Monday, December 08, 2008

Test drive: 2008 Ford Fusion SEL


















Photographs: Stephen H. Goldstein
© 2008 and forward

The Ford Fusion SEL, shown (top) on L'Enfant Promenade and in front of the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington , D.C. , offers a comfortable ride for the family or for a business trip.



FORD FUSION SEL: FUNCTIONAL
FOR FAMILY AND BUSINESS


By Stephen H. Goldstein
Golden Quill Editorial Services
© 2008 and forward/All Rights Reserved

The Ford Fusion SEL, the top trim line for 2008, provides a roomy, comfortable and peppy ride for a family of five or for a business trip. Sedate even with the optional Sport Appearance package, however, it will not be confused with a Mustang.

The 5-speed manual transmission moves the 4,233-pound car with ease, even with a 2.3-liter inline 4-cylinder engine and 140 horsepower and even in the rolling hills of Western Maryland . Despite good sound-dampening and the windows up, a passenger still will notice wind, engine and tire noise but less so than in smaller models.

The tested car, with front-wheel drive and optional 18-inch wheels and tires, averaged better than 28 miles per gallon between tankfuls of 87-octane gasoline. The EPA estimates are listed at 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.

A 182-horsepower, DOHC V-6 Duratec engine is available, and the EPA estimated mileage is only slightly lower, at 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. On the available all-wheel drive V-6 Fusion SE and SEL, the mileage dips further to 17 and 25 mpg.

The 2010 Fusion, Ford says, will upgrade the engines to a 2.5-liter Duratec inline 4-cylinder engine with 175 horsepower, a 3.0-liter V-6 with 201 horsepower and a 3.5-liter V-6 with 263 horsepower for the Sport model. Ford expects its heavy investment in advancing its powertrain technologies will replace its engines by 2010 with improved performance and fuel-economy.

Ford says Fusion is its “first fully digital car, designed, engineered and tested using the most advanced technology available for precision and quality.” The digital technology shows mostly in the data center and the sound system.

The digital data center near the gauges on the tested car shows almost 500 miles to empty on fill-up for a 17.5-gallon tank, based on an average of 28 mpg. Over almost 600 miles, the tested Fusion matched that average at the gas pump.

The midsize Fusion fits in the Ford lineup where the enlarged Taurus had been. The roominess for most adults includes the back seat, unless a tall passenger pushes the front seat back far enough. The tested car features leather seats, with separate heat controls for the front buckets. The trunk, at 15.8 cubic feet, is spacious by comparison with other midsize cars.

Passenger safety rides with comfort in the Fusion. The car rates a 5-star government rating for driver and passengers in a frontal crash and for the front seat in a side crash. The government rating drops to four stars for the rear seat in a side crash and a single-vehicle rollover crash.

The SEL includes upgraded electronic accessories: eight-speaker stereo AM/FM radio with six-disc CD changer (loaded singly through one slot) and Sirius satellite radio, an auxiliary input jack for an MP3 player and a USB port for a storage device in the large center console, which stores the CDs.

The radio has 10 button presets, providing 30 presets for the three optional Sirius bands, 20 for the two FM bands and 10 for the AM band. The Microsoft-developed SYNC system offers a voice-activated, hands-free connection to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, iPod, PDA, MP3 or other digital music player. Controls for the sound system and cruise control in the leather-wrapped steering wheel make driving safer than reaching for the center dashboard.

Even with all of these features, others have criticized the dashboard’s silver plastic accents, but the whole effect doesn’t cheapen the car’s appearance as much as it does in other cars, even Ford models. Like other Ford models, the high trunk line on the Fusion hides tailgating vehicles but not as much as in smaller models.

The larger speedometer and tachometer gauges and the smaller gas and engine temperature gauges, gray-trimmed black in a black background, are understated and not digital. In night lights, the needles are red and the numerals are blue.

A stylish, round and small analog clock sits in the center of the dash, below the vents and above the sound controls. The center rearview mirror darkens with headlights from the rear, and the side mirrors are heated. Tandem map lights flank the mirror, but there’s no roof light or rear-seat lights.

A button on the lower dashboard changes the “ambient mood lighting,” for some reason in six colors, for the floor and the dual cupholder in the center console. It’s also a $295 option.
The Fusion indeed shows Ford’s attention to quality engineering and production and upgrades responding to drivers’ interests.



2008 Ford Fusion SEL
Vehicle class: 4-door sedan.
Power: 2.3L, L4 DOHC engine.
Mileage: 20 city / 29 highway.
Where built: Hermosillo, Mexico .
Base price: $19,785.

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