Ford Fusion SE Review
There are two kinds of pistonheads: enthusiasts who experience wide-eyed, pie-in-the-sky desire for anything loudish, reddish and fast(ish); and buyers who worship at the altar of Consumer Reports, kbb and truedelta.com. If you are in my camp, words and phrases like reliability, APR, depreciation and total cost of ownership fog your mind faster than low down southern whiskey. Unfortunately, I am not rich. I am money-dumb and hoping to marry well. Meanwhile, I’ve found a vehicle capable of satisfying both the childish and the cheap.
If you isolate certain parts of Ford's Fusion they look damn good. The triple blade shaving grill, boxy headlights and oversized, triangular taillights are all boutique bling without being garish (which is about as easy to pull off as it sounds). Combined with an ultra-generic three box shape, the whole is less than some of its parts. The Fusion’s square-cut headlamps, for example, should wrap around the body like the new Edge’s illuminators. While it’s not an ugly car by any means, the Hecho en Mexico Fusion lacks the Mustang’s all-American appeal or its Japanese competitors’ pseudo-European allure.
The Fusion SE’s interior is a neo-con. Speaking from the "some of the people none of the time" camp, Ford’s attempt to fool economy-minded buyers by dressing-up their latest parts bin flubbery with a slab of fake aluminum is about as convincing as Ted Haggard’s initial denials. The optional black leather seats with fat red stitching are a nice homage to Audi. Sadly, not to Recaro. That said, the rest of the cabin's ergonomics are rental car sensible and the steering wheel feels the part. Which reminds me: I've sat in Lamborghinis with more headroom and rear visibility.
There’s one terrific touch inside the least expensive Fusion: a stick and a clutch. So make that two. While the clutch is as good as you could hope for in terms of action, travel and feel, the five-speed shifter is a loose, rubbery mess. And I love it. As I loved the sloppy, floppy six-speed lever found in Mazda's Speed6. Sure, there is a time and a place for perfectly sorted mechanicals. But there is also something to be said for less-than ideal kit that challenges and rewards a driver. And before any of you say that I'm giving Ford a pass, the stick feels exactly the same as the device found in the M3.
Release that excellent clutch and the Fusion’s 2.3-liter Duratec I4 unleashes all 160 horses upon its unsuspecting front wheels. Yes folks, the tires chirp. And the four-banger whirs and hisses. And the steering-wheel forces you to fight. And 60mph shows up in a decidedly last-century 9.3 seconds. The quarter-mile? Let's just say that Hank Ford Sr. would have been prouder of his Nazi medals. There isn't a square-jawed man (or woman) on the planet that wouldn’t exit the Fusion after some drag-stripping and demand fifty more horses. But in the real world… it works.
Thanks to 156 ft.-lbs. of twist at 4250rpm, the Fusion’s passing power lives on the right side of more-than-merely-adequate. Judging from the sounds coming from the engine bay, listening to the aggressive buzz saw of a mill do its thing, it’s hard to believe you're whipping a straight-four. In fact, the Fusion SE’s four-pot sounds (and performs) better than the frumpy old 3.0-liter V6 found in the Fusion SEL.
Colin Chapman eat your heart out; the 3101-pound Fusion sports a double wishbone (front) and multilink (rear) suspension. The relatively svelte front wheel-drive Fusion SE provides a remarkably rigid, stable and responsive platform for adrenalin-oriented drivers. Find your favorite back roads, build up a bit of steam and this budget-priced mid-sizer can cut some mean asphalt. Unless you’re actively looking for it, there’s not even a hint of understeer to mar rapid progress. Response is both neutral and eager.
In deeply challenging situations– we’re talking the kind of road with more curves than an episode of the Biggest Loser– the Fusion will plow towards the scenery nose-first. But you know what? I’ve taken a BMW 3-Series through the same corners and it plowed, too. In fact, the Fusion does better through the tricky stuff than a Mustang GT. And the Ford’s binders are brilliant, fully capable of hauling you to a stop before a close encounter of the tree kind. Go Mazda! I mean, go Ford!
Combine the above with mpg’s in the high-20s, JD-pleasing reliability, the ability to transport five-adults in comfort and ladies and gentlemen, I think we have found the performance deal of the year. Oh, you want to talk about depreciation relative to the foreign-owned competition? Hang on; I’ll be right back.
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