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2006 Ford Fusion - Ford's first true world car

I look at the Ford Fusion in two distinct yet intertwined ways: As a stand alone car and what it means to Ford. The Fusion is the new Accord sized car from Ford, conceived and designed to go toe-to-toe with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

The Fusion may be Ford's first true world car. Unlike previous "world" cars like the Ford Contour, which was a British Ford, reworked for North America, the Fusion platform (chassis) is based on the Mazda 6, a vehicle that has garnered praise for its ride and handling. Ford did not mess with the basic architecture; the platform is stretched for more interior room but the chassis stiffness and suspension layout remain.

Ford's J Mays, group vice president, design and chief creative officer, has been quoted as saying, "Even standing still, the Fusion looks like it's ready to burst out of the blocks. The strong, muscular three-bar chrome grille sets the tone for a bold new look that will change the mid-size sedan segment." I would not go that far but it is distinctive, which in this market segment is important.

I drove a Fusion on two occasions. The first was back from a press mini-introduction in Shell Beach, the second was for a week in November. I was amazed both times not just by the Fusion, but by the reaction from other motorists. Four-door sedans do not normally generate much interest on the road yet on three occasions I had other motorists point at the Fusion, one giving me a thumbs up.

As handsome as the exterior is, it is the Fusions interior that really scores highly in my book. The two front seats are comfortable, even for the more mature butt. The big surprise is in the back seat. Even considering that the Fusion is larger than the Mazda 6 (190.2 inches long versus 186.8) long the Fusion is not "big." Yet there is an astounding 37 inches of legroom for rear seat passengers. There is plenty of rear seat legroom even when the front seat is all the way back. That is impressive, and it is not done with smoke and mirrors (an old trick is to shorten the seat cushion to give "more" legroom). The Fusion does not sink to tricks. The rear seat is comfortable, with plenty of thigh support.

Every single Fusion is a four-door sedan with seating for five. The dash layout is contemporary without being gimmicky. I like cars with controls that are intuitive - my hand reaches out and there's the wiper, radio, or climate control controls. The Fusion is like that. It is a car that is easy to feel at home in.

There are two engines available; a base 2.3-liter four-cylinder, and the optional 3.0-liter V6. My guess is that most Fusions will be equipped with the six. The DOHC, 16-valve four is a decent engine, making 160 hp, and it is very clean, rated PZEV. But the norm in this sector seems to be a V6 so the 221 hp, DOHC, 24-valve V6 (rated ULEV) will most likely be the engine of choice for most buyers.

The four-cylinder is available with a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission, but the real news is the 6-speed automatic that is the only transmission available with the V6. This is by far the nicest shifting transmission I have ever driven in a "domestic" car, and it is on par with the best of the best worldwide. The Fusion is a front-wheel-drive car.

There has been criticism of the V6 in the auto "buff" magazines that it is not powerful enough. There is never enough power for me but let's be realistic, the Fusion is not a performance sedan, it is a family sedan. If or when Ford builds a SVT version I am sure it will have a ton more power. (In fact Ford has announced an all new 3.5-liter V6 coming next year that is intended to equal or exceed the best from the competition.)

Fuel economy-wise there is not that much difference between the two engines; another reason I think the V6 will be the predominate engine. The 4-cylinder with an automatic transmission is rated at 24-mpg city and 32-highway. The V6 is rated at 21 and 29.

The Fusion is, in my humble opinion, the best all-round riding and driving Ford sedan ever. Ford has done an excellent job tuning the suspension. I prefer cars with a firm suspension but I hate getting beat-up by expansion joints or uneven pavement. The Fusion avoids the pounding you get from many performance cars yet it maintains a sport-like feel.

The Fusion competes in a crowded and ultra-competitive market segment. For now the Fusion is on par with the competition, but it is a fast changing segment. As a stand alone car the Fusion stands out. Its styling is a bold statement by and from Ford. Its execution, the fit and finish, is outstanding. Its pricing, one of the most crucial aspects for its success, is on target. The top of the line Fusion SEL that I tested had a base price of $21,710 and went out the door for $25,135.

As for its bigger meaning to Ford, I think maybe too much is being expected of the Fusion. No one car can be the make-or-break model for a company as large as Ford. But one model, the Fusion, can point to the future of a change in course. Not that long ago it would have been unthinkable for Ford to base a bread-and-butter model on someone else's architecture. Ford is a worldwide car company now and they seem committed to using the best available from their many global companies and partners. We, the buyers, are the winners.

Here's wishing everyone a joyous holiday with peace for everyone.

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The link is, of course, no longer valid. The review is, however, an enjoyable read even more than a year later. We were not really considering a new car a year ago. But did buy a 2007 V6 SEL AWD Fusion ($27,105 MSRP) on Dec. 4.

There were certain things about the car, besides it being Ford's answer to the Accord and Camry, but we have been trying to learn more about it since purchase. Again, your review was helpful. Boz
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