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Expert Review:Autoblog

The following review is for a 2006 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

Let's take a break from all the SEMA coverage to get back to the real world for a bit. We were lucky enough to snag a 2006 Ford Fusion SEL for the Autoblog Garage earlier than we expected thanks to the good people at Ford, which is nice since we just reviewed one of its peers, the 2006 Hyundai Sonata. While these two vehicles have polar opposite personalities, they both compete for buyers in the same segment and they're looking to lure people away from the Japanese imports, specifically the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. Does the Fusion have enough firepower to make a dent in the sales of those three sedans? Our SEL model is armed with nearly every available option, so let's see if it's ready for battle.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

The 2006 Fusion SEL V6 comes with Ford’s 3.0L Duratec V6 engine that produces 221 hp and 205 lb-ft. of torque. That power is routed through Ford’s new six-speed automatic, which gives the Fusion one more gear than its competitors, all of whom employ five-speed autos. The MSRP for the Fusion SEL V6 is $21,710, which, believe it or not, is less than every other model, even that king of value, the Hyundai Sonata. For the sake of comparison we’ve chosen to line these sedans up in their Sunday best, meaning each one in the above-linked Edmunds comparison is the vehicle’s range-topping model with the largest engine available. The only exceptions are the Nissan Altima, which was chosen as an SL model rather than SE-R due to the latter’s obvious performance-oriented character. We also chose the Camry XLE with a 3.0L V6 rather than the model with the more powerful 3.3L V6. We did this to include a vehicle with an engine that matches the Ford’s displacement and give the Camry a little price break advantage. We’ll see if it helped the Toyota at all later.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V62006 Ford Fusion SEL V6First impressions are everything in the automotive world and the Fusion is a downright charming automobile. The sheetmetal looks tailored from every angle as if the body were custom fitted by Armani. As I walked around the Fusion I noticed details that proved to me the car wasn’t completely designed by focus groups. The headlights and the taillights are the most obvious examples, as they’re so unique to the Fusion that they instantly become an identifying mark.

I was surprised, however, when I showed off the Fusion to some of my buddies who were instantly put off by the car’s bold front end. “I like the rear and the profile,” one said, ” but that front is terrible. Too much chrome.” Then came the charge that it looks too derivative, with the Honda Accord being thrown out as the most oft mentioned object of imitation. I conferred with my fellow Autobloggers and we came to the conclusion that my buddies had downed one too many Buds. The Fusion’s design is very original and arguably the most progressive in its segment. While the front end can admittedly be polarizing, it’s bold and Ford should be credited for taking such a risk with its future corporate face. As for the chrome comment, we think the use of shiny metal is fairly balanced with the exception of the three-bar chrome grille where it helps put an exclamation point on the Fusion’s first impression.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6
We sober folk at Autoblog see the Fusion’s face this way.


2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

My buds with their beer goggles see it this way.


Our tester is loaded, which means the final price before delivery charges comes to $25,795. That’s a significant bump over the MSRP but includes such items as a $595 Safety and Security package with side air curtains and an anti-theft alarm, anti-lock brakes for $595, traction control for $95, a power moonroof, heated front seats, leather seating and an Audiophile sound system. While we would check off the Safety and Security package, the ABS brakes and the traction control on our options list, the others could probably go and not be missed. Even still, our loaded tester’s final price is under $26K, which is reasonable. While some of the Fusion’s competitors offer larger engines and more expensive options, their price tags tickle the underside of $30K when fully loaded. That prices them out of the family sedan segment, in our opinion, and into the entry-level luxury sedan arena. Of course, they still sell like crazy so what do we know?

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

Then there’s the 2006 Hyundai Sonata, the pricing of which rises in step with the Fusion all the way up to around $26K. In the coming days we’ll be examining the interior of the Fusion and how well it performs out on the open road, after which we should be able to say with confidence whether it’s better than the new Sonata or just different.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

We're a big fan of extreme things here at Autoblog, so when it was time to review the interior of our 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6, we decided to go a little extreme. The evening after the Fusion's pics were taken I headed off to a party with a friend of mine named Fulton. Fulton is a 6'2" security guard who tips the scales at 330 lbs. For the sake of the review Fulton agreed to give up his shotgun duties and be chauffeured to the party in the back seat just to see how much man the Fusion could handle…


Though the Fusion rides on a stretched version of the Mazda6 platform, its sharp styling makes it appear small from the outside. We were a bit concerned that Ford had again made a tiny interior like the late Contour’s, a car that was considered a great drive by the press but too cramped on the inside to be a practical family sedan. As Fulton and I walked towards the car, he shot a furtive glance at me with an expression that said, “This is not going to be fun.”

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

As it turns out the Fusion just wears its sheetmetal like a well-tailored suit. Despite appearing a bit trimmer than its competition, the Fusion’s dimensions are right in their with the rest of them, even beating the others in the area of width at 72.2 inches. The ginormous Nissan Altima tends to top the chart in nearly every dimension category, but the Fusion plays a give and take game with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and new Hyundai Sonata in the area of interior dimensions.

With Fulton strapped down in the back seat, I was able to turn my attention towards the dash and my own appointments. First off, the Fusion’s seats are excellent for a family sedan with just enough bolstering to catch you from sliding around but not so much that you can’t turn your body around to check a blindspot. Speaking of which, the Fusion’s got some. The B and C pillars are thick and the rear glass is short due to how high the trunk lid rises to meet it. While I don’t think it’s as bad as the view out of a Chrysler 300, it’s still not the greatest when you’re trying to change lanes on the highway.


2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

The Fusion’s dash is a combination two-tone in which the upper is a soft-touch dark plastic and the bottom is a light beige hard plastic. Bisecting the two is a strip of material that looks lifted from a baby grand. It’s completely black and smooth and we like it better than fake wood or faux carbon fiber.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

The center of the dash is probably where the Fusion’s interior earns most of its strikes. It looks like a hodgepodge of corporate bits and pieces lifted from other vehicles. The stereo, for instance, sits dead center surrounded by the piano surface on all sides. The designers made no attempt to integrate it, but rather seemed to just a cut a square out and drop it in. Many other media outlets have bemoaned the placement of the HVAC controls at the bottom of the center stack. We agree with them and wonder why it couldn’t have gone above the stereo where an analog clock and buttons for trip info, TCS off, and other such rarely pressed buttons reside.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

There are many things inside the Fusion to like, however, one of which is the steering wheel. We’ve liked many of Ford’s steering wheels in the past for their ergonomic design and control integration, and this new corporate wheel follows the same trend. We counted 14 individual buttons on the Fusion’s wheel, which is remarkable considering how flush and unobtrusive they appear. There are controls for the HVAC system, cruise control and the stereo here. We also like the spokes of the wheel because they are relegated mainly to the sides, leaving a smooth rim at the tob and bottom along which your fingers can run with obstruction.  

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

There’s also a nice storage compartment at the top of the dash above the center stack. At first I thought its lid was flimsy and that I’d never use it. It kind of looks like a compartment that belongs in the dash of a minivan, not a sophisticated sedan. I began to change my tune when I realized I could hide my phone, iPod and various other valuables in there while I ran in the store. With the car locked, this compartment gives nice cover to items you don’t want laying on the seat, and it’s easier than throwing them in the glove box.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

We’ll get into how the Fusion performs in our final post, but suffice it to say this is a fun car to drive. Fortunately the items in the interior we like all relate directly to the driving experience and not merely just spending time in the car. I could bitch and moan more about the placement of the HVAC controls and that I think analog clocks in cars is a dumb idea (I just like digital more), but my hands can usually be found on the steering wheel trying to deftly control the car’s motion while I carry more speed than I should through the esses in my local mall’s parking lot. Yeah, it’s been that kind of week so far.

Oh, and by the way, Fulton enjoyed his time in the back seat just fine.


2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

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.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

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.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

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.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

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.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

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.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

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.

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6

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.

All-wheel drive option adds foul weather capability.

Introduction

The 2007 Ford Fusion is an excellent choice among midsize sedans and should not be overlooked. The Fusion was introduced as an all-new vehicle for 2006 and it's a superb car. It handles well, looks purposeful, it's comfortable, and it delivers good value. 

All-wheel drive is a new option for 2007, and we found the new, all-wheel-drive Ford Fusion extremely stable on wet pavement. 

The 2007 Fusion models come standard with side-impact and curtain airbags, an upgrade over 2006. The 2007 models offer Sirius satellite radio and DVD navigation. A front passenger seatback that folds down comes on 2007 Fusion SE and SEL models, making it possible to haul extra-long items, and the 2007 Fusion SE has been upgraded with fog lights and 16-inch wheels. 

The Fusion offers a choice of V6 and four-cylinder engines. The four-cylinder offers a five-speed automatic, an impressive feature that offers smoother, more fuel-efficient operation. And the V6 comes with a six-speed automatic, a feature associated with top-end luxury cars. A five-speed manual gearbox is available with the four-cylinder engine. 

The cabin is comfortable and well designed with controls are intuitive and easy to operate. The center dash is not spectacularly beautiful, and the interior looks classier in the lighter colors. 

Crisp lines, big headlamps and a bold, chrome grille give the Fusion a distinctive appearance that we find attractive. 

The Fusion has earned plaudits from consumer surveys. It was the most appealing midsize car in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, which surveys owners on product features. The Fusion was second in the Midsize Car category in the 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards survey conducted by AutoPacific, beaten out by the nearly identical Mercury Milan; the survey focuses on how close automakers came to meeting the desires of the vehicle's target audience. The Fusion won in the Medium Car segment, beating out the Honda Accord and new Volkswagen Jetta, in Strategic Vision's Total Quality Study, which looks at things gone right, things gone wrong and dealership experiences after 90 days of ownership. 

Lineup

The 2007 Ford Fusion comes with a choice of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Fusion comes in three trim levels, the S, SE and SEL. The standard engine for all of them is the 2.3-liter four-cylinder Duratec rated at 160 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, a five-speed automatic transmission is optional ($850). A 3.0-liter V6 engine producing 221 horsepower coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission is available in the SE and SEL trims. 

The Fusion S ($17,295) comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power door locks with remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, AM/FM stereo with four speakers and a single CD/MP3 player. 

The SE ($18,155) adds a six-way power driver seat, a front-passenger seatback that folds down to handle long cargo, two additional speakers, redundant speed and audio controls on the steering wheel, dual illuminated mirrors in the sun visors, fog lamps, premium six-disc in-dash CD/MP3 player and carbon fiber center stack applique. The SE is available with the V6 ($20,888) or V6 and all-wheel drive ($22,730)

The SEL ($19,250) adds automatic headlights, 17-inch wheels, automatic temperature control, upgraded cloth interior, upgraded wood or piano black interior trim, leather wrapped steering wheel and an analog clock. The SEL is also available with the V6 ($21,975), and with the V6 and all-wheel drive ($23,825). 

Leather seating ($895) is available for the SE or SEL. Other options include a DVD-based navigation system ($1,895), satellite radio ($195), heated front seats ($295), and a power moonroof ($795). 

Safety features include side curtain airbags for head protection in both rows and seat-mounted side-impact airbags for thorax protection for the front seats. That's in addition to the mandated frontal airbags. LATCH child-seat anchors and rear-door child-safety locks are standard. Three-point belts are provided for all five seating locations, so be sure to wear them because they're your first line of defense in a crash. Optional safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes ($595). Traction control ($95) is available for front-wheel-drive models with V6 engines. 

Walkaround

The Ford Fusion has presence, unusual among midsize sedans that tend to blend in to the scenery. Some people, including us, like the aggressive, angular look of the Fusion, some don't. One thing we can add to that is that polarizing designs are often more successful than bland designs that neither offend nor excite anyone. In short, we think this is a good-looking car. 

The styling features large headlights and a bold grille. Three thick chrome bars across the grille also make the car look more upmarket than its pricing might suggest. The front bumper almost disappears as there are two chrome strips below it that match the ones on the grille. 

When the Fusion was first introduced, Ford executives said its three-bar horizontal grille would become the signature styling cue for Ford cars. Since then it has been seen on concept vehicles, as well as the new Edge crossover vehicle and will show up on the new Focus. This distinctive grille catches your eye on the road, distinguishing the Fusion from other mid-size sedans. 

The sides of the car are crisply separated from the hood, roof and rear deck. A crisp fold along the top edges of the front fenders runs all the way back along the edge of the roof to the rear deck. 

The design of the Fusion features a wide track, which makes it stand out on the freeway when viewed from behind. A high trunk line and large triangular taillight clusters with chrome trim give the rear end a classy look. 

The overall effect is pleasing. The chrome on the car contrasts nicely with the body work, especially on dark-colored models or red. Gaps between body panels seem a bit larger than those on some of the other cars in the class. 

Changes for 2007 are subtle. The SE model now has fog lights and comes standard with 16-inch wheels. 

All-wheel-drive models have AWD badging on the rear deck. While the 17-inch wheels that drive the AWD SEL models are the same design, they have a tell-tale hash mark to identify all-wheel-drive models. 

The Fusion fits into the Ford car lineup between the compact Focus and big Five Hundred sedan. It's slightly smaller than the outgoing Taurus, but it has much the same dimensions as its competitors. Although the Fusion shares its basic floorpan with the Mazda 6, its wheelbase is two inches longer and it is an inch or so wider. Ford also says it is a stiffer bodyshell than the Mazda6, which is good because a rigid structure is the key to a smooth ride and responsive handling. 

Interior

The cabin of the Ford Fusion is comfortable and benefits from straightforward controls. 

The front seats manage to be slightly soft, yet supportive enough for long drives. A standard tilt and telescoping steering wheel and the six-way power adjustable driver's seat, standard on the SE and SEL models, helps drivers whether short or tall get comfortable. 

In keeping with its European influence, Ford has chosen to go with the soft touch for surface materials, which is expected in a luxury car but not in a mass-market car. The car we drove had a dark charcoal interior so everything was finished in black. The optional two-tone interior, especially the dark stone and camel with faux wood trim looks more inviting. The lighter colored interiors look friendlier. 

The dashboard is a straightforward design that runs horizontally across the car's width with just a binnacle above the instrument pod. It contains four small gauges that are easy to read as they are separated from each other rather than overlapping and the figures are in a large font. Decent sized buttons make the radio and climate controls easy to operate. The center stack is simple and boasts straightforward controls that are easy to operate, though it is not beautiful to behold. 

A convenient storage bin on top of the dashboard features a large clamshell lid and it's big enough to hold a phone or small camera as well as maps and the like. The center console, door pockets, and front seatback pockets provide additional storage. 

New for SE and SEL models for 2007 is a front passenger seatback that folds down, making it possible to haul extra-long items. And heated front seats are an option on SEL models with leather seating. 

Rear-seat passengers will find a decent amount of leg room with nicely shaped front seatbacks that allow for plenty of foot space. Head and leg room measurements don't put the Fusion at the top of its class, but the back seat feels roomier than the numbers suggest. 

The Fusion has a good-size trunk with a flat floor and low lift-over height, making it easier to load groceries, luggage or cargo. All Fusion models include a 60/40 split rear seatback, which allows for a generous amount of pass-through space. The scissor-type hinges avoid the annoyance of luggage being crushed by gooseneck hinges. 

Driving Impression

The Ford Focus delivers responsive handling, solid high-speed stability, and a nice, smooth ride. 

We've found it handles well, something we've gleaned on curvy mountain roads above Hollywood and on a wet handling course in Dearborn. The rack-and-pinion steering is precise with just the right amount of weight to make the driver feel connected to the road without being twitchy. The Fusion feels bigger and heavier than it looks, but it also offers excellent stability. 

The Fusion's nice combination of ride and handling are benefits of the rigid structure it shares with the Mazda6. The Fusion's stability is a benefit of its relatively long wheelbase and wide track, longer and wider than the Mazda version. The front suspension is a short/long arm design while the rear wheels are anchored through a multi-link setup. The bushings and hydraulic engine mounts are designed to keep vibration and road noise to a minimum. For the most part they do this, though some other cars in this class seem quieter. 

The all-wheel-drive Fusion offers excellent handling stability and grip in adverse conditions. We drove one on a heavily watered down handling course at Ford's sparkling new proving grounds and were impressed with its ability to hold a line and not get out of shape in transient maneuvers. In other words, it's safer and easier to drive in the rain. And we're sure it'll perform much better in the snow than the other models, which use front-wheel drive. If you live in an area that gets adverse weather, the AWD model is a smart choice. 

The 221-hp V6 engine provides enough power, although the Fusion will not likely be mistaken for a sports sedan. The Fusion can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 8 seconds, a reasonable performance though not as quick as the V6 versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. 

The six-speed automatic transmission is very smooth. Shift into Drive and it works well. It's one of the few six-speed automatics in this class. However, it does not offer a semi-manual shifter. Shifting from D to L only locks out fifth and sixth gears. (We wonder how many people actually use semi-manual shifters so this may not be an issue for you.) Also, there's no indicator showing the driver what gear it's in at any given moment and around town it's difficult to tell by feel. (Again, you may not care.)

The Fusion V6 manages 29 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. That's quite respectable for a V6 and the four-cylinder model with the five-speed manual betters this figure by a couple of miles per gallon. 

We have not had an opportunity to try a Fusion with the four-cylinder engine. Considering the improved performance, smoother six-speed automatic transmission and almost identical fuel consumption, the V6 model is probably the best value for most buyers. 

Summary

The 2007 Ford Fusion delivers sporty handling with value and comfort. Side-impact airbags are now standard equipment. The all-wheel-drive model provides excellent handling stability on slippery surfaces. 

NewCarTestDrive correspondent John Rettie filed this report from Hollywood, California; with Cheryl Jensen reporting from Cleveland, Ohio; and Mitch McCullough in Dearborn, Michigan. 

Model Lineup

Ford Fusion S ($17,295); SE ($18,155); SEL ($19,250); SE V6 ($20,880); SEL V6 ($21,975); SE V6 AWD ($22,730); SEL V6 AWD ($23,825). 

Assembled In

Hermosillo, Mexico. 

Options As Tested

ABS ($595); traction control ($95). 

Model Tested

Ford Fusion SEL V6 ($21,975). 

*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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