Ford introduced the Fusion for the 2006 model year,
during a period when their sedan lineup seemed to be in a bit of
disarray. It joined the recently released Ford Five Hundred
(which was slated to be the eventual replacement for the aging Crown
Victoria) and the increasingly uncompetitive Taurus.
Trouble was, the stubborn Crown Victoria refused to go quietly, as it
still owned the police cruiser market and had a loyal following among
older folks. Why Ford didn't make the Fusion the new Taurus is a
mystery to us, but the old Taurus was sold (mostly to fleets) into the
2007 model year, when the Five Hundred was renamed Taurus. The
new Taurus moved upmarket and no longer competed with its traditional
rivals the Camry and Accord, leaving that battle to the new
Fusion. Fortunately, the new Fusion was battle-ready, and far
more competitive in a tough market segment than the aging Taurus.
The S is the entry level model, and came only with
the base 160hp 2.3L 4-cylinder engine. It was well equipped, with
standard features such as power 4-wheel disc brakes, illuminated
keyless remote entry system, stereo with CD and MP3, cruise, tilt,
full power and air conditioning. Next up was the SE model. It added a
power driver's seat, steering wheel touch controls, dual illuminated
vanity mirrors and a trip computer. A 221hp, 3.0L V6 engine backed by
a 6-speed automatic was optional. At the top of the line sat the SEL,
with extra chrome, automatic climate control, 6-disc CD changer, fog
lights, leather wrapped steering wheel and 17" aluminum wheels in
place of the 16" steel wheels and covers in the other models. Adding
the V6 also got you anti-lock brakes.
The Fusion's styling was thoroughly modern, with a distinctive front
end that we rather like. It still looks good. The high decklid no
doubt aids in aerodynamics, but makes looking rearward a pain in the
neck. Literally. This a common affliction with cars these days, but it
is particularly pronounced on the Fusion. Ford must have recognized
this, and added a rear obstacle detection system to the option list in
|A comfortable cabin greets you, controls are well-placed and feel right but the gauge cluster is just a bit of a letdown.
The cabin is well designed and put together at a level well beyond
what the Taurus ever was. Squeaks and rattles are extremely rare,
indicating that a lot though went into not only how it looked but how
it would feel. Switches and knobs all provide a nice tactile feedback.
Our only complaint inside is the gauge cluster, which looks somewhat
cheap with it's silver painted surrounds and blocky numerals. Chrome
and a more sophisticated font would've helped tremendously here.
Both front and rear seats are comfortable and supportive, among the
best in class. Three in the back is ok in a pinch, but don't get stuck
there if you're going cross country. Rear seat leg room was adequate,
even with the fronts pushed back. Leather front seats were an option
on the SE and SEL, as was a heat option. A moonroof and an audiophile
stereo were other options on the SE and SEL. A Premium package
available only on the SEL included automatic headlight control, puddle
lights, automatic day/night mirror and heated outside mirrors.
Navigation was added to the option list in 2007, and Ford's star
crossed Sync system could be ordered in 2008.
The base 2.3L 4-cylinder motor generated 160 horsepower. While the
power is adequate, its refinement is a half notch below that of a
Camry or Accord 4-cylinder. A little noisier, and not quite as smooth.
Not bad, but not a class leader. The 5-speed automatic is similar in
action: adequate, but not distinctive. The 5-speed manual (which we
didn't drive) got lukewarm reviews when new, but we do not have first
hand experience with it. The 3.0L V6, on the other hand, is a little
gem. Smooth, quiet and never thrashy, it makes the right sounds and
feels just right running through the 6-speed automatic. We think the
ride/handling balance of the Fusion with the 17in wheels and slightly
tighter suspension is at the top of this class. That's quite a
statement considering its competition, but well deserved. It rarely
bottoms out even over the most extreme road surfaces, and it recovers
quickly in all instances. Handling is crisp, predicable and very
secure feeling, but front wheel drive understeer comes into play when
pushed hard. Available traction control on V6 models (which needed it
the most) helped. All-wheel drive became an option for 2007, and only
improved matters, especially on wet surfaces. A Sport Appearance
package arrived for 2008 with a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch
alloys. It sharpened handling further, with only a slight increase in
ride harshness. One disappointment is fuel economy. The V6 generally
delivers 20-24mpg in mixed driving, with the 4-cylinder adding about
3mpg to that. These are a bit below average for the class, and were
greatly improved when the 2nd generation Fusion debuted