Fusion Sport and MKZ offer sporty variations on a mid-sized them
By Jim Bray
One is the sportiest version of Ford's mainstream mid-size sedan, while the other's Lincoln's variation on the theme. So, when it comes to a choice between the Fusion Sport and the Lincoln MKZ, which is the better car?
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Waffle time (syrup, anyone?)! As is so often the case, the answer is a clear "it depends." Mostly, it depends on your budget, I suppose, because the loaded Ford Fusion sport Ford loaned me to wring out for a week is priced at $42,388 (sans taxes, etc.) while the MKZ stickered for $59,300. That's a pretty big spread for what beneath the surface are two cars who share a lot of their DNA.
No Con-Fusion - the car's quite hot!
I've been dying to have some serious seat time in the Fusion Sport since I went on the 2017 model introduction junket last year. It's the top line Fusion - well, there's also the Platinum and Energi Platinum trim levels that can raise the ante a bit - but they don't offer the performance upgrades of the Sport, chief of which is the 2.7 litre twin turbo EcoBoost V6. This engine is quite lovely; Ford rates its output in the Fusion Sport as 325 horsies @ 5,500 rpm with 380 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,500 revs.
That's very competitive in this niche, and it leaves the sportiest versions of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord (which can "sport" non-turbo 3.5 litre V6's rated at 268 and 278 horses, respectively) and the VW Passat's 280 hp in the dust. Also in the rear view mirror is the Kia Optima, whose sportiest engine is a two litre turbo four the company rates at 245 horses.
On the other hand, 300+ horsepower is hardly unique in the marketplace, but you may find yourself going up market for it. The V6 in Infiniti's Q70 sedan puts out 330 hp (less torque than the Ford, though), Lexus' GS 350's six cranks out 311, and Audi's A6's V6 puts out 340.
Ford has those luxury cars' figures beaten, however, if you go upmarket to the Lincoln MKZ instead of the Fusion, at least if you opt for the optional three litre turbocharged V6: up to 400/400 horsepower/torque, depending on the grade of fuel you use. That's a lot of oomph from a mainstream luxury sedan!
Guess why it was that I liked the MKZ better than the Fusion.
Well, that's only one reason - but it's a good one!
But back to the Fusion Sport, which is still a pretty great car for the money.
Sport Fusions can be distinguished from their more staid siblings via deeper air intakes, gloss black mesh grille, 19 inch "tarnished dark" wheels, a cute little rear spoiler, and four exhaust pipe outlets. Inside, the Sport model gets leather-trimmed seating with Miko sueded seat inserts, a black headliner, carbon fibre trim, and on the rotary shifter the "L" (low range) becomes an "S" (sport, of course).
Push that sport button and Clark Kent turns, if not into Superman, into a much more interesting drive, thanks to more aggressively programmed shift points, faster throttle response and stiffer steering. The damping gets more aggressive (though not jarringly so) and the car's active noise control lets through (or creates, for all I know…) a more entertaining sound inside the cabin.
Besides the upgraded power, the Fusion Sport comes standard with all-wheel drive and with anti-roll bars and spring rates tuned for sporty performance, while the continuously controlled suspension tweaks itself between stiff and soft depending on the road surface and how you have the car set up. The system also allows for pothole detection, where sensors detect the edge of a pothole and, within milliseconds, change damping rates to reduce the severity of an impact. It sounds great, but I didn't have the guts to seek out big potholes to test the system. Bad enough the Fusion got run into in a parking lot while I had it!
In practice, I found the Fusion's suspension a tad soft in the car's normal modes, but had no complaints about it once it was set firmly into Sport mode.
Power gets to the corners via a six speed automatic transmission, with paddles, and it shifts well.
I had a couple of minor quibbles, not so much with the Fusion Sport itself but with Ford's interfaces. For example, to get a digital speedometer I had to mess with the left hand controllers on the steering wheel but if I used the paddle shifters the display would switch to a digital tachometer (not that that's a bad thing in itself) and I'd have to mess with the controllers again to get the speedometer back when I left manual mode.
Perhaps there's a way to configure this better in the voluminous adjustments Ford offers, but it didn't bother me enough to go diving into the more arcane levels of the cascades. So obviously it wasn't that big a deal.
The interior is nice, but not nearly as high rent as the Lincoln. I suppose that shouldn't surprise anyone.
I also noticed that the trunk lid is very thick, though that thickness doesn't really translate to more apparent heft. This isn't a complaint, just an observation because it seemed unusual.
On the upside, again, the Fusion (in any incarnation) is plenty roomy and comfortable inside and I noticed that, at least with the Sport, you can lock/unlock any of the four doors via proximity sensor. This is a handy feature because you don't have to open the driver's door first to get at the passenger doors.
There's plenty of storage space inside as well, including a handy shelf underneath the centre console. I'd park my iPad there and it was out of the way enough that I wasn't afraid to leave it when I left the car.
The Fusion Sport, in all, is a nice, albeit a tad bland, entry in this segment of the market and its upgraded driveability helps to make it a compelling choice for those who value a mid-sized sedan but want a little more performance out of it.
If it isn't luxurious enough for you, you could opt for the Platinum trim level or…
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If you want even more bang - not necessarily for the buck, though - Lincoln's MKZ is an uber-Fusion, a luxury sedan that's solid and comfortable and chock full of the most up to date features (not that the Fusion is any slouch when it comes to tech and nannies).
And while the MKZ may be mostly a Fusion beneath its skin, the cars look and feel very different from each other. For example, Lincoln's exterior styling includes a grille lifted from the exquisite new Continental. The profile is classy and sleek, too, though the rear end is its weakest (a common thing these days, in my never humble opinion).
There's an awesome panoramic sunroof as well, but when you open it, it slides down over the rear window and once it's extended fully you lose about half your view rearward. The last generation of the Porsche 911 Targa had the same issue, though I don't think it was quite as noticeable.
Lincoln's gear selector is kind of neat. It consists of a row of buttons (labelled PRND, etc.) mounted vertically to the left of the central LCD. It works fine, though I occasionally pressed the start/stop button (which is directly above) instead of Park. Owners will undoubtedly get used to this quickly, however.
Three engine choices are offered, including a hybrid power plant and a two litre turbo four - but the engine of choice here must be the three litre, twin turbo V6, which is a very rewarding engine to open up. Ford/Lincoln says the thing puts 400/400 horsepower/torque onto the road and that's plenty of poop indeed! I really loved this engine!
Power goes to all four wheels via a six speed automatic with paddles, and I didn't lose the digital speedometer by activating the paddles (the Lincoln's dash layout is different from the Fusion's, and better).
The interior is comfortable, luxurious, and efficient. The centre stack is a lovely example of logical simplicity and the Revel audio system really performs when you give it good quality sound. I must apologize to Lincoln for dumping on this system in my last MKZ review. Since I was travelling then I didn't have my collection of high quality music files with me; this time I did, and the difference was "ear opening". Garbage in, garbage out…
The MKZ feels very solid and whatever extra weight it has compared to the Fusion is more than made up for by that outrageous V6, which never seems perturbed no matter how hard you press it.
Like the Fusion, the MKZ gets a full suite of nannies and other aids. My favourite of these is the rear cross traffic monitor and rear view camera. They aren't unique to Ford/Lincoln, but they sure do come in handy in parking lots! There's also lane departure warning, parking assist and parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, etc.
Besides the V6, options on Lincoln's sample included the panoramic sunroof ($3,450), the "Technology" package ($2,450 - basically the nannies and rain-sensing wipers), 19 inch wheels ($750) and the Revel audio system ($1100). The attractive Burgundy Velvet Metallic paint added another $700.
My preference, budget willing, would be the MKZ over the Fusion Sport. It takes everything that's good about the Fusion and makes it just that much better. Naturally, you pay for the privilege, but there's no such thing as a free lunch.
Copyright 2017 Jim Bray
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