Ford, Road Test Reviews

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6 – Road Test

2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6 -

The Ford Fusion is a serious competitor to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Inside, it’s plush, sporty and extremely comfortable, and on the outside I think it’s a very good-looking car. In black, it looks very classy and rich. Like the competition, it comes in 4 cylinder and V-6 configurations with an automatic transmission. A manual transmission is only available with the 4-banger. I had a Ford Contour back in the ‘90’s which had a V-6/manual transmission combination and it was a blast to drive – unfortunately we don’t often get that combo in North America for the Fusion – pity.

First Impressions
I found the seat difficult to adjust and get comfortable with. The driver’s seat is power-adjustable on the seat cushion, but manual on the backrest and lumbar adjustments. Getting the back and lumbar adjusted right was very easy, but it took me forever to get the tilt/height and pitch of the lower part of the seat into a comfortable driving position. Once I found the sweet spot it was pretty good and very comfortable, with lots of firm support without feeling like a park bench. Unfortunately every time I got in the car I had to tweak the seat as if it had changed overnight. Fortunately, my wife and I never have to move a car seat whenever the other one drives it, but this could be a real pain for people that have other family members who have to change the seat adjustments, or if it goes in for a service and the mechanic moves it. Then you’re back to square-one with trying to find the comfort spot again. Having a memory for it would help – or better still, just make it manually adjustable.

The tilt and telescopic steering wheel is leather-wrapped, and anyone that‘s driven a Ford over the past 10 years will be familiar with the look of the steering wheel. On the wheel are the stereo controls, cruise control and the climate control fan speed/temperature setting. The steering is solid and has a heavy feel to it – something I like, although my wife felt it was sometimes too heavy at parking lot speeds.

When I first tried to use the turn signal I reached for it with my left fingers and couldn’t touch it! I thought “Bloody ‘ell, you’d have to be Edward Scissorhands to operate this!” It wasn’t until the next night that I figured out the problem – the stalk was pushed forward in the high-beams position. Once I’d pulled it back – having blinded the oncoming car, it was fine. However, this became an ongoing problem all week. Reaching to use the signals sent the lever out of reach again (at night this meant blinding other drivers) and at other times the wipers would come on! It’s way too sensitive and really is a pain in the butt. Ford aren’t the only manufacturer that’s switched back to everything on the one stalk, it’s becoming more and more common this year. I wish they’d all just go back to putting turn signals on the left stalk and wipers on a separate stalk on the right!

The throttle response was sometimes very good and sometimes a little delayed (always delayed off-the-line unless you hammer it!). When shifting from Park to Drive there was a lurch that always caught me off-guard when you released the brake pedal. Stomp on the go pedal, and the Fusion just takes off! It’s a very easy car to drive and it’s very easy to go way over the speed limit without realizing it. It’s fun to drive even though it’s automatic, but I can only imagine how much more fun it would have been if it were available in a manual transmission. This is a car that just loves to be driven, a smooth and powerful engine matched to a near-seamless shifting transmission combined with a very good suspension – the Fusion is a real treat to drive.

Driving on the freeway at speeds in excess of 80mph was both relaxing and surprisingly quiet. Strong crosswinds didn’t upset the car in any way. I always had to keep one eye on the speedometer because I was forever driving well over the speed limit without realizing it. Getting up to highway speed on the on ramp was a breeze, on one occasion I had to brake to enter the freeway because I was going so fast!

The dashboard layout is very nice and everything is legible and straightforward. The test vehicle had the optional dark charcoal leather seating which went nicely with the black exterior. The face of the center console was covered in a “piano black” glossy material, adding another classy touch to the interior. It was much nicer than if it had been that awful fake wood that so many cars get cursed with. Also in the center console was a real clock with hands even! Nice touch – too bad we couldn’t see more of those in cars instead of having the clock buried in the sound system.

Speaking of the sound system. The optional Audiophile sound system at $366 [$695 Cdn] was installed in the Fusion. It’s an 8-speaker, in-dash 6-disc CD/ MP3 unit. How can I say this nicely? It sucks! Well maybe not the unit, but certainly the speakers. I put my Gorillaz CD in, and I thought the trunk lit was going to vibrate off the car. It wasn’t even up loud, it just can’t handle any bass what-so-ever. Have you ever heard one of those souped-up junkers driven by a 16-year-old, with a very loud and very bad stereo … the one where you hear the car vibrating before you hear the music? That’s what it sounded like from inside the Fusion. Even with the radio or a less bass-intensive CD, it was impossible to turn the stereo up very loud. I don’t think the speakers were the sole problem in this case as the whole trunk area of the car emphasized the sound, so that has to be partly to blame also. It’s too bad, because it looked good in the car – although the unit itself was not the easiest to use. Adding an aftermarket sound system may eliminate the use of the steering wheel controls for the audio system, and that would be a bummer, but it would be cheaper and a lot better than this system. It’s strange, because the audio system in the Sport Trac was exceptionally good and about the same price – why not use that unit?

Just below the stereo system is the climate control, and wouldn’t you know it – it was nearly perfect! It was buttons instead of dials, but it was very easy to operate and set and forget – but once again – any time you make an adjustment from perhaps changing the air from blowing in your eyes to your feet, then the system goes into semi-automatic. Who made the decision in Automotiveland that Air Conditioning had to blast at your eyes? Ford aren’t the only company to do this, so I’m not pointing the finger at them, but just who was this person?

The Fusion’s back seat area is very large and accommodating. The doors open wide and entry and exit is superb. The rear seat is very comfortable and splits 60/40 and has a pass through for long items like skis. There’s plenty of leg, knee and foot space. Hip, shoulder and headroom is also very generous. With a flat floor 3 people would fit in the rear comfortably, 2 would be luxurious.

The Fusion comes in three variations in Canada (4-cylinder SE & SEL and a V-6 SEL) and five variations in the U.S. (4-cylinder S, SE & SEL and a V-6 SE, SEL). Standard features include: height adjustable and heated front seats, 6-way power driver’s seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, an AM/FM 6-disc in-dash stereo system that reads MP3 encoded CD‘s, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD, 16” steel wheels, message centre with outside temperature gauge/ trip computer, block heater, dual exhaust, keyless entry, power heated side mirrors, speed sensitive windshield wipers, Air, rear arm rest and SecuriLock anti theft system. The SEL adds: fog lamps, color-keyed mirrors with puddle lamps, 17” aluminum wheels, automatic climate control, analog clock, leather wrapped steering wheel with temp/speed control for the climate control system.

The base engine is a 2.3 litre inline 4, with the optional 3.0 litre V-6, both featuring dual overhead cams, 4 valves per cylinder and Variable Cam Timing (I-VCT). The four cylinder delivers 160 hp / 156 lb.-ft torque and you get the choice between a 5-speed standard or automatic transmission. Stepping up to the 221 hp V-6 / 205 lb.-ft torque gives you a 6-speed automatic. Later this year or early next year Ford will offer an All-Wheel Drive system as an option on the Fusion.

The Black test vehicle came with 3 options (the only option available, but missing was the power moon roof) that added to the base price of $21,710 ($28,299 Cdn): the Enhanced Safety Package (side curtain airbags/front-seat side airbags and an anti-theft perimeter alarm), Leather Seating and the Audiophile Sound System.

On the safety side, as mentioned previously the Fusion comes with dual-stage airbags, pre-tensioner and force limiting seat belts, Traction Control, ABS with EBD, and an engine immobilizer. The front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain air bags came in the optional Enhanced Safety Package.

I liked the Fusion a lot. It’s powerful and responsive and it’s fun to drive. Its fuel economy is good, its roomy, very classy and a great looking car. However, it had a lot of annoying little things that bugged me, but might not bug other people. For example, the interior lights. The light is back in the rear area of the car – there’s no lights or map lights for the front passenger/driver. I could maybe accept this if it had the moon roof, but other manufacturers can put in a moonroof and lights for the front of the vehicle – in fact Ford do a good job with the Focus in this regard! The seat is a pain to get comfortable with and should be re-thought. The cup holders between the front seats are great, but the ones in the door pockets are useless and the car would have been better served if they were eliminated and a more useful door pocket would have resulted. For me personally, the driver’s seat was a deal-breaker but my wife didn’t have a problem with it. Other than those little things I’d highly recommend the Fusion.

Basic coverage and roadside assistance for 3 years, Corrosion and Powertrain for 5 years.
Towing capacity is 1,000 lbs.

Pricing for the 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6
As tested: $ 23,565 [$31,094 Cdn]
Base price for the V-6 starts at: $20,625 [$28,299 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption: [Regular]
The 3.0L, 221 HP V-6 is rated at 21 mpg City [11.4 L/100 kms] and 31 mpg Highway [7.4 L/100 kms]
I averaged 20.5 mpg [11.6/100km] in combined driving.

A great drivers car – perfectly matched engine/transmission and suspension
Excellent fit and finish
Looks great

Drivers seat isn’t up to scratch with the rest of the car
No manual transmission with the V6
Stupid turn signal/high beam stalk
The audio system

Would I Spend My Money On It?:
No. I really liked it a lot, but didn’t love it. The driver’s seat would be the breaking point for me.

Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
“Surprisingly comfortable with plenty legroom, I can almost cross my legs back here!” “Plenty of room – even for tall people.” “The seat back angle is perfect and very comfortable. Getting in and out is easy too.”

Immediate Competition:
Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G6, Chrysler Sebring, Mitsubishi Galant, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Magentis, Mazda6, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Suzuki Verona, VW Jetta/Passat

By The Numbers…
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
8 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
7 – Special Features (Sat Nav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)

10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
7 – Driving Position/Controls

9 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
7 – Bang for the $$
8 – Fuel Economy

136 Total / 150

Copyright © 2006 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

Also Published at: PaddockTalk