- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

Let’s get the bad news out of the way right now. The Ford Fusion ain’t no NASCAR competitor. Now, before you died-in-the-wool NASCAR fans get angry, I’m talking about the production, street legal Fusion.

I’ll leave the racing rules and track arguments to you guys.

What the Fusion I am talking about IS, however, a darn good street car. It is nothing like anything I have driven with a Blue Oval attached to the grille in a long while.

The Fusion is a four door sedan with the abilities and comfort of those other cars from across the pond; either East or West.

The price is right, the amenities are many, it sips gasoline and it is an all-around darn nice car.

Granted most folks don’t like to drive just nice cars. They want some excitement, heavenly high gas mileage or something in which to be noticed. I can say that the Fusion is not the car that will do any of those things astronomically well. Unlike a Ford GT, you won’t get noticed at every street corner. You will, however, have a vehicle that will serve you well.

Available with two different engines, a four-cylinder base model and a very capable and quite powerful V-6 engine which is my favorite.

The four-cylinder may not have the power of the V-6 but it has one feature that will draw buyers, a 31 miles per gallon EPA fuel rating. And this is while producing an admirable 166 horsepower.

But, as I said I prefer the V-6 for its smooth operation and its 221 horsepower.

Coupled with a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission the V-6 suffers little in the mileage race. This Fusion gets an EPA highway rating of 29 mpg. Not bad for a vehicle that accommodates five passengers.

Speaking of the interior, not only is it designed with ergonomics in mind it is quite attractive.

Taking ques from cars produced in both Europe and Japan, the Fusion is a fine collection of openness and eye-catching design.

The dash panel is slanted forward to offer an openness that gives the cockpit a very roomy feel.

The instrument panel places the instruments in a wide open field for easy viewing.

All of the switches and controls are easy to manipulate, although I did have to get familiar with the simplicity of it all having just climbed out of $100,000 German sedan.

This is a tribute of sorts to the way the Fusion and I assimilated.

Most times when I move from one economic level of automobile to a more reasonably priced vehicle the transition is somewhat dramatic.

Many times I must set aside my evaluation of the second vehicle a few days so that I become accustomed to the nuances of a more basic automobile.

It wasn’t the case here, the Fusion measures up well for a vehicle one quarter of the price of that other sedan.

Part of the reason for this positive evaluation is the tremendously ridged structure that is the basis for the Fusion and its siblings over at Mercury and Lincoln.

With little twisting and bending in the structure of the vehicle the engineers were able to make the Fusion exceptionally solid.

Even on extremely poor roads, pocked with huge pot holes the Fusion did not creak and squeak like other similarly priced vehicles.

The rear seat is quite accommodating, and while you can seat three here two passengers would be extremely happy to ride back here for long trips. The rear seat backs fold down to offer up the transporting of longer cargo.

But, as expansive as the truck space is, I doubt you will have to fold the seat very often.

It has been a while since I have felt so enthusiastic for a vehicle in this price range, particularly one from a domestic car company.

It shows that even with the hard knocks the domestic car manufacturers are getting they are responding with quality products that warrant our attention.

Certainly the Fusion falls into this category.

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