With its 2013 Fusion, Ford is bringing a battleship to the gunfight that is the North American midsize passenger car segment. The new C/D-segment sedan, which made its world debut Jan. 9 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, bristles with technology and smart engineering aimed at making good on Global Product Development Chief Derrick Kuzak’s pledge to “redefine the segment.”
Kuzak realizes the level of product required to seriously challenge Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord as segment leaders, not to mention fending off the surging Hyundai Sonata and a new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. For this task, Ford leadership clearly gave Chief Engineer Adrian Whittle and his team the resources to make the new Fusion a class leader, as it moves from its seven-year-old Mazda G-derived CD3 platform to the new CD4 architecture developed by Ford Europe.
The CD4 is claimed to be stiffer in torsion and bending, and more mass-efficient than the former platform. It will also underpin Lincoln’s new MKZ, a concept version of which also appeared in Detroit.
The Fusion’s firepower is multifaceted: conventional 1.6-L and 2.0-L Ecoboost (turbocharged, direct injected) gasoline four-cylinder engines mated to six-speed automatics; a hybrid version with next-generation lithium-ion batteries; a 2.0-L Atkinson cycle engine; and a plug-in-hybrid (PHEV) version called Fusion Energi. Kuzak claims the Energi model will be capable of achieving the equivalent of more than 100 mpg, with a 500-mi (805 km) range.
Estimated city/highway fuel efficiency for the 1.6-L is 26/37 mpg, and for the 2.0-L it is 23/33 mpg. The hybrid model is expected to achieve 47/44 mpg and be capable of 62 mpg in EV mode.
The 1.6-L version will feature stop-start technology, which engineers believe will deliver a 3% fuel-efficiency gain. This is Ford’s first pairing of stop-start with an automatic transmission.
A torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system will be offered.
The new hybrid powertrains are Ford’s first electrified drive systems fully developed and manufactured in the U.S. (in house).
“We’re doing the [air-cooled] battery pack, controller, dc inverter, motor, and thermal control of the pack—everything except the cells,” said Sherif Marakby, Director of Electrification Programs and Engineering. Related ancillaries on the hybrid model (which launches with the conventional versions) include electric water pump, electric A/C compressor, and a system to recapture exhaust heat.
The Fusion Energi PHEV launches a few months after the other two versions. To minimize the bill of material and reduce systems cost, it carries over a number of technologies from Ford’s parallel power-split transmission architecture, Marakby said, including an air-cooled battery pack and permanent-magnet ac traction motor.
Ford claims a remarkable .27 Cd for the new Fusion, a result of extensive modeling, CFD analysis, and full-scale wind-tunnel work, said Whittle. The LED taillamps were chosen for their aero-enhancing aspect ratio, he said, and an active grille shutter system will help lower drag at highway speeds.
The development team partnered with Formula-One car builder Adrian Reynard, whose company made available its moving-ground-plane wind tunnel, to develop and refine the Fusion’s underbody fairing.
The slick aero profile is one of the keys to the Fusion’s NVH package. It includes an acoustic-laminated windshield and active noise cancellation (the latter only on the hybrid and Energi PHEV versions).
The 2013 Fusion also features an all-new chassis, including new front (McPherson strut) and multilink rear suspension. EPAS electric power steering features nibble compensation that can counteract cross winds to a certain degree.
Onboard electronic safety and convenience aids are comprehensive, including active park assist (taken from Focus and Escape); adaptive cruise control (carried over from Taurus); blind spot detection with cross traffic alert; and driver-assist lane keeping.
The lane-keeping feature, carried over from Explorer, is claimed to be a first use in a volume midsize sedan. It uses a windshield-mounted (near the rearview mirror) digital camera to detect when the vehicle is veering erratically in its lane. This triggers a vibration in the steering wheel, notifying drivers to correct the course or pull over for a rest when drowsy.
The onboard radar array includes a forward-facing 77-GHz microwave unit, and 23-GHz units in the rear quarters, for blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, explained Mike Kane, Vehicle Engineering Driver Assist Technologies Supervisor.