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.
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.
First 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.
We sober folk at Autoblog see the Fusion?s face this way.
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?
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.