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2006 Ford Fusion SEL

Bye Bye Bubbles

    Which came first, the razor or the car? Our crack research team dove into the history books to find out. When they reported back they all had smooth clean-cut chins and a $1,200 fuel bill. They were dismissed immediately.
     Ok, so we are definitely not the first ones to pick on the Fusion for its likeness to shaving razors. But the fact of the matter remains, those thick, chromed bars up front suggest Gillette’s team was working on more than a six bladed razor and some fancy gel. All jokes aside, the Fusion is the freshest looking mainstream vehicle to come from Ford since, well, it’s been a long time. The Five Hundred and Freestyle are relatively fresh entries, but are already begging for a facelift. The Fusion on the other hand, is unique enough to get a good four to five years’ worth of mileage before a nip and tuck is necessary. The three bar grille treatment is bold and is augmented nicely by clean-cut flanks and clear headlamps. Our dark blue pearl test mule was sharp, but with all that chrome up front the car looks best in Henry’s favorite color: black. Five-spoke 17” wheels enhance the visuals but keep the flash factor low. The styling is neither overly aggressive nor complex, it’s just right for a family sedan. Though, I am sure the same was said of the bubbly Taurus back in the day. Hopefully you’re not listening to those people anymore.
     The interior, however, is not as compelling. The dash is laid out cleanly, devoid of large ovals, with HVAC and radio easily accessed by both driver and passenger. While we are on the topic, we are making a plea to Ford to update your radio and HVAC faceplates. Those things just shouldn’t have decade birthdays. They are still functional, but they passed their “use by” date sometime during the Clinton administration. The only thing not black plastic on the IP is the analog clock and gauge surrounds. The two-tone black-over-tan color scheme is easy to live with and a relaxing place to spend the morning commute. Multicolor interiors are really catching on with the mainstreamers, lending a more premium feeling. Generous amounts of soft touch materials cover the doors and dash. Our particular model came with the piano black polished trim, but in place of that one can order a wood appliqué. Though we aren’t sure why you would. The leather covering the seats was a bit stiff but overall the seats were comfortable and supportive. Cabin materials were of a high grade, pleasing to touch, easy to look at, but bold, exciting styling wasn’t a requisite here.
     Underhood we find the tried and true 3.0-liter DuraTec V6. With 24-valves this motor churns 221 horsepower and 205 lb-ft of torque in Fusion duty. Putting the power down is a 6-speed automatic found first in the Mazda6. The tranny is smooth and makes the most of what the engine can muster, and its operation is appreciated more so than the CVT employed on the Five Hundred and Freestyle. Though we are a bit puzzled as to why Ford does not offer a select shift feature or manual selection of gears like the Mazda as it is the same tranny/engine combo. Our only complaint: this engine is retirement age. This V6 just isn’t as smooth as many of the Fusion’s competitors V6’s and the power rating is slowly but surely slipping to the lower end.
     Dynamically speaking, this car is sound. The chassis is stiff and communicates what is going on. Brake pedal feel could use another communications course but is carrying a solid 3.2 grade point. Steering feel is up, but then so is heft. We didn’t mind, and neither should the Fusion’s target audience, but moving around the parking lot did require strong arms. Where does this dynamic feeling come from: the Mazda6, of course. The Fusion is bigger in almost every dimension but the fact remains, a Mazda chassis underpins this Ford body. The extra mass adds a bit of heft and as such is not as sporty nor as tossable as the 6, but it was never intended too be.
     A Base Fusion SEL stickers for $22,360 with destination, while our model’s window sticker called for $26,445. A nicely equipped SE model however will get you down the road for $22,985 if you can give up an inch on the wheels and lose the fog lamps and leather seats. If you fall in the category of those who like to row your own gears, like myself, you will have to make do with the 160 hp four-cylinder as Ford currently does not offer a manual transmission with the V6. Though they could, because Mazda does. But don’t get too up in a huff yet, many more options are rumored to be in the pipeline for the Fusion. For example, the Lincoln Zephyr a Fusion platform mate soon to be dubbed the MKZ, will be receiving the new 3.5-liter 260 hp V6, as well as all-wheel drive. Will those trickle down? That remains to be seen, but odds are Ford isn’t done yet with its bread and butter sedan.

The Good:
Fresh styling, 6-speed auto, dynamic chassis.
The Bad:
Interior design causes yawns, aged engine.
The Verdict:
A fresh new look for Ford, enter one new engine and a class leader could be in sight.


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