- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

The 2007 Ford Fusion is a midsize, five-passenger sedan that has a very distinctive front end. The bars on the grille make it a real eye-catcher.

But the muscular three-bar chrome grille isn’t the only thing that makes the Fusion appealing. The overall bold look suggests that the Fusion is a strong and sturdy vehicle — and after a week of hard driving I found that this appearance is not deceptive.

The Fusion is a roomy sedan with an attractive layout for both the driver and front-seat passenger. The driver’s seat has six-way power-plus lumbar support. It also has a fold-down front passenger seat. That along with the 60/40 split rear seat allows for carrying long cargo, such as a rolled-up rug. One of the options on the test car was leather seating, which gave the interior an upscale appearance. In addition, another option was heated front seats.

The base price for the Fusion with a V-6 engine is $23,825. But with the options of audiophile sound system plus a navigation system, anti-lock brakes and Sirius satellite radio, the total came to $28,820.

Even without the options, the Fusion is an attractive package with just the standard equipment. Included as standard are power windows and locks, automatic temperature control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and climate controls and electrochromatic mirror.

Other optional equipment items are traction control, power steering, four-wheel disc brakes and tilt/telescope steering wheel. That’s a lot of desirable upscale equipment.

A V-6 engine that produced 221 horsepower powered the test Fusion. The EPA rating is 19 miles per gallon city driving and 26 mpg highway. I had no problem with acceleration under all driving situations. The Ford people tell me the Fusion is the first fully “digital” car.

What that means is this car was completely designed, engineered and tested in a digital environment, using the most advanced design tools available for precision, high quality and efficiency.

I have no idea how the digital environment works, but it’s obvious now that Ford is on the right track. If other Ford cars are as well assembled as the Fusion, this company will leap ahead in sales.

I’m told that Fusion’s engineering team was able to bring the car to market faster than the traditional development programs. These new tools also helped the engineers reach their goal of maximizing the spaciousness for all occupants to challenge the class leaders in key dimensions such as front shoulder room, rear-seat legroom and trunk space.

The designers also moved the rear door back a bit to make it easier for big people to get in.

So I made it a point to load the car with five adults and all I heard were complimentary remarks about their comfort.

I’m also told that the Fusion has some of the latest safety technology.

Front-seat air bags and side-impact air curtains are standard on all models.

As for side-impact protection, the B-pillars are made by welding two blanks of steel end-to-end, resulting in a stronger top on the vehicle and more flexible bottom.

Other areas of safety include Latch seats for children, emergency trunk release, front-seat air bags and side-impact air curtains.

Although the test Ford was a front-wheel-drive car, all-wheel drive is available. Also, the Fusion has an anti-theft perimeter alarm system.

Put it all together, and I’m convinced the new Fusion will soon take the confusion out of the direction that the Ford Motor Co. is going.

This car is definitely a winner.

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