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2006 Ford Fusion SEL i4 Road Test

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Khatir Soltani
Welcoming a Midsize Ford to the 21st Century

When it was announced in early 2004, we expected big things from the
You can tell, just by its looks that the Fusion was created with a different set of rules. (Photo: Justin Couture, Canadian Auto Press)
Ford Five Hundred, the supposed successor to the Ford Taurus (which, by the way, is still in production). We got all excited and giddy about the idea of a Ford that was engineered in part by Volvo and would feature all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic. And while its styling is as safe as NORAD, compared to the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and even the V8-powered Buick Lucerne, it hardly registers on the radar. Frankly, basing a car off the Volvo S80, a vehicle which wasn't particularly pulse-raising in the first place, and then dulling it down with a less powerful engine and CVT gearbox (that six-speed is also available) isn't the recipe most automakers would have chosen for success, unless better than average fuel economy is the prime objective. It probably sounded better coming from the engineers. And while the Five Hundred has been a moderate sales success, it hasn't done a lot for Ford's overall image.

The midsize segment from which the Taurus was born has grown apart, into two distinctive buyers. There are those who liked the big, plush softness of the Taurus, and Ford has delivered with the even bigger, softer Five Hundred. They tend to be older, with more mature tastes, less concerned with horsepower and more concerned with lumbar support adjustments and, yes, fuel consumption. There were also those who appreciated the sportier European-derived Contour and long-defunct Taurus SHO, but the few that did have been left out in the cold in recent years, Ford having given up on them due to their small numbers. Targeting these disenfranchised buyers, and others looking for something with a little more edge, resulted in Ford's latest curve ball, the Fusion. Targeting a younger more enthused audience - uou know, the ones that aren't driving Tauruses - who look to an ownership experience that amounts to more than a beige rental vehicle, Ford is making inroads.

Standard 17-inch wheels on a midsize. Only the Mustang GT has larger wheels, and they're optional. (Photo: Justin Couture, Canadian Auto Press)
Fusion's eye-grabbing style comes from Ford's head of global design, J. Mays. Mays, the man responsible for giving the previous generation VW Passat that aura of expensiveness and class (and gave the Five Hundred it's rather Passat-esque profile), has worked wonders for the latest Ford midsize. Rater than graft Ford of Europe's styling onto North American model products, which is what was done on the Five Hundred and warmed-over Focus, we get a completely different looking vehicle that abolishes memories of the old jellybean-shaped Taurus. Drive a Fusion, and people will look. People will stare. And if they're not already gaping, they will when they see the Ford badge.

Rarely do midsize cars play styling as a strong card, but the Fusion does. It looks boss in black, and I'm not the only one who seems to think so, seeing as it's the prominent colour in television ads and magazine prints. It brings, dare I say, glamour and flash to a class that's about as bland as plain oatmeal. Ford has nearly escaped the 'fleet' mentality, but trace amounts still remain in the colour selection which includes a flat-looking sage, dusty grays and of course, beige. Personally, with a car as bold as the Fusion, you don't need a pallet; Henry Ford's famous saying for the Model T should make a comeback - you can have it in "any colour, so long as it's black."

The first thing you really notice about the Fusion is its
Proportions play a big part on how the Fusion is able to carry off looking like a smaller vehicle. In reality, it's just as big as an Accord or Camry. (Photo: Justin Couture, Canadian Auto Press)
three-bar chrome-plated grille, which does an absolutely great job of harking back to Ford's ponycar heyday, yet, this trip down memory lane doesn't entail the big-shouldered blockiness which other domestic manufactures have graced their cars with. The Fusion looks smaller on paper than in the metal, the same size as the aforementioned Ford Contour; these proportions disguise the fact that when you're standing right next to it, it's just as big as an Accord. It's all about the proportions though - a few longer lines, shorter pillars, a higher metal to glass ratio on the doors and the Fusion grows into the concept that inspired the production car, the magnificent and glorious full-size 427.
Khatir Soltani
Khatir Soltani
Automotive expert
  • Over 6 years experience as a car reviewer
  • Over 50 test drives in the last year
  • Involved in discussions with virtually every auto manufacturer in Canada