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mid-size cars

2020 Volvo S60 T6 AWD Inscription: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Despite its tiny share of the U.S. market, Volvo offers an almost giddy array of models, including the 2020 S60, which earns high marks as a competitive sports sedan.

Though it looks and feels like a luxury midsize four-door, it competes as a premium compact against the likes of the BMW 3-Series, Infiniti Q50, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Alfa-Romeo Giulia and Audi A4.

The Swedish manufacturer accounts for less than 1% of the automobile and light truck market in the U.S., yet it offers eight different sedans, crossover sport utility vehicles and station wagons, including a V90 cross-country wagon set up for off-roading. 

There also are multiple trim levels. The S60 has four with three different power trains, including the S60 highpoint, the Polestar Engineered plug-in hybrid. Driven for this review was the S60 Inscription model, slotted beneath the Polestar. Others are the base Momentum and the R-Design.

The tester was the T6, which included all-wheel drive. Base price was $41,545 and, with a long list of options, the Inscription checked the bottom-line box at $58,690. Models with the T5 designation have front-wheel drive.

Lurking under the Inscription T6’s hood is a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. 

The base Momentum model comes with a 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 258 lb-ft of torque, and the Polestar Engineered version makes 415 hp with 494 lb-ft of torque. Independent tests rated the Inscription T6’s acceleration to 60 mph in the five-second range, while the Polestar dipped into four-second territory.

There are three selectable drive modes with descriptive names: Eco, Comfort and Dynamic. City/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated by the EPA at 21/32/25 mpg. 

Handling is sharp and responsive in any of the three modes, though Dynamic tightens up the ride and responses, as well as keeping the engine on the boil through the gears. Shifts are slick either in manual or automatic mode. The latter is preferred by this driver except when driving on twisting, up and down roads where the idea is to lock onto a lower, more responsive gear.

The engine emits a throaty growl under hard acceleration, then settles down to an unobtrusive groan for leisurely highway duty. Cruising obviously is less entertaining than hustling on curving roads but Volvo makes it pleasurable with one of the most attractive and comfortable interiors anywhere.

Materials and workmanship are of a high quality, with seats that live up to Volvo’s reputation for long-distance support. Even the outboard back seats are neatly coved with decent bolsters  —as they must be because of modest knee room. The center-rear seat, however, is way less comfortable, with foot room severely compromised by a floor hump that measures eight inches square.

Volvo’s designers either overlooked or disdained two obvious interior enhancements. The sun visors do not slide on their support rods to adequately block sunlight from the sides. And the sun shade for the panoramic glass sunroof is made of a flimsy perforated cloth. It may be considered a big plus in Stockholm, which at some times of the year gets only about 5.5 hours of light a day, but in hot U.S. summers it admits too much heat and light. 

A minor annoyance until you learn and get used to it is the vertical center screen for the infotainment functions. You have to swipe to get different screens and touching icons can be fussy. Don’t fiddle with them while driving.

Standard and optional equipment on the tested Inscription was expansive. Volvo jealously guards its reputation for pioneering safety construction and equipment, though many manufacturers have caught up.

Nevertheless, the tested Inscription came with a full suite of confidence-inspiring security and safety gear, including: low and high speed collision avoidance and mitigation with pedestrian detection, automatic braking after a collision, rear cross-traffic alert with braking, road run-off mitigation, blind-spot warning with steering assist, automatic braking for oncoming vehicles, adaptive cruise control, an informative head-up display, lane keeping assist, and side collision and whiplash protection.

Luxury and convenience features abound, including a killer $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium audio system, quad-zone automatic climate control, driftwood interior trim, Nappa ventilated leather upholstery, and power folding rear headrests.

Some frosting: The S60 is the first Volvo ever built in the United States, in Ridgeville, South Carolina. Skoal and Helan Gar.

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Volvo S60 T6 AWD Inscription four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged and supercharged; 316 hp, 295 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.    
  • Overall length: 15 feet 7 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 93/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,910 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/32/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $41,545.
  • Price as tested: $58,690.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Volvo

2020 Toyota Camry TRD V6: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Though the sport oriented 2020 Toyota Camry TRD is distinct from its more expensive Avalon TRD sibling, you could argue that the two sedans actually are fraternal twins.

Both have been massaged by the Toyota Racing Development team, hence the TRD designation. Though the Avalon is marketed as a large car and as Toyota’s flagship, it is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a midsize car and is almost the same size as the Camry.

20_CamryTRD_SupersonicRed_MidnightRoof_0031The Camry is 16 feet 3 inches long with 99 cubic feet of space for passengers and 15 cubic feet of trunk volume. The Avalon is an inch longer, at 16 feet 4 inches, with 103 cubic feet of passenger space and a trunk of 16 cubic feet.

The two cars also use the same engine and transmission combination: a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission controlled by paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. They have the same city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 22/31/25 mpg.

Both have received extensive TRD modifications to their body structures, suspension, exhaust systems and brakes to heighten the driving experience with better handling and a more sporting feel.

20_CamryTRD_SupersonicRed_MidnightRoof_001The big difference is that the Avalon is more luxurious with a higher level of equipment — and therefore is more expensive — than its Camry counterpart. An Avalon TRD reviewed recently for this column came with a base price of $43,255 and a tested price of $45,410.

However, the Camry TRD tested for this review started at $31,995 and had a bottom-line sticker of $32,920. So a buyer can get some of the same driving buzz and save anywhere from $11,260 to $12,490.

Based on the Camry XSE trim level, the TRD model came with underbody braces for a more rigid structure, stiffer coil springs and sway bars, special TRD shock absorbers, lightweight black alloy wheels and high performance tires — all aimed at improved steering and handling over other Camry versions. Stronger brakes with shorter pedal travel enhanced the package.

Camry_TRD_008_C784C2FDC14583F188032FF4B5EA58CB9443CFABAll of that reported for driving duty during testing. Though there was no opportunity to compare the TRD with every other Camry that ever existed, the overall impression strongly suggests that this is best-handling Camry ever. Acceleration is swift and braking is superb, though the ride necessarily is taut because of the stiffened body structure and suspension system. Off the line, the Camry TRD can effortlessly nail 60 mph in a bit more than five seconds, according to independent tests.

Though not needed except for looks, the Camry TRD is distinguished by a trunk mounted spoiler that comes as part of a $500 appearance package. Other embellishments: brake calipers painted red and a prominent gloss black grille, along with exterior trim and interior TRD items that include red seatbelts and stitching, and striped cloth inserts for the leatherette trimmed seats.

Standard safety equipment: pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assistance, brake assist, radar adaptive cruise control, and automatic high headlight beams.

Camry_TRD_012_CBEA3134B72223A118ECF89B38084379F933A146Inside convenience items included pushbutton starting, automatic climate control, six-speaker audio system, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, a manually-adjusted front passenger seat with height adjustment welcomed by shorter passengers, seven-inch infotainment screen, hands-free Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming and smart phone, SXM satellite radio and two USB ports.

One serious shortcoming: reading the instruments. The Camry TRD’s speedometer, odometer and other gauges were done up with pale red numbers and other indicators on a black background. There was backlighting but it was so dim that it was difficult for even a driver with 20-20 eyesight to read the speedometer, and impossible in bright sunlight. There was no way to adjust the daytime lighting intensity though the gauges were more visible at night.

Camry_TRD_010_D78DD0799D47C0248647DC0314B96E535569272CToyota’s Camry has been the nation’s best-selling midsize sedan for nearly two decades, although like other four-doors it has been losing ground as buyers flock to crossover sport utility vehicles like Toyota’s own RAV4 and Highlander.

That’s certainly part of the reason for the 2020 Camry TRD. Manufacturers often deliver special models of existing cars during their brief generations to spark buyer enthusiasm. The Camry TRD comes across as one of those. At its relatively modest price, it delivers an embraceable driving experience along with family car practicality and Toyota’s reputation for reliability and durability.

Now, if Toyota would just brighten the speedometer for better readability.

20_CamryTRD_SupersonicRed_MidnightRoof_004Specifications    

  • Model: 2020 Toyota Camry TRD V6 four-door sedan.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 301 hp, 267 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 99/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,572 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/31/25 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $31,995.
  • Price as tested: $32,920.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Camry_TRD_011_4340B2057ABBFD07AC0AA10A7E2067DE8141CBB0Photos (c) Toyota

 

 

2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Volkswagen’s 2019 Arteon exudes streamlined styling and comes with an attribute that could entice customers attracted to the increasingly popular crossover sport utility vehicles.

Though it doesn’t look the part, the Arteon is a hatchback sedan with a cargo area of 27 cubic feet, which rivals that of many crossovers.  It also has passenger space of 98 cubic feet. Together, the total 125 cubic feet qualify it as a large car by the federal government’s definition.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9794Yet the dimensions and handling feel are those of a midsize car. In concept, it resembles — and can compete with — the smaller A5 and larger A7 Sportbacks from Audi, Volkswagen’s luxury division. They too are low-slung and sleek but more expensive hatchback sedans.

The Arteon resembles the acclaimed Kia Stinger, which also is a fastback sedan with a hatch. Both are powered by turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines with eight-speed automatic transmissions and available all-wheel drive. Horsepower is similar at 268 for the Arteon and 255 for the Stinger with zero to 60 mph acceleration times of about six seconds.

At 15 feet 11 inches, the Arteon is an inch longer than the Stinger and weighs 185 pounds more. With eight cubic feet less of interior space, the Stinger is classified as a midsize car. Its base price is about $4,000 less than the Arteon’s. (The Stinger also is available with a 365-hp, twin-turbo, 3.3-liter V6 engine; the Arteon has only the 2.0-liter four-cylinder).

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9779But when it comes to luxury appointments, the Arteon — now VW’s flagship sedan — does not slouch. Though popularly priced, starting at $36,840 for the base SE version, the top trim level — the $45,940 SEL Premium 4Motion all-wheel drive model driven for this review — has plenty of luxurious accouterments as well as a full suite of safety enhancements.

Equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, overhead view rear camera, and VW’s intelligent crash response system. In an accident the system unlocks doors, shuts off the engine, disables electronics and turns on lights.

2019_Arteon-Large-7924Inside features include navigation, three-zone automatic climate control, Nappa leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, driver’s seat with massage and memory functions, heated outboard rear seats, AM/FM/HD and SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and a panoramic glass sunroof.

Mimicking a current cliché in European luxury cars, the sunshade for the Arteon’s sunroof was made of a perforated cloth that admitted sunlight and heat. Sunshades should be opaque.

The Arteon name incorporates “art” and “eon,” evoking a sort of timeless staying power. It is a descendant of the Volkswagen’s former CC model, so-called because VW christened it as a “comfort coupe” — that is, a sedan with a coupe profile. It was based on the VW Passat sedan and lasted nine years until it was axed after the 2017 model year.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9788Despite its striking low profile, the Arteon has plenty of head and legroom inside, both in the front and the rear outboard seats. As with almost every vehicle these days, the center-rear passenger gets punished with a hard cushion and a floor hump, and on the Arteon does not get a heated seat.     The rear seatbacks fold almost flat to expand the cargo carrying capability to 55 cubic feet.

On the road, the tested SEL 4Motion model is an amiable companion. Belying its $45,460 price tag, its ambiance is that of a luxury cruiser with little intrusion of mechanical or wind noise. In this era of lousy surfaces, however, it’s impossible to eliminate tire noise unless you’re driving on newly-paved asphalt.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9790Though it is turbocharged, the 2.0-liter engine is smooth and quiet with little turbo lag setting off from rest. The eight-speed automatic transmission is unobtrusive in around-town motoring but also snaps off rapid shifts under hard acceleration. On the tested SEL Premium 4Motion, there were steering-wheel mounted paddles for manual shifting.

Five drive modes are available: Eco, Normal, Comfort, Sport and Custom. They, too, are mostly unobtrusive except for the Sport setting, which delays upshifts to higher rpms than the other settings. Custom allows the driver to tailor personal preferences.

The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and with the Arteon’s adaptive shock absorbers, the ride is controlled and serene for the most part. Handling is confident with responsive, weighted steering.

German luxury cars are notoriously expensive. The Arteon delivers much of that amenity at a middle-class price.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9800Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium 4Motion four-door hatchback sedan.
  • Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 268 hp, 258 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shifting mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 98/27 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,835 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/27/23 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,490.
  • Price as tested: $45,940.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019_Arteon_SEL_Premium_R-Line-Large-9774Photos: Volkswagen

2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like the proverbial cup that runneth over, the 2018 Honda Accord oozes newness in practically every molecule of its mechanical being. The company touts it as “the most radical redesign of the Accord ever.” That covers a lot of territory, given its 42 years on the American scene, during which Accord has sold 13 million hatchbacks, coupes, sedans and station wagons — 11 million of them manufactured in the USA.

All but the four-door sedan are now gone, so Honda is counting on this new Accord to hold up against the midsize competition, particularly its perennial nemesis, the Toyota Camry, which also has an all-new, driver-oriented entry for 2018.

Both have been nominated for the North American Car of the Year award from an independent jury of 60 automotive journalists from all over the country, including this reviewer.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

The Camry has been the best-selling midsize car for 15 years, though Honda argues that the Accord does better in direct sales to consumers, without depending on fleet sales.

Whatever, it’s certain to be a dogfight, even facing the fact that both cars have been lagging against the smothering onslaught of crossover sport utility vehicles.

To catalog all of the Accord’s new features would overwhelm the space allotted to a review like this. It includes a host of improvements, including a lower center of gravity, lighter weight, stiffer structure, suspension and steering enhancements, streamlined wind-cheating bodywork, improved visibility, more comfortable and supportive seats, quieter interior, bigger passenger space and trunk, and excellent interior design and ergonomics that includes radio knobs instead of Honda’s recent infatuation with touch screens.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

The Accord drives like a big car, which it is. It is marketed as a midsize but its interior volume, depending on the trim, hovers fractionally on both sides of the government’s large-car designation of a minimum of 120 cubic feet of interior room. On the tested Touring, that was divided into 103 for passengers and 17 cubic feet in the trunk.

Any car is only as good as its powerplants. For the first time, the Accord has gone all-turbo with its engines: a 192-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 192 lb-ft of torque and a 252-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 273 lb-ft of torque.

Last year, neither Accord engine featured turbocharging. One was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and the upgrade was a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Not long ago, Honda avoided turbo engines, but since has embraced them for their computer-manipulated power and fuel economy.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

Tested for this review was the fully-equipped Accord Touring with the 2.0-liter engine and either a 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode or a six-speed manual gearbox. There’s also a 2.0 Sport version with the same transmission choices. The manual likely will give the Accord an edge among enthusiasts who like to shift for themselves.

The stick shift also is available on the 1.5-liter Sport model, which also offers a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). With that combination, the Accord gets a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating from the EPA of 30/38/33 mpg.

Not surprisingly, the powerful tested Touring model came with a lower rating of 23/34/29. But this is package will appeal to customers who enjoy a shot of adrenaline when they accelerate from a stoplight or cruise at high speeds on deserted freeways.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

The Accord handles superbly on twisting or straight roads. It is anvil steady and library quiet, although the turbo 2.0-liter engine announces itself rudely under rapid acceleration. There’s generous space for four with well-bolstered seats up front, though the center-rear seat is compromised by a hard cushion and a floor hump.

The Touring features Honda’s new gear selector. It uses pushbuttons for all functions except Reverse, which is a pull-up button. There also are selectable drive modes, one of which enhances fuel economy. But the preference here is for the Sport setting, which unleashes a stampede of the horses under the hood.

At $36,675, the 2.0 Touring sits at the top of the line, not a minor achievement given the fact that it is close to the current average transaction price for a new car in the U.S. Yet it is equipped as well as some luxury cars, including adaptive shock absorbers, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, navigation, memory driver’s seat, head-up display, LED headlights, wireless smart phone charging, ventilated front seats and heated back seats, and the new Honda Link driver assist system that includes Wi-Fi and remote engine starting.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 252 hp, 273 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 103/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,428 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/34/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,675.
  • Price as tested: $36,675.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

Photos (c) Honda.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As midsize sedans struggle against the onslaught of customer preference for crossover sport utility vehicles, manufacturers work hard to up their game with cars like the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport.

The Sonata started a successful run with its “fluidic sculpture” design in 2012 but then backed off for more conservative styling in the 2015 model year. With other midsize sedans, sales tailed off in recent years. Where Hyundai had been selling more than 200,000 Sonatas a year, sales dropped to 199,416 in 2016 and in 2017 have been running at an annual rate of fewer than 150,000.

For 2018, the South Korean manufacturer delivers freshened styling that could persuade customers that they’re seeing an all-new automobile.

2018 Sonata

The design is rakish and handsome from every angle, accentuated by a bold new grille. Overall, the look would do justice to a near-luxury sedan costing many thousands of dollars more than the $26,210 price of the Sonata Sport tested for this review.

Moreover, the tester’s 122 cubic feet of interior volume gets it a large car rating from the U.S. government. Though an inch shy of 16 feet long, the Sonata Sport has airy rear-seat headroom and especially generous knee room that allows outboard back seat passengers to stretch out. As usual in most cars, however, the center-rear seat is compromised by a hard cushion and a small floor hump.

2018 Sonata

Other seat comfort is first rate front and rear with one of the best upholstery combinations around. Seats are covered mainly with sturdy leather but the butt and back areas are a comfortable cloth. It means the Sonata doesn’t need seat heaters or coolers, though it does come with heated front seats. A power front seat and a fully-adjustable steering wheel with a sporty flat bottom assures an optimum driving position.

Out back, the trunk can swallow a large load of luggage or cargo, However, the C-Hinges are naked, without anything to isolate them, so could damage the contents when fully loaded.

2018 Sonata

Though there are some pricier trim levels with 245-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter engines, along with an Eco model, the focus here is on the standard Sonata lineup, which consists of SE, SEL, Sport and Limited models.

All four, including the Sport, come with a 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 178 lb-ft of torque. This one does not have a turbocharger, which seems to be the engineering fad of the moment, especially among 2.0-liter engines.

Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode operated by steering-wheel paddles, the tested front-wheel drive Sonata Sport acquits itself well in everyday urban, suburban and freeway driving.

It comes with three separate driving modes: Eco, Comfort and Sport, which alter shift patterns and other performance parameters. In Eco, automatic shifts sometimes can feel a bit dodgy, so it’s best to stick with the Comfort or Sport modes. But you have to pay attention to select either one when you set off because the system defaults to Eco when the engine is shut down.

2018 Sonata

You won’t win many drag races in any of the drive modes, though the Eco mode falls away if you punch the throttle to pass or otherwise speed up. But there’s plenty of power for any driving circumstance on public roads and the Sport delivers city/highway/combined fuel economy of 25/35/28 mpg burning regular gasoline.

The Sonata Sport is equipped with with full basic safety equipment like stability/traction control and antilock brakes, enhanced by blind-spot warning, tire-pressure monitoring and a rear-view camera.

It also comes with a motorized sunroof, an easy-to-use center interface with a touch screen and redundant buttons for functions like SXM satellite radio, HD radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Touch screen functions are simple and intuitive.

 

2018 Sonata

A navigation system is not included, though many people nowadays forego the built-in systems in cars and simply use Waze, Google Maps or Mapquest anyway, and there are USB ports in the Sonata Sport for smart phones.

The only glaring shortcoming, given the overall high level of equipment, is that the Sonata Sport is not equipped with automatic climate control. Though the temperature and fan-speed knobs are easy enough to use, they require occasional fiddling around to maintain cabin comfort.

Given the average price of near $36,000 for a new car today, the $26,210 Hyundai Sonata Sport should deliver many years of trouble-free motoring well beyond the end of the monthly payments.

2018 Sonata

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder, 185 hp, 178 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,300 pounds (est.)
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/35/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $26,085.
  • Price as tested: $26,210.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Sonata

Photos (c) Hyundai.

2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because Ford’s forte tilts toward trucks, people sometimes forget that it builds some impressive performance cars, including hopped-up versions of standard fare like the 2017 Fusion V6 Sport.

Its hottest piece of performance machinery is the GT, a purpose-built super car that can be driven on the track or street. But it is intended for racing conglomerates or enthusiasts with mega-bucks, given its price tag north of $450,000.

17FusionSport_35_HRNo, we’re talking here about pavement and boondocks blasters that real people can buy — or at least finance for longer than it will take to get their kids through graduate school: Things like the Ford Raptor, a monster off-road truck intended for places like the Baja 1000 in Mexico’s lower California.

More to the point here, there’s the Ford Focus RS, a plebian hot rod that can rocket to 60 mph in less than five seconds thanks to its all-wheel drive, six-speed manual gearbox and 350-hp 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine — all at a price between $37,000 and $40,000.

Though affordable for many enthusiasts, it is rude and crude, something like the Harley-Davidson of hatchbacks. There likely are those who would appreciate a bit more refinement, which is where the new Fusion V6 sport slots in.

17FusionSport_14_HRIt uses the same twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine that also powers some versions of the Ford F-150 pickup truck, which is way bigger and heavier. In the Fusion, it delivers 325 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque funneled through a beefy 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Using all four wheels to deliver power is a fine idea. Sending all that grunt just to the front wheels likely would fry those tires and result in such heavy torque steer that it would rip the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands.

Moreover, the Fusion Sport also has (guess what?) a sport mode. A simple button resides in the center of the rotary knob on the center console that controls the transmission. Select “drive” and you still can hammer the throttle to send the Fusion to 60 mph in around five seconds.

17FusionSport_10_HRBut push that S button and a bunch of things happen. The automatically adaptive shock absorbers tighten up, the steering takes more effort, the engine reacts more quickly to throttle inputs and the 6-speed automatic transmission keeps the engine on the boil by shifting at higher rpms.

If you choose, you also can use the steering wheel paddles to shift for yourself — but the system doesn’t trust you. Keep your foot in it too long and it will shift anyway to avoid triggering a power shutoff. But on up-and-down twisting mountain curves, it usually will hold the gear you select.

Even in the Sport mode, however, the Fusion has a settled and flexible ride so you can tool around the city and suburbs in comfort, thanks to that adaptive damping.

17FusionSport_09_HROther sport-oriented cars have selectable driving modes, so some enthusiasts might not cotton to the Fusion’s system, which packages all the good stuff in one small button. But it means you don’t have to try to figure out what you want while underway. It’s the full gorilla without distraction.

Obviously, this doesn’t come cheap. But the Fusion Sport actually is not all that expensive given its performance. The base price of the tester was $34,350, which is about average price of new cars these days. With options, it topped out at $41,350.

That encompassed a full suite of safety and driving assists: automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear-view camera, lane-keeping assist, automatic high-beam headlights, automatic parallel or perpendicular parking, voice-activated navigation with an eight-inch center touch screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

17FusionSport_31_HRThere’s plenty of comfort for four. But the center-rear seat, as in most sedans these days, is compromised by a hard cushion and restricted head and foot space.

A welcome safety feature that is receiving increased attention: If you inadvertently leave the Fusion Sport in “Drive” when you turn off the engine, it automatically kicks the transmission into “Park.” Some other vehicles simply roll away.

One cool thing about the Fusion Sport is that it is a stealth car. It doesn’t have a spoiler or badges that scream performance. The main tip-off is the shiny black grille with a chrome frame. But only the cognoscenti will notice that. You can surprise some lead-foots in the stoplight sprints.

17FusionSport_41_HRSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport four-door sedan.
  • Engine:7-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 325 hp, 380 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 106/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,130 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/26/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $34,350.
  • Price as tested: $41,350.

Disclaimer: This test drive was based on a loan of the vehicle from the manufacturer. It was driven by the author in circumstances similar to everyday driving by consumers.

17FusionSport_42_HRPhotos (c) Ford.

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