Yesterday, I visited a local Ford dealer, planning on looking at the new Taurus if they had it. They didn't, so I looked at the 2010 Mustangs, looking for a GT with the Track package that has gotten so much attention lately, including a Car and Driver comparison test win. No luck there, either, but every '10 GT that had a manual also had the 3.73 final drive.
Then my attention turned to the 2010 Fusions in the dealer stock. There was a Hybrid or two, at least two Sports, and a black Fusion SE with a 6 speed manual and a sunroof. The first thing I noticed about this car was the grille. The new three bar grille design dominates the front of the car, in a good way, I think. The 17 inch wheels on the car I drove were of the style copied closely from the European Mondeo, and look pretty good.
It was inside the car that most of the attention has been paid, anyway. Inside this car, it is not so easy to believe you're in the second cheapest Fusion model. The eyes fall on a variety of accents in faux aluminum and real chrome moving from the dash to the console, rather than the usual festival of nothing. Velour being out of style these days, the Fusion interior cloth is similar to that used in some other mid size sedans, a durable feeling cloth that actually has a slightly coarse texture to it. The new Fusion interior gets one thing right the Malibu doesn't. When your elbow comes in contact with the door armrest, it comes up against something relatively soft. Actually, that's something that a 40K Chrysler Sebring convertible got wrong.
One ergonomic glitch to the cabin, though. In fiddling with the lighting for the instrument display, I accidentally turned on the interior lights, meaning the map lights, mainly. It took a bit to figure out what had happened, and the salesman thought that at least one door was, somehow, still open. Once we figure this out, we were off.
The first time I drove a Fusion, I knew I was in danger of running off with this car the first time I put hands on the gearshift lever. Not much has changed here, even though the Passat I drive makes a short shift kit redundant. The six speed was very accurate, and I'm sure the salesman didn't notice me dropping three gears on a heel and toe downshift. The engine is very quiet, only really making itself known when the accelerator is mashed to the floor. While most people will appreciate this, I'm not so sure I do.
Here's where I'd have to disagree with our motoring press, though. They complained about a soft ride, but that was not what I noticed with this car. It was firm, but not harsh, and a perfectly good idea when most of my test drive was on back roads, much of if on older, crowned macadam roads of the sort where you can barely get by with a school bus on the other lane.
I did get to put it through a few corners, finding good path accuracy, and steering that filters out some of the bad news, while leaving a decent amount of feel. Beyond that, well, we have reached the point with modern cars that if you find the limits on public roads, even in a car like this, there are flashing blue lights in your future and probably with guns drawn.
There was one quality glitch in this car, unfortunately. The top part of the shift lever knob actually came off in my hand at first touch. Other than that, I saw nothing to worry about on the matter of quality. I told the salesman that it was a good functional replacement for my current car, should I choose to replace the Passat with another mid-size sedan. It is a good car for someone who wants or needs four doors, enjoys the act of driving, and still enjoys a car with some style.