2010 Ford Fusion SEL Review


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2010 Ford Fusion SEL

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide-Specs, Prices and Comparisons

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2010 Ford Fusion SEL

How's your memory? Do you remember the time before SUVs? Back then, "car" likely meant sedan, and most likely it was mid-sized. From its introduction in the mid-1980s, the Ford Taurus was the class benchmark.

And then from the early 90s, it seemed that Ford, like its domestic competitors, was more of a truck company that made cars as a sideline. The Explorer was the franchise, and on the car side the Taurus was dethroned by import-brand competitors. When it came time for a third-generation Taurus, the car was noticeably larger an debuted under a new name, 500, although that nameplate was short-lived and quickly reverted to the familiar Taurus.

If Ford seemed more than a little confused with placement of its one-time star, such was not the case when the Fusion debuted for model year 2006. It was aimed directly at the Japanese-branded competition, with an economical four-cylinder engine (which the Taurus never had) as well as the familiar 3.0-liter "Duratec" V6, which had evolved considerably since its debut with the second-generation Taurus a decade before. In a class notable for non-notable styling, the Fusion's chiseled lines stood out. With a well-developed chassis, it offered a positive driving experience in a class too notable for boring transportation appliances.

The Fusion was a success, and to keep momentum the second generation appeared as an early-release 2010 car earlier this year. Styling is bolder but immediately identifiable, with aerodynamic improvements that help increase fuel economy. The interior is likewise upgraded. Under the hood, the four-cylinder engine is new, larger at 2.5 liters (vs. 2.3) and more powerful. More power has also been found in the 3.0-liter V6, which can be run on E85 as well as regular unleaded gasoline. And in both, fuel economy has been improved. All transmissions, manual (with the four) and automatic, are now six-speeds. New safety technologies, including Ford's radar-based Blind Spot Information System (BLIS™) with Cross Traffic Alert, are available.

The Fusion line has expanded beyond the core I4 and V6 models in S, SE, and SEL trim levels. There's a hybrid, with a modified, Atkinson-cycle version of the 2.5 I4 and Ford's series-parallel full-hybrid drivetrain, and there is the Fusion Sport, with the larger 263-hp 3.5-liter version of the V6.

But those will be stories for another time. I've just spent a week in a V6-powered SEL, enhanced with the comprehensive "Rapid Spec 302A" option package (BLIS, rearview camera, reverse sensing system, moonroof, and Sony audio system) and the Sport Appearance Package, which includes sport tires and suspension calibration in addition to cosmetics. As such, it was fully as good in every way as the competition from Japan or the US, with its own very distinctive character. It's the American sedan for the American driver who has grown up in sporty, likely foreign-nameplate, cars and who would like to keep that sort of character. Besides being comfortable, reasonably quiet, and pleasant to drive, the 2010 V6 Fusion showed little thirst for gasoline, with an indicated 24 mpg average during its stay. Ford seems to be weathering the current economic woes better than most, and perhaps this is why: in building and selling cars successfully, good product is paramount. And the Fusion is more than merely good.

APPEARANCE: It's bulked up a bit, but that's the good bulk of healthy training, not flab. Built on the same 107.4-inch wheelbase as before, the new Fusion is at most only fractions of an inch larger in any given measurement. But it has more presence, with the bold three-slat grille and "power dome" hood dominating the front view, distinctive taillights with a hexagonal inset pattern at the rear, and simple but elegant lines to the sides. At the SEL trim level approach lights in the outside rear-view mirrors illuminate the ground near the front doors, a plus for convenience and safety at night.

COMFORT: No boredom inside! The new Fusion combines function and flair. All levels are well-appointed for their price; the SEL has heated power front seats, leather on the seating surfaces and steering wheel rim, a manually tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel, dual-zone electronic climate control, Sirius satellite radio, and the Ford-Microsoft Sync™ electronics system among its standard feature set. Front seat comfort is good, and the electroluminescent gauges are easily read in all lighting conditions. There is even a useful trip computer with mileage, miles-to-empty, and timer controls. If, as in my test car, there is no navigation system, the backup camera display is in the inside rear-view mirror -- where it is easier to see and integrate with regular vision. The Sony audio system that is part of the 302A option group has AM, FM, and Sirius radio reception, and a CD deck, with the auxiliary jack, a USB port, and a power point in the lower console box. Forward and front-quarter visibility is good. Wide C-pillars make use of the outside mirrors and the BLIS system Good Things. Front cabin storage includes the two-layer console, bottle holder/door pockets, a small covered storage bin in the center of the top of the dash, and a small coin/toll holder to the left of the steering wheel. Rear seat room is very good for the car's size, with a moderate central tunnel allowing reasonable short-term comfort for a center passenger. The rear seatback is split 60/40 for extra luggage carrying ability, but the trunk is large enough that that should be a rarity.

SAFETY: To me, the best safety feature available in new Ford products is the BLIS with Cross Traffic system. It effectively warns the driver of a vehicle's presence in the side blind spots by flashing a warning light in the appropriate side mirror. Unlike earlier systems, it's radar-based, hidden beneath the plastic rear fascia panels. That also allows it to look to the sides as the car is backing out of a parking space - an otherwise dicey situation if between two large SUVs. Cars with the SYNC system and a paired Bluetooth phone have 911 Assist, automatic notification in the event of an airbag deployment, and Vehicle Health Report, which sends data back to Ford for analysis. The "SecuriCode™" keypad, a Ford exclusive for years now, allows the key to be stashed inside a locked car, a useful feature. Standard Fusion safety equipment includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes with stability and traction control systems, the SOS Post -Crash Alert System™, and the Personal Safety System™.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Although the Fusion's basic chassis layout hasn't changed, detail improvements have made a good car even better. It still has a transverse engine, front- or optional all-wheel drive, and fully-independent short-and-long arm front / multilink rear suspension. But the suspension geometry and spring and shock rates and stabilizer bars have been revised, and there is a new electric power assist steering system. Additionally, with the Appearance Package, you get a "sport tuned" suspension, meaning slightly firmer springs and shocks and 45-series V-rated sport tires on 18-inch alloy wheels. It's more "sporty" than "sport", only moderately firm but with reduced roll and better rubber for enjoyable driving -- or the safety of quick accident avoidance. Improved soundproofing means near-luxury low interior noise levels.

PERFORMANCE: Ford's 3.0-liter "Duratec" V6 is proven technology by now, but there's still plenty of life in it. An aluminum alloy dual overhead cam V6 with four-valves per cylinder, it now makes 240 horsepower (at 6500 rpm) and 223 lb-ft of torque (at 4300 rpm) on unleaded regular gasoline, or 250 hp and 228 lb-ft on E85. That's up from the previous 221 hp and 225 lb-ft, and it does that on less gasoline. EPA estimates are 1 mpg higher in the city, at 18, and 2 on the highway, at 27. With a mix of both, and mostly city and backroads, I got 24 -- not bad at all. Some credit should go to the six-speed automatic. More speeds allow both lower low and higher high gears for improved acceleration and more economical cruising. There is a manual-shift mode, but there's enough torque at nearly all engine speeds for manual shifting to be merely an amusement.

CONCLUSIONS:The second-generation Ford Fusion is a worthy competitor in the mid-size sedan class.

SPECIFICATIONS 2010 Ford Fusion SEL

Base Price			$ 25,940
Price As Tested			$ 30,300
Engine Type			dohc aluminum alloy 24-valve V6
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 181 cu. in.
Horsepower			240 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			223 @ 4300 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with SelectShift™
				 manual mode
Wheelbase / Length		107.4 in. / 190.6 in.
Curb Weight			3446 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.4
Fuel Capacity			17.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
				 or E85
Tires				P225/45R18 91V Goodyear Eagle RS-A
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD,
				 stability and traction control standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent short and long arm /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 27 / 24
0 to 60 mph				7.1  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Rapid Spec 302A - includes:
  Driver's Vision Group - includes:
    BLIS with Cross Traffic Alert, rear-view video camera,
    reverse sensing system.
  Moon & Tune Value Package - includes:
    Sony 12-speaker sound system, power moonroof		$ 2,740
Sport Appearance Package - includes:
  18-inch machined aluminum wheels with V-rated
  performance tires, sport-tuned suspension,
  interior and exterior trim upgrades				$   895
Destination charge						$   725

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide-Specs, Prices and Comparisons

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