DEARBORN – What happens when you give nine NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers a chance to get behind the wheel of the most anticipated new midsize sedan of the year?
The ultimate test drive.
That’s what took place recently at Ford’s Dearborn Proving Grounds as Ford Racing invited all of its stock car drivers to take the all-new Fusion production car for a few laps around a makeshift course that emphasizes handling. And while this wasn’t a sanctioned competition, all of the drivers acted as if they were qualifying for November’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – each one trying to go faster than the next.
“I was particularly impressed with Fusion on the slalom course because of its traction control technology,” said Greg Biffle, two-time winner this season of the No. 16 3M Ford. “I tried to get the car out of shape and it was saying, ‘No, no, no.’
“We don’t use traction control in NASCAR, so it amazes me how well a computer can take care of you when you’re driving aggressively on a closed course through cones,” Biffle added. “It really does help you stay on the road.”
Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards agrees: “The Fusion surprised me,” said Edwards, owner of a Fusion Hybrid and driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford. “Trevor [Bayne] and I raced a Fusion against a Mustang for a couple of laps, and that Fusion is pretty dang sporty. I couldn’t believe how well it ran through the slalom cones they had set up for us. It’s a great car, and the one I got to drive was really cool.”
While Edwards had fun chasing Trevor Bayne in a Mustang, Front Row Motorsports driver David Ragan felt like he was actually in one.
“I think the first thing I noticed was the body with the character lines and the distinctive front end – the car looks great,” Ragan said. “Once I got inside, even though it’s a sedan, it felt like a Mustang going around the corners. I was pleasantly surprised with how it handled and performed, but I can’t get over just how good it looks.
“The interior really flows together – it isn’t separate pieces like in other models. It has a nice flow, and you can reach everything,” he added. “The navigation and SYNC system is amazing, and I think the car is a great catch. I can’t wait to see them on the road.”
Or the racetrack.
The 2013 NASCAR Fusion will make its debut during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway in February. Its first official points race will be the Daytona 500, which is scheduled for Feb. 24.
Ford’s new NASCAR model brings brand identity back to stock car racing, so that what race fans see on the track looks like the car they can drive on the highway. And judging from the comments of those who make their living turning left at speeds of around 200 mph, the fans are going to be extremely happy with their road-going version.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to get a plush ride going forward and keep the cars from rolling, but the Fusion responds and drives really well,” said Casey Mears, driver of the No. 13 Geico Ford. “It looks great when you walk up to it, it has a racy look I think a lot of younger people will like, but the interior is so classy – it appeals to a variety of audiences.”
That was Ford’s goal with the 2013 Fusion – to satisfy customers looking for something that is fuel efficient, fun to drive, and includes helpful technology.
“The interior is really impressive. It’s almost like a luxury family vehicle, but is sporty enough that a single guy could drive it, and that’s cool,” said 2011 Daytona 500 champion Bayne, who drives the famous No. 21 Motorcraft Ford for the Wood Brothers. “The handling is great on the new Fusion, and I was really blown away because it’s really quiet inside, too. It has a great interior and the SYNC system is awesome. It has everything you could possibly ask for in a car.”
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford for Jack Roush, may have best captured the overall feeling among the drivers when he said, “Somehow, Ford has managed to improve the Fusion every year, but this all-new one is the best by far. I’m really impressed with the fuel economy it gets for a midsize sedan, but at the same time it’s so sporty and fun to drive that you can’t help but enjoy it.”
The 2013 Fusion will serve as official pace car for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16-18.