2013 Ford Fusion and Escape to get major make-over

A year after researching, test drives and renting I finally went with a brand I never had in mind.  Ford was not a brand I thought I could trust but then I researched more and learned that the new  Ford CEO has changed everything at Ford headquarters, including making better quality cars and I am here to attest to that and to say that the former CEO of bombardier knows what he’s doing. I’ve owned the 2011 Ford Fusion for about 4 months now and I have only good things to say about it. Agile, quiet, fuel efficient, loaded with tech stuff, and it talks to you and YOU TALK TO YOUR IT! You’ve made a new Ford Car friend practically. 

I’ve read only positive reviews on the Ford Fusion and after renting it for a bit in the summer and owning it for 3 months, I have no complaints. I actually love how it drives, very agile, inside hardly any road noise, has all the bells and whistles, tech stuff except for the review mirror and for a mid-size sedan you don’t need one.

Now here comes the redesigned Fusion next year.

WH-FORD
What MAY be the 2013 Ford Fusion.

COLOGNE, GERMANY — The final production details and on-sale dates of all-new versions of two of Canada’s most popular new vehicles, the Ford Escape and Fusion, are still being held under lock and key behind Ford’s doors.

But during this year’s Frankfurt auto show, Canada’s best-selling automaker offered several puzzle pieces as to how its next model-year Escape compact crossover and Fusion mid-size family sedan (due sometime next year) will look, drive, ride and handle.

Despite the Escape being around since 2000, riding on a platform that dates back to the 1990s’ Mazda 626, it remains a solid seller in Canada.

With more than 31,000 sold through the end of August this year, the small SUV is Ford’s second best-selling vehicle, only behind the top-selling F Series trucks.

The Fusion, which debuted in 2005, also qualifies as an oldie but a goodie.

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With more than 14,000 sold so far this year, it’s the best-selling mid-size sedan in Canada.

Ford has already previewed the looks of the 2013 Escape in the shape of the Vertrek concept, first seen at last January’s Detroit show.

The 2013 Fusion and its European Mondeo platform-mate had their design previewed by the Ford Evos concept at the Frankfurt show.

The Ford concept’s gull-wing doors won’t make it to production. But the 2013 Fusion (expected at next January’s Detroit show) should wear a similar rendition of the Evos’s front grille, swept-back side window treatment, and production-ready versions of its head- and tail-lights.

To get a feel for how the next Fusion and Escape may drive, Ford offered me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a current 2012 Mondeo sedan and the Escape’s European counterpart, the Kuga crossover, near the German city of Cologne, where many of Ford’s European engineering facilities are found.

Like the recently introduced Fiesta and Focus, Ford is minimizing the differences between its vehicles globally.

I was told that, in regards to steering, ride and handling, the current European Mondeo and Kuga give big clues as to what to expect in regards to driving dynamics for our next Fusion and Escape.

In the case of today’s Escape, that can only be a good thing.

Similar to rivals like the Kia Sportage or Volkswagen Tiguan, piloting the Kuga is similar to driving a tall compact hatch.

The model I drove (powered by a diesel engine that will not be initially offered in the next Escape) offered a lot more linearity and feel in its steering than today’s Escape.

In fact, the Kuga had a trio of driver-adjustable steering settings.

The Escape has one: numb.

Of course, much of the Kuga’s driving appeal comes from its compact dimensions, which more than likely are upsized slightly for the North American Escape.

The difference between today’s Fusion and Mondeo sedans is more subtle.

The current Fusion is one of the more fun-to-drive family sedans, but it lacks the driving refinement of its European counterpart. The Mondeo feels more composed, better planted in corners, and with more communicative steering than its North American cousin.

Even at speeds up to 180 km/h on a stretch of unrestricted speed on the autobahn, the Mondeo felt rock-solid.

If Ford can make the next Fusion drive like today’s Mondeo, fans of European sedans on a budget may have to add the Ford to their shopping list.

The other piece of the 2013 Fusion’s puzzle was what was under the Mondeo’s hood.

It’s the same 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder EcoBoost gas engine that’s becoming optional in the Canadian-market 2012 Edge and Explorer.

If you haven’t heard, “EcoBoost” is what Ford calls its new powertrain strategy. It involves using gas engines, but with smaller displacements to reduce fuel consumption (the “Eco” bit), then bolstered with high-tech (turbo charging, direct-injection and twin-independent variable cam technology, etc.) to make up the difference in performance (the “Boost” part).

The 2.0L four is one of four EcoBoost engines, which also includes the 3.5L V6 iteration (now offered in various Ford and Lincoln full-size products, including the F-150 truck), a 1.6L four available in the European Focus, and a new 1.0L three-cylinder (that will become the smallest engine Ford makes) available in European Fiesta and Focus models in 2012.

Ford won’t confirm it, but I expect the 2.0 EcoBoost four will replace the current Fusion’s V6 engines as an upgrade over a naturally aspirated four in the base model.

Compared with the 2012 Fusion’s 2.5L four, the Mondeo’s 2.0 EcoBoost has a lot more horsepower (237 vs. 175), and pound-feet of torque (251 vs. 172). But it sips about the same amount of fuel: around 7.5L 100 km combined city and highway.

Back on the autobahn, the Modeo’s 2.0 EcoBoost is more refined than racy.

As with the Mustang, Ford added a bulkhead-directed “sound symposer” to create the addition of some “naturally aspirated” engine sound at high engine revs and during stomps on the accelerator.

The engine is smooth, but the power won’t startle you. Turbo lag is non-existent. And the Mondeo is heavy for its class, which may have dulled the EcoBoost’s responsiveness as well.

Also know that there’s a large performance gap between the 2.0 and 3.5 EcoBoost engines.

A fifth engine to fill that hole, and possibly power a high-performance Fusion ST, would offer some competition to my current family sedan pick: the Kia Optima SX, with its 274 hp four.

With the looks from the Evos and Vertrek concepts, power from the EcoBoost engine family, plus vehicle dynamics and driving characteristics developed in Europe, Ford has outlined many of the pieces that will make up the 2013 Fusion and Escape models.

How all those pieces come together is another thing. Come this time next year, we should have our answers.

Travel for freelance writer John LeBlanc was provided by the automaker.