2006 Ford Fusion

An Infusion of Style

By Cocoa Efficient

Rental car regulars and red state families will be glad to hear the Ford Taurus has finally gasped it last breath. The jelly-bean shaped sedan started life as a bold, even ground-breaking piece of American know-how. Alas, the cuteness of youth quickly grows tired and old, and as in life, the cute rarely know when to hang it up. The Taurus lingered well beyond its expiration date, laboring under the delusion that it was somehow still attractive to younger buyers. Sound like anyone you know? All is not lost, Ford fans, for Miss Effi revels in the knowledge that every cloud has a silver sequined lining and in this case, it has a name: the Ford Fusion.

The Fusion is Ford’s newest family sedan. Beefy, block-shaped and brazen, it’s a 180 degree opposite of the car it replaces. Adorned with a beautiful wide-slat grille seemingly carved from a single block of aluminum, the Fusion offers up a dynamic and refreshing look that immediately catches the eye. A move to the side brings more visual delight in the strong, clean lines and a handsome alloy wheels. As with many of my dates, I find the Fusion’s rear end somewhat of a let down. The taillights and trunk appear an afterthought borrowed from the Ford Focus sedan. Now don’t think I’m being too harsh on Ford, for Cocoa knows what its designers are capable of. The Ford 427 concept car heavily influenced the Fusion’s progressive styling and was itself inspired by the 1965 Galaxie 500. Galaxie 500, why we don’t have fabulous names like this today is a mystery to this girl. Honestly America, too much time under the rule of conservatives has left you dull as dishwater! But I’m getting off topic. The 427, like the Galaxie, had a marvelous rear end, the kind you could stare at all day and never grow tired. Deep set rectangular taillights and a sharp-edge decklid would really set the Fusion afire; instead, we get a three-quarter looker with a frumpy butt.

2006 Ford Fusion

Peering inside the Fusion reveals a thoroughly modern dash and instrument cluster and well placed controls in within easy view and reach. Where the materials used inside the Taurus were Wal-Mart grade at best, the Fusion moves past J.C. Penny and Target into the fashionable realm where Versace meets Hugo Boss. Black, both inside and out, fits the Fusion like a hand-tailored Italian coat. Ford seems to agree as most of the press fleet is adorned in this non-color combo. Red and blue also work nicely, although you can’t get matching interiors; black, gray and beige are the only color choices. Boring, boring, boring. At least Ford offers options such as contrasting stitching and piano black, carbon fiber or woodgrain dash trim to try and add a hint of originality.

When compared with other sedans in this class, the Fusion’s interior room falls somewhere in the middle. It has more rear seat legroom than either the Honda Accord or Nissan Altima, but nearly two-inches less headroom, and we all know what a difference two inches can make. The front seats are very comfortable, supportive and loaded with features such as power lumbar support and heated bottoms. The Fusion’s trunk is deep and well organized and can be expanded outward via the 60/40 split-folding rear seats.

2006 Ford Fusion

Ford offers the Fusion in three trim levels: S, SE and SEL. All three trims feature a standard 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine teamed to a smooth shifting five-speed manual. While this engine is capable of moving the Fusion, it doesn’t develop its power until midway around the tachometer or roughly at 3600 rpm. The 2.3 is fun to play with when driving the manual, but a dog when strapped to the five-speed automatic. The transmission is too slow responding to throttle input, often downshifting with a rude thud as it attempts to quickly reach the rpm range necessary to move the Fusion into action. Though not as fuel efficient, the best engine for this car is the 3.0-liter V6. Unfortunately, you can’t get this engine on the base model or with the five-speed manual.

The Fusion’s Mazda roots (it shares the same platform as the Mazda6 sedan) serve it well. The steering response is quick and on-center with a nicely weighted steering wheel that telegraphs to the driver exactly where the front wheels are aiming. The Fusion is a very stable car, devoid of the lean, pitching and heaving that so plagued its predecessor. The anti-lock brakes do their job, but I found the pedal feel soft and long of travel. For now, the Fusion is limited to front-wheel drive only, though an all-wheel drive option is rumored for 2007.

2006 Ford Fusion

The Ford Fusion S starts at a very reasonable $17,795. Included at this price is air conditioning, power windows, power locks, cruise control, power mirrors, AM/FM stereo with CD/MP3 capability (show tunes for hours), remote keyless entry, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, overhead map lights and 16-inch wheels. The SE bumps the price to $18,550 and adds six-way manual driver’s seat, upgraded audio, illuminated visor vanity mirrors and body-colored exterior mirrors. The V6 SE lists for $21,275. The top-of-the-line princess carriage is the SEL. When fully loaded with leather, power seats, heated mirrors, audiophile sound system, puddle lights, automatic headlights, side-impact and front and rear head-curtain airbags, the Fusion tops out at a very reasonable $25,555.

Stylish, comfortable and most importantly, gay-friendly, the Ford Fusion is an excellent alternative to the Honda Accord or Nissan Altima, two vehicles unfortunately produced by two non-gay friendly companies. It’s your money, my little chrome covered hubcaps, put it where it best serves the entire family.

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