Obesity is one of the largest health problems in America today. All that extra weight we lug around makes us slower and less efficient human machines. The 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6 thankfully doesn't suffer from gratuitous poundage like a few of its peers in the family sedan segment. In fact, it's the lightest of the bunch, which is probably the single biggest factor in why we found the Fusion so fun to drive despite its relatively diminutive V6. See how fun it was after the jump…
We?ve already spoken about the Fusion?s interior, particularly the seats that hug you just right and the steering
wheel that begs to be gripped. We?re pleased to report that those two items are attached to a willing machine that?s
ready to put them to good use at a moment?s notice. In this, our post on the Fusion?s performance, we?ll go over a few
of the superlative attributes the car exhibits when the pedal is mashed and the wheel is cranked.
First off, let?s get one thing clear: the Fusion?s 3.0L V6 is a bit too small. It?s 221 hp and 205 lb-ft of torque are the bare min required to keep this car fun to drive. We consider the engine adequate with enough power to keep it off our list of dislikes. The exhaust tone it emits is a little burbly and enters the well isolated cabin in a muffle - barely audible until the revs begin to rapidly rise. Regardless of our thoughts on this 3.0L, this week Ford debuted a new 3.5L V6 that produces 250 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, which we expect to power the Fusion within two years. Hopefully it doesn?t add enough weight to upset the car?s current balance.
As we mentioned earlier, the Fusion is lighter than its peers weighing in at 3,280 lbs. That?s 104 lbs. lighter than the Accord, the next heaviest in our group of comparison sedans, and 178 lbs. lighter than the heaviest, the new 2006 Hyundai Sonata. Combine a relatively low curb weight with a more performance oriented suspension and you get a sedan that carries itself through the corners more like a MINI than a Grand Marquis. (Did I just compare the Fusion to a MINI? Crazy.) The P225/50VR17 all-season tires on 17-inch alloys (an inch larger than all the others except for the Sonata) stick to pavement like gum, rarely emitting a peep of protest when pushed.
Another way Ford has managed to make the Fusion feel like a driver?s car is through its power rack and pinion steering, which is very heavy and weighted. This isn?t a car you can steer with the tip of your finger, it requires deliberate inputs and gives you the exact line you asked for. While the power assist is evident in very low speed situations, it feels like the assist is dialed back much quicker than in other mainstream sedans, or even some sports cars for that matter. It?s another attribute that seems to remove any filter between you and you?re desired effect on the car direction. Turn it hard that way, it goes hard that way.
All Fusions come with four-wheel disc brakes measuring 11.75 inches in the front and 11 inches in the rear. Our tester also came with optional anti-lock brakes that add another $595 to the vehicle?s price. The Fusion is the only vehicle in our comparo that doesn?t have ABS standard. While we?re sure you?ll all debate whether or not making ABS optional was a bad move on Ford?s part, we?ll venture to guess it was jettisoned in order to keep the base price under $18K. Regardless, the Fusion?s stoppers are strong, almost too strong sometimes as linear deceleration wasn?t always the order of the day. Our vehicle had less than 1,000 miles on the odo when it arrived, so perhaps a couple more thousand would take the edge off the brakes. They were, however, very responsive in that a certain distance of pedal travel would correlate exactly to a certain measure of stopping power. This wasn?t the case in the Hyundai Sonata, the brakes of which were a little more vague and felt like you were stepping on a pillow sometimes.
Finally we must comment on the six-speed automatic that divvies up the pony power in the Fusion. Unlike the new six-speed automatic Ford announced this week, the one in the Fusion was outsourced so it will also likely be replaced by the new 6F in a pair of years or so. Still, this was my first experience with a six-speed auto and it was interesting. I expected to be annoyed by five gear shifts on my way up to highway cruising speed, but for the most part they are transparent. First gear tends to grab and lurch the vehicle a bit at parking lot speeds, but after that each gear blends together. The engine at highway speeds was extremely mellow thanks to a tall overdrive gear, and the powerband?s sweet spot was just a double or even triple downshift away. That?s right, you can get the tranny to drop from sixth all the way down to third. There?s no manumatic function, but Ford says it could be easily programmed into the transmission. We say leave it out in deference to the car?s value pricing.
So the 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6 is gone from our garage and we already miss it. A few of you have already begged Ford for a rear-wheel drive sedan the size of the Fusion, hoping the Blue Oval will field something that handles like a four-door Mustang. To those we say test drive the Fusion. While its power pulls this car rather than pushing from behind, Ford?s new FWD sedan already handles like a champ and is merely biding its time until the company?s new 3.5L comes along. Even with an engine that?s merely adequate, the Fusion placed second behind the Honda Accord in comparison tests conducted by both Car and Driver and Motor Trend. Those comparos appeared in the December issues of each mag and also included the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata. If the Fusion can score that well with one hand tied behind its back, we?re eager to see how high it will place when the much needed punch of a 3.5L finally arrives.