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Edmunds Reviews Fusion, Full Test

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Vehicle Tested:
2006 Ford Fusion

What Works:
Chiseled looks, high-quality interior, sporty handling, highly competitive price.

What Needs Work:
No manual transmission available with V6.

Bottom Line:
For the first time in nearly two decades, Ford has a high-quality midsize sedan that can go toe-to-toe with the imports while maintaining a distinctly American style.


221-horsepower V6 model starts at $21,275
Available 6-speed automatic transmission
High-end looks styling makes it seem more expensive than it is
Nimble Mazda 6 dynamics but with more room, luxury and style




The Perfect Formula
By Dan Kahn
Date posted: 09-29-2005

After living in the city for four years, I finally decided to grow up and buy a house. I pooled every nickel and dime I could find, and bought a quaint little fixer-upper in the heart of suburbia. There are many hipsters littering the cafes in my new 'hood, but that doesn't mean I have to turn into Mr. Wilson. After all, my inner Dennis the Menace is still in total control.

With my new locale in mind, I traded a Mitsubishi Eclipse long-term car for a brand-new 2006 Ford Fusion SEL. Got to fit in with the neighbors, right? While the name Fusion sounds like a high-revving hatchback, the car is actually a sharp midsize sedan slotted between the compact Focus and full-size Five Hundred. In other words, this is Ford's killshot aimed directly at the heart of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

The stakes in this battle are dangerously high. Ford has a few hits on its hands with the Mustang and F-150, but the sedan market is big business, and the Japanese have been dominant for years. The Fusion is meant to change all that. With sharp styling, high build quality and best-in-class value, the car offers Joe Suburbia a chance to buy a sensible family car with enough attitude to still feel like a kid.

The Concept
Ford rocked the family sedan scene once before back in the 1980s with the introduction of the Taurus. While the Taurus moniker has become synonymous with "boring" in the past few years (save for the Taurus NASCAR effort, which is being phased out in favor of new Fusion NASCAR racers), the bulbous sedan offered buyers a reliable car for comparably little money.

In 2003, head stylist J Mays reimagined the Ford family sedan with an auto show concept car called the 427. The car's low roofline, three-bar grille, high beltline and hunkered-down stance harked back to the early '60s, when sedans were broad-shouldered and powerful.

The Fusion is a production interpretation of the 427 concept. In an effort to make the Fusion tighter, cleaner, and better built than any other sedan on the road, Ford completely designed, engineered, and tested the car digitally before it was made into a reality. The resulting leap in quality control is noticeable.

Its edgy lines make the Fusion appear bigger than it really is. The car is 190 inches long and 72.2 inches wide, which is extremely close to the Camry (189.2 inches long, 70.7 inches wide) and the Accord (189.5 inches long, 71.5 inches wide).

Stylewise, the car totally stands out in a sea of similar sedans. Projector-beam headlights are housed in a curving enclosure that follows the hoodline back to the fender, and clear-corner taillights lend the Fusion a hint of street-racer style. The chrome three-bar grille looks bold yet classy (especially on a black car), and 17-inch wheels (standard on SEL models) paired with dual exhaust (also standard on the SEL) clearly link the Fusion to its pony car sibling, the Mustang. Without exception, every one of our staffers thinks this new Ford is the best-looking car in its class.

Shared Tech
Mazda arguably builds some of the best driving vehicles on the road today, so it makes sense that Ford based the Fusion on the fun-to-drive but slightly impractical Mazda 6 sedan. The front-drive platform was stretched and widened, then fortified with a rigid new structure to increase side-impact protection and torsional rigidity.

Nimble handling comes from four-wheel double-wishbone independent suspension. Four-wheel disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power. Our test vehicle came equipped as a top-of-the-line SEL model ($21,275 base price, $25,260 loaded to the gills), which includes V6 power and 17-inch alloy wheels shod in 50-series low-profile rubber.

The car feels planted and secure on tight canyon roads, and power-assist rack and pinion steering gives it a nimble feel that bests even the sporty Honda Accord. At the track, our test car ran through the slalom at 61.4 mph and came to a halt from 60 mph in 124 feet. That compares quite favorably to the Accord (60.2 mph and 133 feet) and the Camry (61.8 mph and 121.8 feet).

Base model Fusions get an aluminum inline four-cylinder, but the SEL is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 equipped with dual-overhead camshafts and variable valve timing. Output is rated at 221 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 200 pound-feet of torque at 4,750. Those numbers are a bit shy of the V6 class average, with the Honda pumping out 240 hp and 212 lb-ft and the Toyota making 225 hp and 240 lb-ft.

However, the Fusion has the only six-speed automatic in its class, and the transmission performed beautifully with nicely matched shifts and smooth operation. In acceleration trials, the Fusion still lagged slightly behind the pack, with an 8-second 0-60 time and a 15.8-second quarter-mile run. In a recent comparison test, a V6-powered Accord and Camry both ran 0-60 in about 7.5 seconds.

Inside the Cabin
The Fusion really shines from within, where little details jump out at the driver like freshly laundered pants with a dollar bill hidden in the pocket. Soft-touch materials abound in the cabin, and fit and finish is remarkable. Every panel is perfectly aligned, and gaps are kept to a minimum. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is comfortable to hold, and loaded with easy-to-use audio and climate controls. Even the analog gauges are easy on the eyes yet somehow sporty and just a little bit different.

Settling into the driver seat, the first thing you'll notice (on SEL models at least) is the contrasting stitching in the leather seats. This wasn't necessary on Ford's part, but it really dresses up the look of the cabin. Automatic climate control comes standard on the SEL, and it works very well with a basic three-button interface. Ford even designed the duct system for quiet operation, and it became obvious on a hot August day with the A/C blasting.

With 38.7 inches of front headroom and 42.3 inches of front legroom, the Fusion feels roomy but not cavernous. And with increased hip- and shoulder room the Ford offers plenty of interior real estate to lounge around in.

On the Road
Ford executives claimed at the vehicle launch that they wanted the Fusion to drive like a four-door Mustang, and they're not far off the mark. Steering feel is excellent, and when pushed hard in a canyon the suspension stays planted with moderate understeer and minimal body roll. The car is certainly no full-race sport sedan, with a mere 221 hp on tap, but it is sporty.

The seats are extremely comfortable, the car is stunningly quiet, and the secondary controls are easy to use and understand while driving. Even the air conditioning vents are well designed and simple to operate.

I only have two complaints about the Fusion: It needs more power and a better shifter. The 221-horse V6 is fine for highway cruising, but an SVT version with a lightweight V8 (à la Taurus SHO) would be most welcome. Even the recently announced 3.5-liter global V6 would be an improvement. I'd also like to see a shifter with more than just "Drive" and "Low" as forward gear options. How about specific gates for 1st, 2nd, "Drive," and "Top Gear"?

Conclusion
If you simply want basis transportation from Point A to Point B, there are lots of inexpensive sedans to choose from. However, if you're looking for an affordable family hauler with enough edge, attitude, and class to stand out from the Japanese crowd, the 2006 Ford Fusion deserves a look.

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With a look cribbed from the Ford 427 show car, the Fusion gets sleek styling details like a flush fascia, 17-inch alloy wheels and a three-bar chrome grille.

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Unlike the full-size 500, the Fusion has a high-end interior that rivals the best Japan has to offer.

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A high beltline, dual exhaust and a hunkered-down stance lend the Fusion a muscular sport sedan look.

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High-class details like automatic climate control, a console-mounted clock and piano black trim make the Fusion feel more expensive than it really is.

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Projector-beam headlights that lead into the hood/fender add a touch of class to the $25K family sedan.

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Mirrored clear corner taillights spruce up the car's rear flanks with a youthful vibe.

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SEL models come standard with 17-inch alloy wheels and 50-series Michelin Pilot rubber.
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Great review, a little disappointed in the sound system quality, but otherwise this is the kind of car I could see myself owning, but in Mercury clothes of course! This is coming from a guy who prefers SUVs.
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If Ford markets the Fusion correctly and heavily I bet it would become the #1 selling car in the U.S.
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If Ford markets the Fusion correctly and heavily I bet it would become the #1 selling car in the U.S.

[post="22811"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


I kinda feel the same way, but I don't wanna get my hopes up. This car, though, is the new 1986 Taurus no question!
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I think the Fusion definitely has the possibility to become the #1 selling car in the US. It'll fly past the Accord with no problem. A new Camry is being released early 2006, so I'll wait until I see it before I make a sales prediction between it and the Fusion.
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This has got to have folks cheering in Dearborn. Good work fellas. Now get that damn 3.5L in there!
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This is good for Ford. Good for domestics... I am a strong believer that if one domestic can really shine and draw some attention away from imports, then maybe others can follow suit and play on it. Maybe steal the attention away from Camry, Accord and Altima. Edited by Paolino
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I LOVE this car, plain and simple--and it's just a low $20k "family" sedan. This is a perfect example of how you CAN combine room, efficiency, and comfort WITH very sophisticated styling, a great interior, and build/driving quality that seems to have matched or exceeded the best. As for the Malibu and it's fancy new ( :lol: ) chrome radio knobs and un-uglified front fascia start to cry and get closer and closer to their grave.....or, moreso, quickly on the path to taking over the current Chevy Classic's spot in the pathetic fleet market... :D I think the Saturn Aura, if it REALLY does stay at least 90% true to concept will be a GREAT competitor for the Fusion/Milan, but it's just too bad the current Malibu and, to a certain extent, G6, suck too bad to help it out any.... As for DC, it will be interesting to see the new Sebring/Stratus which seem to be taking FOREVER. I'd expect a great look, no doubt, but a powertrain line that still might not be so good and an interior with nice style but not so great materials....guess we'll soon see for sure. Edited by caddycruiser
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So they DO have something good to say about domestics. Is it only GM that they have a problem with? But again, no matter how good the car is, import worshippers will just flock to the the... ehem... imports. They won't even look, or even sit in one of these, just because it's a Ford. One thing though, who would really want a stick shift on the higher end model? It's a family car! Base model, yes for cost, but the high end model? Unless it's an SVT. Now that's a different story. Anyhow, it's now on my shopping list. Base of the base 2.3L, 5-speed stick, ABS.
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In the latest Mercury commercial, which finally doesn't even bother to include a Monterey van, the black Milan they show at the start of the line is GORGEOUS. Pans to the left to show a Montego next in line, and while you can see somewhat of a resemblance, you can also instantly see how even just a larger version of the Milan's face would make the bigger car MUCH nicer looking--right now it has a strange, '00-05 Deville pumpkin face look to it. I think both the Fusion and Milan will do VERY well, but I still worry about the Zephyr. Great car, no doubt, but in Lincoln's ongoing struggle to figure out just what or who exactly they are, a small FWD sedan that is largely the same as the Ford/Mercury might not do so hot. Then again, it might, but I just don't see it right now--I still think Lincoln needs to focus on a RWD-only line, much like Caddy, but go more Lexus than BMW like Caddy is.
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So they DO have something good to say about domestics. Is it only GM that they have a problem with?

[post="22979"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Well, you can't gush over mediocrity or being pathetic.... http://www.cheersandgears.com/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/AH-HA_wink.gif Edited by caddycruiser
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Here's some real-world pics of the car:
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Clearly, not as hot in Beige (who the heck still buys BEIGE?!), but not bad.
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I hate the steering wheel and gauges. Those are my ONLY beefs with the interior.
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The beige interior is the base SE, just as the 2 pics with the 16" wheels. The dark interior is the SEL, same as the black car pics (with the 17's). The base interior, while well screwed together, does little for me. The SEL, which is what I drove, is excellent.............. even in beige. Also, don't lament the steering wheel on the SEL until you drive it. The wheel feels excellent, and looks great in person. BTW, the Fusion cannot be the best selling car in the US. The plant only has the capacity to build 350K units per year........... and that is for Fusion / Milan / Zephyr. The Fusion/500 combined are Fords answer to the Accord/Camry of this world. They realize that one car cannot be all things to all people. You guys should drive the car. If you think you like it now............... you will love it after a drive. Drive it back to back against the Malibu, and you will not like the Malibu very much at all (much too appliance like).
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The Fusion is definitely on my shopping list. The lack of a manual transmission or manumatic feature on the V6 is disappointing, but at least you can get a top-of-the-range SEL model with a 4-cylinder (manual). I have a feeling it'd be hard to find one, though. As far as that beige color, it's coming back as cool. It's lighter and frostier than Hearing Aid Beige, and I've seen them on new SAABs and Merc SLs.
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I still don't see what the big deal about it is... I mean, the exterior is bland. Take away the chrome and it's just a Camcord with Prelude head and taillights. It's slab-sided. Then there is the interior... it looks good in black with the Piano black finish, but that beige interior looks absolutely horrible. Nothing looks good. Is that fake carbon fiber? Ugh. Then there is the radio. Ford's corporate radio looks terrible. To make it worse, the HVAC controls are just stuck there. It doesn't flow withe the radio or anything. It looks Korean. The auto climate controls look better, but still doesn't flow. Finally the gauges... silver painted? Come on... Seriously, I don't get what is so special about this car. :blink: BTW, does anyone else see the strong resemblance between it's and the Tahoe's steering wheels? I don't like it in either... regardless.
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blackviper, I will ask this again..................... (how many times do I have to ask the same question???) Have you driven the car??? Drive the car, back to back against the Camry/Accord/Malibu.......... then come back and talk to us. Unless you never actually drive your car, and just sit in it in the garage........... your comments mean very little. You are completely basing your opinion of a car on pictures of it............ do you really think I am going to take them seriously (nor should anyone else).
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The Fusion is definitely on my shopping list. The lack of a manual transmission or manumatic feature on the V6 is disappointing, but at least you can get a top-of-the-range SEL model with a 4-cylinder (manual). I have a feeling it'd be hard to find one, though.

[post="23033"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

That could very well be... if they follow the split listed in the initial ordering guide, only 5% get the 4 cyl/man (btw 7,000 shipped so far, so 350 4/mans should be out there - no breakdown of S vs SE vs SEL). BUT if people request them & gas prices stay high, they'll prolley boost the % of 4/man versions. The v6/man is almost a sure thing for next year - at least for the FusionST.
shot of holdingyard at BON/FusionUnleashed

For the record, I like the s.wheel design, esp. the Milan's alu trimmed version, and might like the name on the center stack better than the clock. As for the shape of the car, most pix emphasize the details (grille, H.lites, T.lites) - here's one I think shows just how innovative the shape is for a 'family' car.
Posted Image at VelocityJournal (1024x683 219k)
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blackviper, I will ask this again..................... (how many times do I have to ask the same question???) Have you driven the car???

Drive the car, back to back against the Camry/Accord/Malibu.......... then come back and talk to us.

Unless you never actually drive your car, and just sit in it in the garage........... your comments mean very little. You are completely basing your opinion of a car on pictures of it............ do you really think I am going to take them seriously (nor should anyone else).

[post="23075"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

Considering this is basically the first time you've asked me...

No, I haven't. I'm not basing anything I said off of driving dynamics. I was going completely off of pics for the my critique of the styling. Do I really need to drive it for that? No, I don't. To critique its driving dynamics, yes, but I did not say anything about that. Still, whether or not I even drive it in the first place is based on whether I like the styling. If I don't like how something looks, I don't care how good it drives.

So... whenever I say something about its driving dynamics and stuff like that without driving it, then come back and yell at me. Until then, you have no reason to come at me like that. Please take what I said into consideration and realize that.

Again, I don't see what is so special about it based on the pics to make me get it over a G6 GTP. Does it drive better? I don't know, haven't driven either, but it sure does looks better....
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So now its ok to base your opinion of the looks of the car, solely on pictures??? Look at vehicles in person, then report on your opinions. Otherwise, it just sounds like magazine racing (or picture racing, in this case). Neither have much basis in reality. Its funny, the G6 looks good from the side, but like any Pontiac from the front. However, I will not pass judgement on the car until I drive it. I drive my vehicles........... and fun to drive is my upmost criteria. If it looks great, it is a bonus.
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So now its ok to base your opinion of the looks of the car, solely on pictures???

Look at vehicles in person, then report on your opinions. Otherwise, it just sounds like magazine racing (or picture racing, in this case). Neither have much basis in reality.

Seeing it in person and driving is two different things. I said I don't need to drive it to get my opinion of the styling. Seeing it person just gets my final opinion of it. Can it change between that time? Yes, it can, but that doesn't mean I can't give my opinion of it based on pictures.

Its funny, the G6 looks good from the side, but like any Pontiac from the front. However, I will not pass judgement on the car until I drive it. I drive my vehicles........... and fun to drive is my upmost criteria. If it looks great, it is a bonus.

Its called brand identity... Even so, there are noticable differences.

That's where we differ... I will not drive it unless I like the styling. Once I do, whether I like how it drives or not is what matters. They must co-exist.
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I think Ford has a huge hit on its hands...after the disappointing September sales, this car is needed badly. I saw my first Fusion in person this weekend at a dealership in Milwaukee, but I haven't noticed one on the road yet. It was a dark red SEL and was parked along a busy highway. I'm not really in the market for a new car right now, but if I was, I'd definately give the Fusion a look.
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EXCELLENT and DESERVED review! I'd buy a Fusion over anything else in it's class anyday.
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I've seen one in person and, like the 500, I was impressed but not blown away. It is the best looking car in its class, but its class is still midsize sedans, not exactly dream cars. I do think it can take over the title of best selling car as long as Ford avoids the typical recalls that plague every new Ford intro. We've come a long way since the Contour.
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