The midsize sedan leaders, Honda and Toyota, stick to a pretty rigid five-year model cycle. Nissan often stretches that to six. Ford’s second-generation Fusion got a substantial revision for 2017—its fifth year, and apparently it’s going to have to soldier on for at least another year or so because the seventh-year super-super-senior 2019 Ford Fusion will be getting yet another software and soft-tooled part spiff-up. It remains to be seen whether this move proves to be penny wisdom in the face of rapidly contracting car sales (though for now midsize cars rank as our fourth largest segment) or pound foolishness in the face of spanking new versions of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and (soon) Nissan Altima.
The visual changes are minimal at best. New front and rear fascias rearrange the lower air intakes and/or fog lamps in front and the tailpipe and/or faux diffuser in the back. Ford also slightly revised the Fusion’s grilles and tail lamp trim (it no longer connects across the trunklid). There are two new wheel designs and a few color options change inside and out. A less visible but pretty crucial change: The number of orderable build combinations will drop from a Detroit-like 2,000-plus to a more Honda-esque 36 (not counting color). This mostly comes from making high-take-rate options standard, like the tech package on SE models and the sunroof on Titanium models.
Functionally, the pre-Fusion Contour-era 2.5-liter Duratec I-4 is now basically a penny-pincher fleet special available on the S model only. The 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo-four becomes the volume engine, standard on SE trim and up. The other major powertrain news is an upgrade of the battery pack in the plug-in hybrid Energi models. Making the separator film between the anode and cathode thinner permits more energy-dense, thicker anode plates to be fitted. This means that without changing the battery pack size, or number of prismatic cells (84), the 2019 pack’s capacity increases from 7.6 to 9.0 kW-hrs (its mass also increases by a scant 3 percent).
Official EPA numbers aren’t out yet, but the EV-Only range is expected to increase from 21 to 25 miles, and hence the Federal tax credit should increase from $4,000 to $4,600. A study of Ford’s own EV and PHEV customers suggests that this will increase the percentage of drivers who can make it to and from work on a single charge from 38 to 48 (80 percent for those who can charge at work).
The other big news is that Ford’s recently announced Co-Pilot360 Protect suite of driver-assist technologies will become standard across the line. Features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot information with cross-traffic alert, a lane keeping system, rear backup camera, and auto high-beam lighting. An Assist package adding adaptive cruise control with stop-and-start capability comes standard on Titanium, Sport, and all hybrid models. It’s optional on S, SE, and SEL models (the latter replaces the former SE with luxury package). This strategy cedes the safety high-ground to the Accord, which gets standard Honda Sensing on all models. That system includes adaptive cruise, traffic-sign recognition, and road-departure mitigation systems.
Will these changes scratch the Fusion’s seventh-year itch sufficiently to maintain its perennial fourth-place ranking in the midsize sedan segment? And if not, does Ford care? The corporation has declared that in two years 86 percent of sales will be trucks and SUVs, and based on last year’s stats, the Fusion, Focus, Mustang, and Continental (cars deemed most likely to survive) accounted for 18 percent of sales. So there may be some room for further slippage.