Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy has been writing for MANjr since October of 2012. He also manages MANjr's Twitter and Facebook page.

Posts by Jeremy Johnson

The 2017 Ford Fusion Sport Review

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

Lexus GSF Review

Lexus dives head first into the performance sports sedan battle with the GSF.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I was never a big fan of the Lexus GS. It always felt like the fulfillment of an obligation to offer a mid sized luxury sedan. Previous incarnations of the GS, even the 350 F-Series felt just a little big and heavy on the track and when offered the choice of models it was usually one of the last options I chose. I like cars that are clearly designed for a purpose and the older GS series just felt like an afterthought.

The GSF is no afterthought. The GSF looks and drives like a Marvel Comics redesign. From its signature “Ultrasonic Blue Mica” paint job, bold and polarizing design, and 467 HP V8 engine, the GSF has been designed with a certain kind of driver in mind. This time around it was me.

The Look
The paint job alone costs more than some people’s cars. The GSF flares where it should flare, pinches tight where it should pinch. It’s wide and athletic in the front and has just enough of a swoop in the rear to distinguish the trunk from its less affluent cousin, the Toyota Camry. I’m on record for loving the spindle grill and remain a big fan of the overall posture of Lexus’ brand refresh. This car is not a mild mannered sedan with sports styling. The GSF is a luxury sports sedan and everything about the look promises a bold driving experience. A glance puts it in the same category as some heavy hitters with initials like M5, AMG and E63. Will the drive measure up?

The Drive
I’m familiar with the 5.0L 476 HP V8 engine, having tested it on the RCF last year. Spoiler alert, it is still super fun to drive. In a day of ecoboost this and turbo that, the thrill of pressing the gas and getting raw horsepower can be forgotten. Not so in the GSF, even in ECO and Normal mode, the engine springs to life with a roar. When the drive mode select is placed in S or S+ mode, the enhanced engine noise growls and fills the cabin with the noise of delightful revving and downshifting. Speaking of downshifting the 8 speed automatic transmission is a revelation. In canyons and straightaways it seemed to predict my next move, anticipating downshifts and never getting caught awkwardly between gears. The suspension was stiff but comfortable enough, stopping just short of a luxurious ride. Potholes and grooves in the road were managed without any rattling and overall the car felt very snug and well put together. Out on the highways, wind and road noise are a dull murmur and the engine noise only kicks in when aggressive maneuvers began.

What the F?
What the F is the F? What the F is the F series? Aren’t they the same?
Short answer, no.
Medium answer, welllll they do have some overlap.
Long answer?
The F Series badge is a trim level and a suite of options available across the Lexus lineup. It includes better components and bigger engines, premium sound, etc. The F is a stand alone. It’s an answer to the M series or the AMG of its european competitors, a car custom built for the well heeled driving enthusiast. Fans of Silicon Valley will get it, this car, um, F’s.
So, when you see the “F Series” badge, the driver thought enough of themselves to add a few extra touches. When the badge says “F”? It means this guy really likes to party.

Overall very sharp interior in the GSF. Lots of carbon fiber, well accented lighting and the familiar dash design work well with the comfortable bolstered seats and mid sized back seat, The increasingly dated infotainment system remains largely as is, utilizing the Remote Touch Controller to navigate the 12.3″ screen. The software has begun to feel a little clunky for a car so technologically advanced and is surely up for an update in the coming model years.

Lexus has the GSF packed with so many safety features it dominated the Monroney sheet. Obvious ones like airbags give way to the less obvious like Pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Alert and Cross Traffic Alert. The entire suite of safety features really combine to impact the way you drive the car. Radar assist cruise control remains my favorite. It allows the driver to set a safe follow distance and an optimum top speed and the car does the rest. Best used on the open highway, it essentially takes over the throttle and braking responsibilities, even bring the car to a full stop if traffic dictates. A welcome step in the road to cars that have more and more self driving capabilities, this practical innovation is a pleasure to use and extremely effective at predicting slowdowns up ahead. The optional Mark Levinson Audio system is crystal clear, allowing max volume without distortion or buzzing.

The Lexus GSF comes in at high marks. What it lacks in refinement it makes up for in enthusiasm. The bold look and large, naturally aspirated engine will attract a more youthful part of the marketplace sometimes felt forgotten by the legacy brands of Cadillac and Lincoln and offer a clear alternative to M5 and AMG. An exciting drive, an aggressive look and a sharp interior design make the GSF stand out from the crowd.

MSRP as tested $86,760
5.0L DOHC 32 Valve V8
467 HP
19″ Forged Alloy Wheels