2009 Ford Fusion SEL AWD

It was a bit odd driving the 2009 Ford Fusion on the day that the 2010 Fusion was (partially) revealed at a preview event. We now know that Ford debuted a car without any huge changes at the L.A. auto show in November. And that’s all right; there isn’t much about this Fusion that needs to be changed.

The driving experience is pretty unremarkable, but that’s about par for the mid-size-sedan class. Not tons of power, but I didn’t have to worry about passing pokey drivers on my usual twenty miles of rural roads. The six-speed automatic is pretty smooth, although the fuel-economy numbers aren’t stellar.

I’m really intrigued by the new Fusion’s improved interior. Adding Ford’s new eight-inch navigation screen and the much-improved interface should resolve most of the current interior’s shortcomings. The additional soft-touch plastics will also be nice. I appreciate the simple layout of the buttons and the controls in this cabin; in that regard, it’s much better than a new Honda Accord.

If you’re looking for a basic sedan with room for a family, this Fusion is a solid choice. The small enhancements in 2010 should strengthen that position and hopefully not elevate the price too much.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

The Fusion debuted in 2005, but it still looks quite fresh. Only a small badge on the rear decklid tells you that this isn’t a regular, front-wheel-drive Fusion. The styling is not as expressive as recently redesigned competitors like the Chevrolet Malibu, but it’s still clean and a bit more interesting to look at than a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry.

The all-wheel-drive setup likewise does not produce big changes in the way the car drives – and that’s also fine. The Fusion, based on the same platform as the Mazda 6, feels smooth yet buttoned down, absorbing bumps with alacrity while maintaining its composure through on-ramps and sudden maneuvers. Steering is a bit heavy and slow, but it is direct and provides a good amount of feedback. The extra driving wheels seem to pay off with more balanced cornering than you’d normally expect from a workaday mid-size sedan. Torque steer is also less pronounced than that of most competitors, but this could just be because the Fusion has less torque on call to begin with. Indeed, the Fusion’s Achilles’ heel remains its engine. The 221-hp V-6 isn’t exactly anemic, but when nearly every mid-size sedan is bringing more than 250 hp to the table, it’s a clear handicap. (Thankfully, the 3.0-liter V-6 in the revised ’10 model will produce 240 hp, while the fresh 3.5-liter option will offer 263 hp.)

No complaints about the Fusion’s interior. Finely stitched black leather seats are nicely bolstered and have adjustable lumbar support. Soft-touch materials aren’t hard to find, while knobs and switchgear all feel even with, if not a notch above, those of class leaders. Our Fusion also has a class-competitive complement of technology, thanks to navigation and Sync. The only annoyance I found inside is the multifunction control stalk, a sort of proto-iDrive that seemingly every automaker save Ford and Chrysler have abandoned. As a result, it’s difficult to signal for a turn without inadvertently spraying windshield washer fluid, flashing your high beams, and generally making a fool of yourself. But that’s a small niggle in an otherwise high-caliber interior.

As surprising as the Fusion is in its composure and overall refinement, perhaps the best thing about this model is that it will soon be earnestly revised. This is a welcome change of strategy from a company that has long been content to release decent cars and then let them rot with no improvements. In the meantime, the current Fusion is a quietly competent alternative to the more ubiquitous segment leaders. It won’t make you think you’re in a sport sedan, but neither will it bring back queasy memories of old Tauruses and Tempos.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

Zenlea, what’s wrong with the old Taurus?! Automobile Magazine once included that car in an epic best-cars-in-the-world test, and it fared quite well … Oh yeah, you’re right: that was back in 1989, and FoMoCo went on to pretty much ride that model into the ground. In today’s unstable economy, however, there’s no time for that, so I’m anxious to see how the updated Fusion will fare against its extremely stiff competition, both domestic and imported.

As Phil and David noted, the current/outgoing Fusion is a good starting point. The interior is much nicer than that of the base Escape that I drove recently, even if it is still lacking a bit in the details. That said, the Fusion is a perfectly decent car that’s comfortable, handles pretty well, and rides OK. I like the styling, too, even though it hasn’t been universally adored. All-wheel drive is a nice option to have, although I’d probably save the money and the weight and buy a good set of winter tires instead. In my mind, however, the ’09 Fusion comes up a bit short of the Chevy Malibu and the Honda Accord. But we’ll see what the 2010 edition truly brings, once we drive it…

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

2009 Ford Fusion SEL AWD

Base Price (with destination): $25,915
Price as tested: $29,490

Voice Activated Nav. System – $1895
Audiophile Sound System – $425
Reverse Sensing – $295
Heated Front Seats – $0
Advance Trac with ESC – $495
Leather Seating – $1190

Fuel Economy: 17 / 25 / 20 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 3.0L V-6
HP: 221 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 205 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed Automatic

Weight: 3325 lb

Wheel/Tire Info:
– 16 x 6.5-inch steel wheels (size)
– P205/60R-16

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