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2008 Ford Fusion SEL: The right car for Ford's financial future

Ford’s Fusion is exactly the kind of car Ford needs to build if it wants to regain financial health. The 2008 Ford Fusion is a car that does everything well, but it’s more than just a competent appliance, it’s pleasurable to drive. Note, we said pleasurable, not fun.

That statement isn’t meant as a backhanded compliment, it’s just that although the Fusion has a pretty sporty appearance it’s not a sports sedan — and that’s fine. Lots of people want a comfortable, competent, safe car that does everything asked of it at an affordable price. That’s the 2008 Fusion SEL AWD.

Walkaround: The Fusion is one of the most handsome examples of Ford’s new look. It makes good use of the new wide grille bar theme without looking like a truck. Styling is a nice compromise between conservative and sporty. The Fusion is available in S, SE, and SEL trim levels in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.

Interior: The interior is where you spend all your time and that’s a nice place to be in the Fusion. It’s roomy front and rear with wide, supportive seats. We drove a leather-equipped SEL. The thick steering wheel has audio, cruise and climate controls. The column tilts and telescopes. Interior storage is more than ample as is trunk space.

Under The Hood: The Fusion shares its basic platform and mechanicals with the Mazda 6, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ. The two engine choices are a 160 hp 2.3-liter I4 and a 221 hp 3.0-liter V6. The four-cylinder is available with either a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. The V6 has a 6-speed automatic. The V6 is the engine to get.

We tested an AWD model with traction control and ABS. It’s a seamless system that’s excellent for the wet weather driving conditions of the Pacific Northwest.

The Duratec engine is smooth and the transmission does a fine job of keeping the engine in its most effective power band. Highway mpg can be as high as the mid-twenties, but real world combined driving figures are more in the high teens to low twenties. That’s very respectable for a car this roomy and solid.

Behind The Wheel: The 2008 Ford Fusion is the kind of car you could drive all day and not complain. It’s smooth, comfortable, spacious, quiet, and easy to operate. It’s not quick enough or stiff enough to qualify as sporty, but it’s a long ways from sloppy. It’s a responsive car, but not demanding. It’s a nice place to be during high-tension rush hour traffic.

Whines: There’s very little to complain about. We thought the navigation was pricy at $1895 and the AWD makes tight parking spaces a little more difficult to maneuver.

Bottom line: We liked the Fusion SEL so much that we steered our mother-in-law toward one. Mother-in-law recommendations are not to be taken lightly. She is so pleased that she influenced several friends to buy Fusions or Milans. That’s exactly the kind of positive momentum Ford needs.

 
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