Now in its third year of production, the 2008 Ford Fusion continues along its difficult road to dethrone the current kings of the midsize sedan kingdom. This is, of course, an arduous task. While my impression of my tester last year was pretty good, I couldn't help but feel that there is still more work ahead if the Ford folks really plan to lead the market in the way they did during the Taurus years. Last year's tester was the loaded V6 featuring AWD. This time, it was a different story. My tester came with leather seats, premium aluminum wheels, and heated seats and … the standard four-cylinder engine.
For all you gearheads, who undoubtedly breathed a collective moan of disgust, I'm afraid I don't have exciting news about a new nitrous kit for the four cylinder models. That's just not how it works. The 160 horsepower that this little 2.3-liter powerplant can muster is just about as exciting as you might expect. It's not going to wow you in a stoplight brawl. But, hey, considering our ever-escalating-gas prices, 29 mpg on the highway could be enough to convince you to give this thing a chance.
Okay, here's the part where I rave about the Fusion. I was not sure if it was because last year's V6-powered tester didn't have low profile tires, or what, but it wasn't a standout in this department. But, this year's four-banger Fusion came with big wheels and low profile performance tires, which not only looked very cool, but also aided getting around the twisties. The Fusion features a nice sporty suspension and firm ride, but it's not too firm. My pregnant wife actually had to remind me several times during our week with the Fusion that we were carrying precious cargo more than once when cornering opportunities presented themselves.
I guess I've always been stubborn, but the exterior look of the Fusion has finally won me over. It probably didn't hurt that my tester was black. I'm such a sucker for a black car. Its' 18' wheels were also really attractive pieces that not only looked sporty, but their gun-metal gray hue looked superb against the black paint. Inside, my Fusion came with black leather seats with fire-engine red inserts that are new for 2008. I'm pretty sure a car has to have at least 300 horsepower to get away with that. Otherwise, this Fusion had a surprisingly upscale feel for a car under twenty-five grand.
To my surprise, it was easy to find things to like about this Fusion despite the powerplant under the hood. Further, with $4.00 per gallon gas on the horizon, this Fusion's better gas mileage could be its most attractive selling point.