Back in San Francisco, while we were attempting to see just how open an open bar can be, I was invited to sit next to the very calm and cool FoMoCoBro, Alan D. Hall. Poor Mr. Hall. While it's true I clean up reasonably well in a blazer for these types of occasions, I've also played Gilman Street more times than any other auto journo working today. I'm a punk at heart. Start pouring gratis, double-gin martinis down my throat and I can be a dungeon-dwelling asshole.
It was Hall's intention to ascertain my impression of the new Ford Edge we'd just beaten up and down Marin County. "Why can't Ford finish a car?" I berated. "Why does the Mustang have such awful brakes? Why is the Freestyle so lame looking? What's up with the Focus? Why is the Fusion so born-to-rent?" Hall really is one of the nicest guys working the public relations circuit, and yet I was sure he was ready to throw a left hook. He should have. But, being a true professional he calmly said, "I have a car for you. We're going to put you in a manual Fusion with the I4." Three weeks later, he did.
The most important quality of the base Fusion is its weight. It's really, really light. At 3,101 lbs., it weighs 46 pounds less than a Corvette Z06, yet seats five adults rather well (and has a trunk large enough for three more). But despite that its zero-to-60 number is nearly three times greater than the Vette's, the Fusion pays massive, grin-inducing dividends where it really counts — in the corners.
This, the cheapest of all possible Fusion models, is the best handling Ford on the road today. Sporting double wishbones up front and a multilink independent setup out back, it has one of the best suspension setups around. The Fusion is agile, precise, neutral and quite predictable. In most driving conditions, dreaded (and dangerous) understeer fails to materialize, an unexpected pleasure for a wrong-wheel-driver. Act like a hoon-hole and the front-end can go loose, but that's easily defeated with a quick brake stab. I even managed a little oversteer, but that involved some parking-brake action and I've already said too much.
All the Fusion's handling sweetness is enhanced by its standard five-speed manual. I'd never have guessed one of the world's most expertly engineered clutches could be found in a Ford. Yet, there it is, perfectly weighted, with just the right amount of travel, and it handles dumps like a teamster.
The other two pedals, not so much. Facilitating heel-and-toe driving was obviously not an engineering parameter. While in gear, it's possible to move the floppy stick around a few inches left and right. Notwithstanding such less-than-precise engineering, the whole package is a hell of a lot of fun, and it returns around 34 mpg at 80 mph, too. (And if it had a sixth gear, it would likely get 40 mpg.) Alan, you know me too well.
Jalopnik Reviews: 2007 Ford Edge, Special He Drove / He Drove Edition, Part 1 [internal]