San Francisco: Distinctive
styling sets the 2006 Ford Fusion apart from its dull competitors. This
all-new family car is finally a legitimate competitor to the Honda
Accord and Toyota Camry, unlike the aging Taurus it's replacing.
The Fusion's cabin doesn't look like it
belongs in a Ford, and that's a good thing. It's an example of how Ford
paid close attention to details to create a car that can - at long last
- compete with the Japanese.
When it comes to mid-size, bread-and-butter
sedans, I was beginning to think Ford had given up on beating the
Japanese. Anybody who's driven a Taurus lately is bound to agree.
Compared to a modern Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or even Nissan Altima,
the Taurus is a piece of jelly-bean-shaped garbage so awful that
virtually all the car's sales went to rental fleets. It's a sad car,
But Ford has a savior on the horizon, and
its name is Fusion. This all-new, mid-size sedan - a replacement for the
horribly out-of-date Taurus - is a fabulous automobile in every way.
It's not just fabulous for a Ford, fabulous for the price or fabulous
compared to the ghastly car it replaces. It's an outstanding car with no
excuses. And that's rare for an American family car.
I spent a week trying to nitpick every last
detail on the Fusion, from the feel and sound of its engine to the
quality and construction of its cabin. No matter how picky I got, I
couldn't find any objective reason to pick a Camry or Accord over this
Sure, there were lots of subjective things -
I personally like the Accord's suspension better, for instance - but as
a whole, the Fusion can't be beat. It's even priced cheaper than the
The impressive features start on the outside
with a gorgeous body. It's a fairly aggressive style for a family car,
with an unmistakable front end that doesn't try to be highway camouflage
like many of its dull-looking competitors. A big, bold grille is flanked
by two distinctive headlights that are shaped like a weird combination
of square and teardrop - Ford calls the shape a "squircle" - while its
triangular taillights have eye-catching silver reflectors that you'll
either love or hate. I love it.
Inside, the Fusion isn't quite as
distinctive, but it's still a great cabin. In fact, the first thing I
thought when I sat inside was, "This doesn't look like a Ford at all."
That's a good thing.
The overall look is actually closer to that
in a Volkswagen - the company known recently for making some of the best
interiors around - as the quality and appearance of materials is second
to none. Ford pays close attention to the details inside, making sure
the texture and luster of every surface matches perfectly so you never
get that subliminal feeling that you're riding in a cheap car. It's
nice, but not ostentatious - just like a family car should be.
The driving experience is just as perfect.
From the moment you turn the key, it becomes obvious Ford spent an
enormous amount of money and time getting all the details right. It
Starting under $18,000, the four-cylinder
Fusion makes 160 horsepower and comes with air conditioning, power
everything, keyless entry, a CD player that can play MP3s, and a tilt &
telescoping steering wheel. The V6 version I tested felt just as refined
as some luxury cars. This top-of-the-line model came with lots of bells
and whistles, including leather seats, for around $24,000.
It also drove with the kind of
sophistication you'd only find in imported luxury cars a few years ago.
Its smooth-revving V6 engine had plenty of power for everyday driving
without making much of a fuss, and its six-speed automatic transmission
must have been psychic because it always seemed to know how and when I
wanted it to shift - silky and comfortable for regular driving, or quick
and aggressive for more spirited drives.
Its suspension, based on the highly
acclaimed Mazda 6 sporty sedan, also offers a sublime blend of comfort
and performance. It can fly though corners when you want to have fun,
but it never loses its composure over bumpy, rough surfaces, either.
Finally, after trying to nitpick the Fusion
for seven days, I found something I didn't like - and it had nothing to
do with the car itself. It was where it's assembled. Oddly enough, this
so-called American car is built in Mexico, while many of its so-called
Japanese competitors are assembled right here in the U.S.A.
How's that for irony? Once an American
company finally designs and engineers a car to be competitive with the
imports, it ships all the assembly jobs across the Rio Grande.
What was tested? 2006 Ford Fusion SEL
($21,710). Options: Safety and security package ($595), SEL premium
package ($395), antilock brakes ($595), audiophile sound system ($420).
Total MSRP price as tested (including $650 destination charge): $23,945
Why buy it? Finally, an American brand
offers an honest-to-goodness competitor for the Honda Accord and Toyota
Camry. There's no objective reason to pick a foreign brand over this
Ford, including performance, handling and overall refinement. By
James E. Bryson © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Ford Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
now has a real competitor for Accord & Camry
2006 Ford Fusion SEL
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