In the january ipad issue, I wrote the following about the Frankfurt concept car used as a teaser for the critically important production Ford Fusion/Mondeo: "I harbor a hope that the production Ford to be shown in Detroit two months after this is written will be even better than the Evos--and a worry that it won't be as good. Whichever it is, we'll be stuck with it for a while, because once the presses start stamping, it'll be a long time until anything can change." The definitive Fusion is now here, and it does not enjoy better styling than the Evos, but it's as good, in a less spectacular way. I'm very happy to see an excellent mainstream Ford sedan, probably the best since the brilliant original Taurus a quarter century ago.
I have usually found Ford sedans to be rather so-so. The 1937 model, with its built-in headlights, was terrific for the time, despite Model T engineering. It was the precursor for all the round-back Fords up until 1949 (and for the Chrysler PT Cruiser). I thought the 1940 model very nice and the 1949 "box" car terrific, but then there was a long period of mediocre T-square and straight-edge styling. This Fusion is definitely a superior mass-market car, certainly better-styled than the Chevrolet Malibu, the Chrysler 200, or any of its Japanese competitors.
The Fusion is no doubt the best sedan done under the J Mays styling regime, and Mays is justifiably proud of it. He and I sat in one perched on a roundtable at the Detroit show for about forty-five minutes, enjoying a view of another one as we talked. I didn't much enjoy the interior, which is not at all exciting, however competently done it is. But I did get the biggest thrill of the year when we were discussing the start/stop button on the dash and Mays told me to push it to see if it would light up the central-console display. It did, but it also started the engine, shocking both of us. Usually cars in an auto show are drained of fuel, the relevant fuses pulled, and they're safely inert.
Fortunately for both of us, the gearbox was in Park and we did not rocket off the stand and crash nose-down into the Press Day crowd.
After reflection, all I really have to criticize about the interior is the monotonous lack of color, the endless grayness (or, I was told, there's endless beige as an alternative). Fords are highly respected by the European motoring press for their handling and all-around on-road competence, and their gasoline and diesel engines are definitely on par with competitors. I know from experience that the gasoline engine starts instantly even when cold and that the diesels, developed in partnership with Peugeot, one of the two pioneers in automotive diesel applications (Mercedes-Benz is the other), are on par with their European competitors. Good for Ford.