By Alex Kramer
- Responsive 240 hp V6 engine
- Capable chassis and suspension
- Roomy and comfortable interior
- Good value
- Some chintzy interior plastics
- Exterior design still needs work
- Disappointing fuel efficiency
Trivia question: Which manufacturer produced the best-selling car in America 15 years ago? If you’re thinking Honda or Toyota, guess again. Although it seems hard to believe, given the recent collapse of the US auto industry, in 1994 the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable reigned supreme, proving that America could beat the foreign competition and build a top-rated, best-selling family sedan.
Unfortunately for Ford, the Taurus/Sable lineup gradually lost its edge and by the late 1990’s Honda and Toyota had firmly re-established their dominance in the market for mid-sized sedans, and it’s been a Camry and Accord love fest every since. Fast forward 10 years and it looks like Ford is finally ready to reclaim its title as the go-to manufacturer for quality family transportation. With the refreshed 2010 Fusion, Ford has an appealing mid-sized sedan that should make the competition more than a little nervous.
When the Fusion was introduced several years ago, the initial reviews revealed a capable chassis that was unfortunately married to a pair of underachieving engines. Both the base 2.3 liter 4-cylinder engine and the optional 3.0 liter V6 were less than inspiring, especially compared to the competition’s higher output 4 and 6 cylinder motors. To remedy this deficiency, Ford offers three new engine options for the 2010 Fusion, including a larger 2.5L 4-cylinder as the base engine and optional 3.0L and 3.5L V6 engines, the latter of which is only available in the Fusion Sport.
Our Fusion SEL test car featured the optional 3.0 L V6, which now puts out a healthy 240 hp and 228 lb-ft torque. This is a capable engine that easily gets the Fusion up to speed and provides plenty of power for passing or merging. Although not quite as quick as the larger 3.5 L V6 engines now found in most mid-sized sedans, this engine impressed us with its peppiness and it should satisfy all but the truly power obsessed. The V6 comes paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission that upshifts quickly and crisply, especially when accelerating hard, although downshifts are a bit on the clunky side. The transmission works well to keep the engine happy and features a manual mode should you want to do the gear changing yourself.
About the only major performance letdown is less than impressive fuel efficiency. Our mileage over the course of several hundred miles of mixed driving hovered in the low 20s, which is not significantly better than most larger V6 engines, and the Fusion does sacrifice a few horsepower due to its smaller displacement engine. Even Ford’s own 3.5L engine gets pretty much the same mileage, making us wonder why Ford even offers the smaller engine.
The Fusion is based on the first generation Mazda 6 chassis and has luckily inherited lots of zoom-zoom from its corporate sibling. The chassis is plenty stiff and the suspension is dialed, balancing handling and ride quality like a more expensive European sports sedan. Take the Fusion out for an afternoon of spirited driving in the hills and you’ll come away with a big smile on your face. Even without the stiffer suspension of the Sport model, the Fusion is quite the driver’s car, something that can’t be said for many mid-sized sedans.
Our test car came with optional 18” wheels shod with low-profile Goodyear all-season tires. Although summer tires would have given the Fusion even more bravado when carving a corner, the unassuming Goodyears provide surprisingly good grip. They will start to squeal like a pig when pushed hard, but even then the car remains quite manageable. Perhaps the one area Ford could improve to make the handling even better are the brakes, which are adequate but not spectacular.
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