Comfortable ride quality; competent handling; smooth powertrain; good steering feel.
Aging exterior and interior design; some interior materials need improvement; not truly worthy of the Sport badge.
There are some things in this world that just seem to age at an accelerated rate. For example: cabbage, U.S. presidents and songs from the Top 40. Add to this list the 2011 Ford Fusion Sport. It was only a year ago that the Fusion received a makeover, but in the months since, fresh newcomers breathed some much-needed life into the midsize sedan segment. As a result, the Ford Fusion looks and feels like yesterday's dance tune.
On its own merits, the 2011 Ford Fusion Sport is a perfectly agreeable car. It's only when you begin comparing it to contemporaries that its shine begins to dull — even within its own lineup. Besides the obligatory cosmetic enhancements, the Sport model receives a more powerful V6 engine and sport suspension to distinguish it from the rest of the Fusion family. But the advantages in performance are negligible for the most part. We're certain that the vast majority of drivers won't find the differences worth the added cost.
Buyers will find a significant difference when comparing the Fusion Sport against the likes of the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, which represent the freshest picks in the bunch of sporting-oriented midsize sedans. Besides an equally pleasant ride quality, the Korean-label twins have many additional features and more evocative styling. To a lesser degree, the stalwart Honda Accord is also worth consideration. As agreeable as the 2011 Ford Fusion Sport might be, it is simply past its prime.
On paper, the natural assumption would be that the 2011 Ford Fusion Sport would have a distinct performance advantage over its more pedestrian Fusion siblings. The last Fusion SEL with sport suspension that we tested packed the optional 240-horsepower 3.0-liter V6, while this 2011 Fusion Sport test car has the more powerful 263-hp 3.5-liter V6 along with a sport-tuned suspension and steering. This particular Fusion Sport test car features the optional all-wheel-drive system, which complicates performance comparisons since the car is heavier than the front-wheel-drive version by 192 pounds.
Acceleration from zero to 60 mph took 7.2 seconds, which is a bit on the slow side among competitors, coming in about a half-second slower than the likes of the Honda Accord V6 and Hyundai Sonata/Kia Optima Turbo. Braking distances from 60 mph require 128 feet, which is about average. In terms of handling, the Fusion Sport fares a bit better, weaving through our slalom at 65.4 mph, which is about 3 mph faster than the class average. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 17 city/24 highway mpg and 19 combined mpg.
From behind the Fusion Sport's steering wheel, the experience is just about what we've come to expect from the higher-trimmed midsize sedan segment. Power is more than adequate for the vast majority of drivers, but not at all inspiring. The six-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth and seemingly uninterrupted upshifts and features a Manual mode. Unfortunately, downshifts are not rev-matched and are much less graceful. If there is one advantage that the Fusion Sport has over its rivals, it lies in steering feel, which is slightly more communicative than other sedans.
On the highway and around town, the 2011 Ford Fusion Sport provides a pleasantly quiet cabin, with little sign of wind or road noise. Even with the sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch wheels, the well-damped suspension insulates you from impacts from ruts and bumps in the road. The front seats offer supportive bolsters, although larger occupants might find them a bit confining. Otherwise, comfort is acceptable for longer road trips. Rear-seat passengers will enjoy an abundance of legroom, but taller folk will likely desire more headroom.
In terms of outward visibility, particularly rearward, the Fusion Sport is one of the best in the class. Backing into a parking spot requires a lot less guesswork than most of its competitors with their taller trunk lids. These maneuvers are further aided by a mirror-mounted rearview camera parking sensor and a cross-traffic alert system that notifies you when objects are approaching from the sides.
Inside the cabin, the Fusion Sport's controls are the same that are found in numerous Ford vehicles. This means an overabundance of similarly sized buttons that are awkwardly placed and poorly labeled. This alone would justify springing for the optional navigation system, which replaces many of the physical buttons. Fortunately, the Sync voice control can alleviate some of the frustration. Our test vehicle also featured the premium Sony sound system, which delivers strong bass but muddy highs.
When it comes to real-world usability, the Fusion receives high marks for its accommodating 16.5-cubic-foot trunk with a wide opening that makes for easy loading of luggage and golf bags. Similarly, a rear-facing child seat was easily installed and had little impact on front seat comfort.
Design/Fit and Finish
While the Ford Fusion received a face-lift in 2010, it seems to have aged at an accelerated rate when compared to the sleek new designs from Hyundai and Kia. Amidst these newer models, the Fusion now has a heavier, outdated presence. This feeling is echoed inside the cabin as well, and its design language seems a little out of step. Interior materials also fall short of the mark, with plenty of hard plastic elements throughout the cabin.
Who should consider this vehicle
As other midsize sedans have seen improvements, the 2011 Ford Fusion Sport has remained largely unchanged. As a result, the Fusion seems outdated compared to the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. In the absence of any distinguishing traits, we'd recommend checking out the competition first.