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History, glamour and zombies ... welcome to Atlanta! The handsome 2017 Fusion Hybrid glides over the Jackson Street Bridge in front of the iconic Walking Dead skyline.

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Look familiar? Atlanta’s Swan House was featured in The Hunger Games.

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Lights! Camera! Action! Filmmakers, artists and entrepreneurs flock here.

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All that and perfect coffee too. Atlanta is a foodie’s dream come true.

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The refined Fusion Hybrid tours Atlanta’s tony Inman Park neighborhood.

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SmartGauge® with EcoGuide helps optimize fuel efficiency.

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The FordPass®* app includes smart features to improve your journey, such as the option to reserve parking or remotely lock your vehicle.

Moving And Shaking In The New ‘it’ City

With its Hollywood-caliber studios and wide-ranging diversity, Atlanta might just be the coolest spot in America. 2017 Fusion Hybrid takes charge.

By Jacinta Howard | Photographs By Gregory Miller

An unseasonable chill envelops Atlanta. Dramatic clouds loom overhead, and as such, the interstate is relatively traffic-­free as I float along in a 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid, relishing the uncharacteristic lack of bustle. Pulling off to explore the city’s side streets, I pass not only landmarks from epic moments in civil rights history (including Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace) but also familiar settings from various TV shows, music videos and blockbuster film franchises (hello, President Snow’s mansion from The Hunger Games). When I glimpse the iconic cityscape from the first episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead, I pause and scan the gray horizon, secretly hoping to see a zombie or two jumping out at me.

So many television and film shoots have taken place in Atlanta in recent years that some writers have dubbed it the “Hollywood of the South.” But spend a little time here and you’ll soon realize that this nickname, as impressive as it is, doesn’t do Atlanta justice. In fact, the “ATL”—featuring top-notch restaurants, breathtaking parks, an eco-minded community and unparalleled historical authenticity besides all the glitz—may well be the hippest city in the nation.

Don’t tell.

America’s Cultural Curators

After a storm blows through, the warm Georgia sun returns, and I head to the bubbling Edgewood District, east of downtown. I smoothly pull into a tight parking spot, using the Fusion Hybrid’s available Enhanced Active Park Assist technology.* Out on the sidewalk, three young women stroll past me, deep in conversation. This vibrant neighborhood attracts Atlanta’s chic college crowd, which flocks to bars that boast some of the best mixologists in the country, eateries that showcase murals by the city’s most brilliant artists and cozy live-music venues that foster some of the nation’s greatest musical minds.

The abundant student population is one reason the creators of The Quad, BET’s new show about life at a historically black college, chose to shoot in Atlanta. “There are four historically black colleges in the city,” says The Quad’s executive producer, Felicia Henderson—including legendary Morehouse College, which counts among its graduates several film stars and civil rights leaders. “There is a rich culture of celebrating African American history and achievement here. Even the street names remind you that this is hallowed ground,” she points out. “I wouldn’t have wanted The Quad to be shot anywhere else.”

Check out the trailer to BET's new show, The Quad.

Since 2008, Atlanta has been home to more than 300 films and television shows, and it’s looking to pass New York City next year in terms of production—making it second only to Los Angeles. “Atlanta has a unique opportunity to create our own blueprint in film, the same way we did in the music industry,” says Chris Hicks, director of the Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment. So many projects shot in this city have won prestigious awards in recent years that Atlanta has been pushed solidly into the spotlight.

 

An Inspirational History

“Atlanta has a good combination of assets,” says Kris Bagwell, executive vice president at EUE/Screen Gems Ltd., which was the second independent third-party studio to come to Atlanta when it arrived in 2010. (The company provides studios with lights and services for television and feature film clients.) “It’s culturally diverse, has great restaurants and hotels, and you can shoot everything except desert and arctic tundra here.”

That is perhaps the most accurate explanation about what makes Atlanta a great breeding ground for business, innovation and creativity: its diversity. “There’s so much early culture here,” Hicks says from his City Hall office. “A lot of the forefathers of the civil rights movement hailed from here, and they built the principles on which the city operates still to this day.”

Driving along in the sleek Fusion, I pass buildings that are more than 100 years old, and it’s clear that a code of inclusion continues to influence the city. Atlanta is all about community. And the spirit of diversity subtly molds and guides everything, emphasizing acceptance and respect—not just for other people but also for the environment. The people living here have eagerly embraced electrified vehicles such as the Fusion Energi Plug-In Hybrid, so much so that Georgia has become one of the fastest-growing markets for electric vehicles in the United States. Outside Hicks’ office, electric vehicle charging stations line the busy street.

 

 

“Atlantans want to be part of the solution” to traffic congestion, says Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, chief resilience officer for the City of Atlanta. “We’re delighted car manufacturers are embracing electric vehicles, and consumer trends are headed in that direction.”

 

 

Above: Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Atlanta, Stephanie Stuckey Benfield

To that end, some of Atlanta’s hottest in-town destinations—such as Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza, Ponce City Market and Atlantic Station (a popular live/work/play community that dubs itself a “city within a city”)—include electric vehicle charging stations. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, one of the world’s busiest, currently has 102 EV charging stations and plans to increase that number through its ongoing ATLNext construction project. These are moves made by a city looking toward the future, with citizens who get that times are changing and expect their city to respond to their demand for progress.

Leaving City Hall, the cold wind startles me. I pull out my smartphone and use the FordPass® app with available SyncConnect to start up the Fusion Hybrid, which is parked a couple of blocks away. Once sitting comfortably in the available electronically heated seats, with the push of a button on the steering wheel, I voice-activate the SYNC® 3 system—and I’m soon surrounded by a funky new album from one of the many ultra-talented artists affiliated with this creative city.

The new rotary gear shift dial takes up less room in the cabin.

I twist the stylish rotary shifter to drive, and I’m off, nodding my head to the beat. We’re cruising to the Atlanta BeltLine in style.

 

A City of the Future

Perhaps there’s no greater illustration of Atlanta’s cultural emergence as a national influencer, and the importance of balancing inevitable growth, than the Atlanta BeltLine—a sprawling 22-mile former railroad corridor that connects the city’s 45 neighborhoods along one continuous loop. Its arrival has been a marker not just for Atlanta, but for other cities looking for innovative ways to link neighborhoods organically in the midst of unprecedented growth and gentrification.

“The Atlanta BeltLine has become the banner for how people think about what makes Atlanta cool,” says Atlanta BeltLine CEO Paul Morris. “If people can live near or on it, or if they can go to the park and walk their bikes on the trail, they feel like they’re living the good life. And people are making really significant lifestyle and financial decisions because of it. Atlanta had never had anything like that before.”

Morris attributes the enthusiasm to Atlanta’s culture of innovation and progress. “Atlanta was founded as a terminus, where trains from ports and the center of the country came together,” Morris says. “Since then, Atlanta has been a place that people move to and through.”

I feel inspired as the Fusion Hybrid transports me up through the hills and I look out at the beautiful city before me. I remember something else Morris said to me: “For all of its history, Atlanta has always been about moving forward.” Indeed.

Take a 360° look at the new 2017 Fusion Hybrid
*Driver-Assist features are supplemental and do not replace the driver’s attention, judgment, and need to control the vehicle. **Actual mileage will vary. Don’t drive while distracted. Use voice-operated systems when possible; don’t use handheld devices while driving. Some features may be locked out while the vehicle is in gear. Not all features are compatible with all phones. Message and data rates may apply.

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