestock and supplies began to dwindle and rescue operations were delayed, many in the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism to survive. It wasn’t until March of 1847 that 48 emaciated survivors trudged their way through the mountain pass to tell their story.

It was this on my mind as I thought about our food supplies in the back seat of our 2017 Ford Fusion Sport. When I went to bed the night before, I was comforted by the weather report of 1-3″ of snow. By morning’s light the totals on the ground were over 18″ and growing fast. We had to get on the road and we had to do it right now.

I grew up in the snow. Any self respecting native New Englander knows how to drive in the snow. Alpine snow is different though, at 7,000 feet sometimes it comes down harder than any forecast can predict. Steep inclines and switchback turns give even the most seasoned driver pause, and white roads hide what ice may lie underneath. Chains become a legal requirement, and all their hand numbing, bloody knuckle curse word inspiring fun along with it.

Quick PSA for those attempting an escape from the mountains in a Ford Fusion Sport.

Caltrans might let you slide if you have AWD (check) and brand new tires (check).

They will not let you know this on the internet, the official word is 4WD (nope) and snow tires (nope).

So I bought two pairs of chains, in order to not destroy the differential on my brand new loaner car. I attempted to install these chains in a Starbucks parking lot with 30 mph winds blowing snow into my everywhere. I failed. I felt like less of a man.

Turns out, according to the nice men at the local gas station, my (wow what kind of car is this? Ford? No Way!) 2017 Ford Fusion Sport did not take too kindly to chains. The low profile 19” wheels were so close to the wheel wells that any attempt by me and my meat mitts to squeeze in between was useless and likely even bad for the car. (Manhood restored!) With our recently purchased and now useless chains stowed securely in our trunk, we chose to risk it and get our butts back to Los Angeles.

To make a long story of focus and perseverance short, it took us 16 hours to get home. Our first 100 miles took over 8 hours. We were trapped in holiday traffic, mixed with apocalyptic snowfall, and raging winds. Our route was marked by cars and trucks in snow banks, bathroom lines over 30 minutes long, and a near complete breakdown of simple human decorum. We retraced a portion of the Donner Party’s route and lived to tell the tale.

The Look
The Blue Lightning paint job and athletic stance stand out from the curb. Even though it shares its now signature Fusion grill with more standard trim levels, accents and flares across the body separate the Sport from the herd. It looks like a million bucks. Well, more accurately, it looks like 70,000 bucks. (MSRP as tested $41k)

The Drive
The trip began innocently enough, the clean dry roads of Southern California allowed the V6 2.7L engine ample room to shine. 380lb-ft of torque may not mean much to you, but trust me, good times were had. The car is quick, responsive, and drives like a luxury sports sedan. My love affair turned Stockholm Syndrome with the Fusion Sport began on the 405 North, merging and passing at will, deftly passing mile markers and semi trucks. The handling is smooth yet responsive, the 6 speed automatic transmission shifted seamlessly, and the steering was responsive without being overly tactile. The AWD, truly tested repeatedly and necessarily, was an all star. There never came a moment where I asked the car to do something it couldn’t do. Like all great AWD systems in the snow, simply pointing the nose of the car in the desired direction was enough. The slipping and gripping of the tires is all handled automatically and the car finds its way straight again.

The Inside
This is really the only knock on this car. A look from the outside and a test drive might have you wondering how it is priced at less than half of what some of its luxury cousins are sold for. This is where some of the money is saved. Leather and fancy composites give way to more familiar upholstery and plastics. It’s nice enough, it is an American car after all. Functional interiors made with less than premium materials are kind of the hallmark of this nation’s automobiles. Comfortable seats, effective infotainment software, and all the appropriate spots to stow your gadgets. Not much to complain about inside and what little there was only exists because the bar of expectations had been raised so high. Perhaps the the Platinum and Sport trim levels will combine one day to take on the BMW 3 series? 2018 anyone?

The Home Stretch
I could argue that I lost all objectivity somewhere between hour 3 and 4 of our drive home. We had been stopped for over 30 minutes in the blinding snow and wind on Interstate 80, mere miles away from the point where some in the Donner party met their fateful end. I was out of the car, clearing the ice off our windshield wipers and talking to a fellow stranded motorist. We chatted about the weather and the fact that we were standing in the middle of an interstate highway when he said, “That’s a Ford?”. I nodded and told him a little about it, when suddenly we both stopped speaking and stood there. Two men, surrounded by thousands of stranded motorists, in the middle of a major weather event. I pondered the earth and human constructs like society. I figured I could get maybe three days out of the snacks we had, if we were on survival rations. We could always drink the snow and surely Caltrans wouldn’t just forget about the people in the countless cars they just waved through. We said our goodbyes and got into the warm embrace of our vehicles. My heated seat comforted my back, as any unbiased attempt at a review melted like flakes on the windshield. My loving wife handed me some almonds and traffic began to move again. I couldn’t help but imagine that the Fusion Sport nodded and smiled as we slid into gear and continued to trudge along our way.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport
MSRP (as tested) $40,995
2.7L GTDI Ecoboost Engine
325 HP
19” Premium Wheels

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