Our first impression getting behind the wheel of the Ford Fusion was "nice." Handles well, easy to use accessories, respectable mileage and cost, a definite European feel. In all, a good intro. That was about a year ago and we came away with a definite "thumbs up" for this important mid-size auto.
Looking at 2007, there's a brand new kid joining the party with the introduction of the first all-wheel-drive version of the Fusion available on V6 models. For the model year, Ford adds some nice amenities as well. The upmarket SE and SEL versions have fold-flat front passenger seats to increase room for long items extended beyond the trunk pass through. The top SEL also gets heated side mirrors with puddle lamps, self-dimming mirror, compass and automatic headlamps as standard equipment. There are 16-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps and enhanced audio on the SE. And all models including the base S get standard front-seat side and side curtain airbags plus a perimeter anti-theft alarm system.
If face sets the tone, the Fusion's is a statement of assuredness with a strong, three bar grille and bold head and taillamps. This is a vehicle that earned long second glances from a somewhat blase west coast set, accustomed to numerous foreign nameplates, when it launched. Inside are graphite, wood or piano black trim and storage cubbies.
Economy wise, the 2.3-liter, 160-HP inline four gets about 23/31 MPG for both five-speed manual or five-speed, low emissions automatic. The 221-HP 3.0-liter V6, with six speed automatic, lands at 20/28, losing about a mile each with AWD, but adds more control to the responsive drive.
On the cost side, S pricing starts at $18,155, while all-wheel-drive V6 SE with ABS enters life at $24,025 and a loaded SEL AWD starts at $25,340. Other options include eight-speaker Audiophile sound, heated, leather surfaced seating, DVD nav system and SIRIUS satellite radio.
Getting in and out of the rear seat is no problem. Ford made sure someone with a size 14 shoe (think basketball player here) could scoot in or out without having to do a pretzel twist in the process.