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Fusion injects a fresh attitude into Ford lineup

December 02, 2005|by KEN CHESTER, JR./Motor News Media Corp.

Breathing a fresh attitude into the American mid-size car, Ford introduces the 2006 Fusion sedan.

Inspired by the Ford 427 sedan concept, the front-drive Fusion distinguishes itself in what is the most competitive of vehicle segments with impressive exterior design and engaging driving dynamics. Fusion brings to the segment good fuel economy, advanced safety, clean emissions and roomy interior space - all at an attractive price.

Built at the automaker's Hermosillo, Mexico, assembly complex, the new Fusion sedan shares its underpinnings with the new Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr. Available in S, SE and SEL trim levels, power for the midsize Ford is generated by the automaker's Duratec 2.3-liter four-cylinder or Duratec 3.0-liter V-6 engines. The four-cylinder motor is paired with either the standard five-speed manual gearbox or an optional five-speed automatic. The standard transmission for the six-cylinder powerplant is a wide-ratio six-speed automatic transmission, a rare find in Fusion's market segment.

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Positioned in the Ford passenger car lineup between the Focus and the Five Hundred, Fusion takes several design cues from the 427 concept car, incorporating its bold three-bar grille and multi-element projector beam headlamps. The concept car also inspired Fusion's optional charcoal black leather interior with contrasting oatmeal-colored seat stitching.

On the road, the Fusion sedan equipped with the Duratec V-6 engine is responsive, delivering handling and control performance that are solid and substantial - the car feels planted at speed.

As the company's first fully "digital" car, Fusion was completely designed, engineered and tested for manufacture in a digital environment - using the most advanced design tools available for precision, quality and efficiency. The all-new sedan rides on Ford's CD3 vehicle architecture, which was modified for the Fusion chassis. The width was stretched by 30mm, and 55mm was added to its overall length.

Hardware for the four-wheel independent suspension system employs an advanced short- and long-arm (SLA) design up front, with a double ball-joint lower control arm and coil-over-shock suspension. A multi-link rear suspension works like a double-wishbone setup by limiting lateral forces on the springs for more composure. It also keeps suspension movement at a lower plane relative to the trunk floor, eliminating the need for large shock towers that reduce trunk cargo space. Front and rear stabilizer bars further help to reduce body roll.

Inside the cabin, the straightforward instrument panel reinforces the sedan's athletic intentions. Gauges are round, easy to read and analog with satin-finished bezels. On all models, the door panels and the dashboard are finished with soft-touch composite skins rather than hard surfaces. The steering wheel with integrated cruise-control switches is standard on all trim levels, as are power door locks, remote keyless entry, power mirrors and power windows with a one-touch-down function for the driver.

The no-nonsense center stack features the majority of the Fusion's controls and switchgear - in a user-friendly arrangement. At the center top of the dashboard is a convenient bin for additional storage.

The front-door map pockets are designed to hold a can of pop easily while the center console features a power point and dual rubber-lined cupholders. The center armrest also contains two storage bins, with the deeper bin equipped with an additional power point.

Fusion designers worked hard to assure that passengers can slip into the back seat with ease. They achieved their goal by pushing the rear door as far back toward the C-pillar as possible. Fusion's roomy trunk boasts a flat load floor and low liftover height with compact decklid hinges that will not crush boxes or groceries. The standard 60/40 split folding rear seats and fold-flat function with spring assist, allows pass-through access to handle extra-long items and provides best-in-class storage space.

QUICK VEHICLE STATS

Wheelbase: 107.4; overall length: 190.2; width: 72.2; height: 57.2 - measurements in inches.

Engine: 2.3-liter four-cylinder - 160 hp at 6,500 rpm and 150 lbs-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm; 3.0-liter V-6 - 221 hp at 6,250 rpm and 205 lbs-ft or torque at 4,800 rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual, five-speed automatic, six-speed automatic.

EPA fuel economy: 2.3-liter four-cylinder - 23 city/31 hwy.; 3.0-liter six-cylinder - 21 city/29 hwy.

Cargo capacity: 15.8 cubic feet

SAFETY FEATURES

Dual front air bags, four-wheel disc brakes, remote keyless entry, SecuriLock Passive anti-theft system, battery saver and full-size spare tire. SEL adds fog lights.

Optional safety features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control (V-6), front seat-mounted side-impact air bags and first and second row side-impact head curtains.

WARRANTY

Basic: 3-year/36,000 mile, bumper-to-bumper.

Roadside assistance: 3-year/36,000 mile, 24-hour.

PRICING

The base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2006 Ford Fusion sedan starts from $17,145 for the base S model up to $21,710 for the V-6 SEL. Destination charges add $650.

AS TESTED

2006 Ford Fusion SE V-6 sedan

Exterior color: Dark Blue Pearl Clearcoat

Interior color: Medium Light Stone

Tire make/model: Continental ContiProContact

Tire size: P205/60R16

Base price: $20,625

Destination charge: $650

SE Sport Package: $395

Total as tested: $21,670

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