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Old 02-16-2007, 01:14 AM   #1
NYCshopper
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Default Test Drive: 2007 Ford Fusion SEL V6 AWD (CanadianDriver.com)

Test Drive: 2007 Ford Fusion SEL V6 AWD (CanadianDriver.com)

http://www.canadiandriver.com/testdr...fusion_awd.htm



Quote:
Introduced in October of 2005 as a 2006 model, the mid-size Fusion sedan ostensibly replaced the Taurus, even though the Taurus continued to be sold until the end of the 2006 model year. The Taurus name lives on however: the larger Ford Five-Hundred sedan will be re-styled and re-named the Taurus for the 2008 model year.

The Fusion has been given some important upgrades for the 2007 model year - notably standard side air bags and side curtain airbags on all trim levels, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a better audio system with satellite radio and auxiliary input jack, and an alarm system. As well, uplevel Fusion SEL models add heated side mirrors with 'puddle' lamps, an electro-chromatic rearview mirror, a compass, and automatic headlights, and are now available with an optional DVD navigation system. Despite all the extra standard equipment, 2007 base prices have risen by only $300-$700.

Perhaps the most significant upgrade for 2007 is the availability of all-wheel drive. It's an option on Fusion SE and SEL sedans when equipped with the 3.0-litre V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission - in other words, you can't get AWD with the base 2.3-litre four-cylinder powerplant with either five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.

All-wheel drive adds about $2,000 to the price of a front-wheel drive SE V6 or SEL V6 model, a reasonable price upgrade considering the extra safety advantages. MSRPs for 2007 Fusion SE AWD models start at $28,999, and SEL V6 AWD models start at $30,799. That's competitive pricing when you consider that the only other mid-size AWD sedan on the market starting under $30,000 is the Subaru Legacy which has a much less powerful four-cylinder engine. More AWD competitors are on the horizon: Dodge is planning an AWD version of the new mid-size Avenger later this year which will most likely have a V6 engine.

Standard and optional equipment

For under $30,000, the 2007 Ford Fusion SE V6 AWD model is well equipped and seems like a good value: standard features include the 221-hp 3.0-litre V6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch tires and alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, traction control, side and curtain airbags, fog lights, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite radio with six speakers, heated mirrors, cruise control, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, tilt/telescopic steering column, six-way power driver's seat, 60/40 folding rear bench seat, floor mats, and variable intermittent wipers.

The SEL V6 AWD model adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, single zone automatic climate control, premium cloth seats, wood or piano black interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, six-CD/MP3 player and satellite radio, and speed-sensitive wipers.

My test car was an SEL V6 AWD model with most of the available options: power moonroof ($1,150), leather seats ($1,205), premium audiophile system ($200), DVD-based navigation system ($2,300), and rear spoiler ($300) for a total as-tested price of $35,854 plus a $1,250 Freight charge and $100 federal air conditioning tax.

Interestingly, the base price of my SEL V6 AWD car listed on the Ford pricing sheet is $30,699, but a check of the Ford.ca web site this week shows the base price as $30,799. These small, mid-year price increases are quite common in the industry, but rarely announced

Driving impressions

As the main difference between my test car and most Fusions is the all-wheel drive system, I decided to head up to the Cypress Bowl ski area near Vancouver to see how the car would perform in the snow. The Fusion's all-wheel drive system is the 'on-demand' kind that runs in front-wheel drive in optimal driving situations (to maximize fuel economy), and redirects some of the torque to the rear wheels via an electronic clutch when accelerating or when the front wheels start to slip. A computer controller monitors such things as steering angle, accelerator pedal position and engine speed to provide adjust torque, front to rear, as needed. When accelerating on dry pavement, for example, more torque is directed to the rear wheels to lessen torque steer and allow greater steering control and improved acceleration. On slippery roads, if the front wheels begin to spin, more torque goes to the rear wheels to improve traction, stability and steering control. The Fusion's AWD system is fully automatic, requiring no engagement by the driver, but unlike some AWD systems available in crossovers and SUVs, there is no centre differential lock to provide a fixed 50/50 front/rear torque distribution.

On a snow packed parking lot with temperatures hovering around minus five-degrees Celsius, I performed some standing start acceleration runs, quick S-turns, and sudden stops to see how much better the AWD model is than the front-wheel drive Fusion. My test car was equipped with standard Michelin Pilot MXV4 P225/50VR-17-inch all-season radials, so I wasn't expecting great grip in the white stuff. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the car's traction and stability while cornering. Entering a corner, there was some 'ploughing' or understeer, but I found better steering control and improved traction and stability through the corner, and less oversteer when exiting a corner.

Under acceleration, the front wheels don't spin like they do in a front-wheel drive Fusion (with the traction control turned off), nor hesitate (as they would with the traction control turned on). In everyday winter driving, the main benefits of AWD appear to be improved traction and stability when accelerating and cornering. However, I found no improvement when braking in a straight line, notwithstanding the fact that the Fusion's standard anti-lock brakes and powerful four-wheel disc brakes do provide improved steering control when braking on slippery surfaces. Since my car had all-season tires, I can comfortably give all of the credit for the increased traction and performance to the AWD system.

The downside to all-wheel drive in any car is increased vehicle weight and poorer fuel consumption, usually around 5% to 15% worse than front-wheel drive. The 2007 Fuel Consumption Guide released by Natural Resources Canada lists the Fusion SEL V6 AWD as 12.6/8.2 L/100 km city/hwy, and the Fusion SEL V6 FWD with 11.7/7.7 L/100 km city/hwy - that's roughly a 6% difference. As usual though, those figures are very optimistic. My onboard fuel economy readout showed 14.4 L/100 km in mostly city winter driving. Fortunately, it uses Regular Unleaded fuel.

In general, the Fusion is a well balanced car, with a comfortable ride and competent handling. Its fully independent suspension smooths out the bumps and improves vehicle stability and control on rough roads, and the low profile Michelin Pilot 17-inch tires on the SEL model provide good grip on dry and wet roads.

The Fusion's optional 221-hp 3.0-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 engine is very responsive in city and highway driving situations, and the new six-speed automatic is quiet and smooth with good kickdown performance when merging on to the freeway. It doesn't have a manual mode, but I don't think many people will miss it. At freeway speeds, the engine is very quiet, doing only 1,900 rpm at 100 km/h in sixth gear.

There is very little wind noise either - the loudest noise on the highway is the tires. This contrasts with the four-cylinder Fusion SE which has a noisier and less powerful engine, according to CanadianDriver Contributing Editor, Chris Chase (see www.canadiandriver.com/articles/cc/06fusion.htm )

The Fusion's standard speed-sensing rack and pinion power steering is nicely weighted for city or freeway driving, and the Fusion tracks well at high speed. However, the Fusion SEL's turning diameter of 12.2 metres (40 ft.) is quite wide, making it less manoeuvrable in tight spaces.

Overall, I found the Fusion SEL V6 AWD to be a comfortable, easy car to drive with the added security and stability of the AWD system on slippery roads.

Interior impressions

The Fusion is a roomy mid-size sedan, with decent front and rear legroom for four or five adults. The dark interior plastics, (optional) black leather seats, and dark 'piano black' dash trim in my test car were a bit sombre to my eyes, but other interior colours and warmer woodgrain trim are available. I liked the attractive metal rimmed gauges, centre clock, and the white double stitching on the leather seats and steering wheel, and the general layout and functionality of the controls.

My top-of-the-line SEL model had a supportive leather driver's seat with power height, fore-aft, and cushion tilt and manual lumbar adjustments. (The front passenger seat has power fore-aft and recline functions.) A tilt/telescopic steering wheel is standard, making it easy to find a good driving position.

Visibility for the driver is good although I wouldn't bother ordering that optional rear spoiler - the trunk is already high enough.

The optional navigation system ($2,300) includes a centre touch screen that can be used to operate the navigation system, radio and CD player, and adjust vehicle settings. The touch screen is easy to use but I found the screen too small and low down on the centre stack. And each time the car is started, the driver must press "I agree" to a statement that the system won't be operated while driving. That's a pain.

The optional audiophile sound system ($200) includes two more speakers and a digital signal processor for improved sound and plays CDs and MP3s. New Fusions come with a six-month subscription to Sirius satellite radio's 110 channels, but after that you're on your own.

My SEL model car also had automatic climate control which warmed up the interior quickly and kept the windows clear, but doesn't include separate temperature adjustments for the driver and front passenger. However, there are separate seat heaters, with High and Low heat settings, for the driver and passenger. Interestingly, the steering wheel also has controls for fan speed and temperature.

An "Info" button in the centre stack operates the digital display between the tachometer and speedometer: it shows Average Fuel Economy, Distance to Empty, trip odometer, average speed, clock, and compass.

Storage spaces include a covered bin on top of the dash, a small storage slot and 12-volt powerpoint at the bottom of the centre stack, and a dual-level storage bin between the front seats that has a 12-volt powerpoint and auxiliary power jack inside it. There are also front door pockets, two front cupholders, and a rear centre armrest storage.

The new fold-flat front passenger seatback adds extra cargo versatility to the Fusion. Combined with 60/40 split folding seatbacks (released using levers inside the trunk), the Fusion can now carry items over six feet long. The 15.6 cu. ft. trunk itself is spacious and fully lined with hinge struts that won't get in the way of your luggage.

Now standard with side airbags in the front seats, and side curtain airbags for both rows of passengers, the new Fusion offers a big upgrade in safety. My only safety concern is that the two rear head restraints are fixed, not height adjustable.

Verdict

A comfortable, roomy family car, the 2007 Ford Fusion V6 is now available with all-wheel drive which adds a significant degree of winter driving safety for a very reasonable premium of about $2,000. The addition of standard side and curtain airbags for 2007 is also a big plus. Negatives include a wide turning circle, and ugly rear taillights.

Pricing: 2007 Ford Fusion SEL V6 AWD

Base price: $30,699
Options: $5,155 (Power moonroof, $1,150; leather seats, $1,205; premium audiophile system, $200; DVD navigation system, $2,300; rear spoiler, $300)
Freight: $1,250
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $37,204 (Canadian Dollars)












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Old 02-16-2007, 01:15 AM   #2
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