Monday, April 12, 2010

Ford Fusion

So we're in Pennsylvania for a few days, and I rented a car. Being a cheap bastard, I rented on price as always, but as it happens Alamo had a promo for their "Standard" class for the weekend and I got a good deal on a 4-cylinder Ford Fusion. After 2 days, I really only have 2 substantive complaints about it, which I'll get to at the end.

This car represents a tremendous leap forward in American mid-size cars. I'd say I haven't driven another mid-sized American in years, but in fact a few months ago I had the distinct displeasure of getting stuck with a Sebring by Enterprise. The Sebring was frankly awful... I drove more pleasing cars in the 1990s and belittled them. Even near-oblivion is barely an excuse for producing such a vile piece of shit and trying to sell it as a modern car.

The Fusion is surprisingly solid, quiet, stable and responsive. The steering is weighted well, the brakes are linear and easy to modulate. I do think the brakes start to grab with barely any pedal travel, but that's something I got used to in the first day and it hasn't been a problem... I'll probably think my Legacy's pedal travel is too long the first couple of times I stop when I get home. The seats are firm and comfortable, and there's plenty of room in the back seat and the trunk. If I needed such a car, I would actually consider the Fusion and I the last time I thought about owning a Ford in that size class, it was the original edition of the SHO.

There is some downside, though. A minor prejudice on my part is that I think it really needs AWD. I'm quite spoiled to that, and noted that even with the 4-cylinder you can't use all the available power until the car really gets moving or the tires will spin and howl. It's available with AWD, though I don't know how well Ford's system works.

More of a problem to normal people is the ergonomic disaster of secondary controls. There's a big field of black buttons on a black background with small white labels that are easily readable WHEN PARKED, but if you actually need to adjust something while the car is moving it requires entirely too much attention. Changing HVAC settings requires a reach well below the height of the shifter, and requires diverting ones attention far from the road. Perhaps with SYNC you can voice-command some or all of this, but my rental is not so equipped so I've no real idea.

One final nit I'll pick is the shifter. This is the first automatic-transmission shifter I've ever experienced that requires a button press to move it from Drive to Neutral. It will freely slide from Neutral to Drive without pushing the lockout button, however, which seems ass-backwards to me. If you're going to lock it in one direction, it should restrict an accidental shift INTO drive but facilitate a panic shift into Neutral, especially in this Age of Unintended Acceleration. I have stated many times while people whinge about killer cars that I have never experienced a car that requires anything but a slap to shift from Drive to Neutral, but I know now that such cars exist. I'm still not sure that absolves people of the responsibility of shifting to Neutral if the throttle sticks open, but it's not quite as trivial as I'd believed in some cars, and the Fusion will happily slip into Reverse from Neutral *WITHOUT* pressing the lockout button, so people might be afraid of accidentally engaging Reverse and try to avoid shifting to Neutral even when it's called for in an emergency.


Scott said...

great discussion. I enjoyed that.

Scott said...

You will not be reviewing the Challenger R/T. You don't have the ponycar brain circuit and you'd rip it apart.

I do ask myself every day, "why does anybody need a car this fast?"

KPC said...

Mercedes doesn't lockout R-N-D/D-N-R shifts either.
They also don't require you press the brake pedal, just for P-R. This is true on floor or column shift.
Its actually nice for parking. They are so easy to drive and park and turn. I'm sure the German Mother-In-Law feature is not far away. A stern, annoying voice coming from the rear speakers with a phrase like "He dumm! Lohnaufmerksamkeit zur Stra├če! Sie gehen zu schnell! Ich werde carsick sein!"

DKB said...

KPC: I think leaving it open between R-N-D in either direction is fine, but it was WEIRD to realize I had to push the button to get it out of Drive. I think that's a mistake on Ford's part, but it says something about the quality of the Fusion that it was the only huge complaint I had, the ergonomics kvetching is pretty minor.

DKB said...

Scott: re: the "ponycar brain circuit" do you mean that I am not willing to forgive a modern company producing a modern car for making dumb concessions to nostalgia that compromise the quality and utility of the vehicle? If so, you're probably right. If I were going to buy one of the 3, I think the Mustang would be the best bet since it's the least-heavy and has the best power to weight ratio (and Ford is on a roll lately.) The 2011 GT will have a 5.0 with displacement that actually rounds to 5 liters.

I'll stick with my warp-drive wagon for a few years more.

Scott said...

Ah but the looks of the retro pony car do matter. If you walk into the garage every day and just sort of grin when you look at it, then I believe this to be relevant. It is nearly an intangible.