In case you may have missed it back in 2006, Ford released a trio of entries into the uber-boring mid-size sedan category. The just-right-sized triplets were built with the intention of targeting the best in the appliance segment. Alas, sales fell well short of the leaders of the pack — which is why you may not remember. Fast forward to this past week at the LA Auto Show, where Ford dropped cloth on three redesigns for the 2010 Ford Fusion, 2010 Mercury Milan and the 2010 Lincoln MKZ. While the new look on all three may be a "Bold Move™," all three cars retain the old Mazda 6-derived CD3 platform. So our question is – are the changes more than skin deep? Let's find out.

2010 Ford Fusion

As the sales leader of the CD3 triplets, the 2010 Ford Fusion is the most important of the trio and does its best to pave the way for the new European-derived models that Ford plans to have appear shortly (pending any Carpocalypse-related financial troubles) and the new 2010 Ford Taurus we expect to see hit the show floor at the Detroit Auto Show. For starters, the most noticeable changes to the 2010 Fusion happen in the front fascia. Ford designers seem to have tried to split the difference between the "Hi, I'm Dave" bold American design and the more sophisticated Euro Ford styling. They may have failed. Instead, the three bar grille retains the signature best-a-man-can-get look, but does so in a much larger "Hey, look at me, I'm Dave's garish cousin from fake America" fashion. Gone are the simplistic geometric forms, replaced by a swoopy, upswept chrome three bar treatment with a bevel running through the bottom, leading up and over the headlights. The headlights have lost both the squircles and the vertical design from the previous model, replaced by an aggressive horizontal set encompassing a pair of projector lamps.

The hood has now been completely reshaped, taking some of its design from the 2007 Ford Interceptor concept, featuring a simulated high-rise power dome. If there's one design element we truly like, it's the leading edge of the hood, helping the overall front design in its message of strength and sophistication; without it, this design would look contrived and weak. The lower fascia is now comprised of a large central opening flanked by chrome detailing wrapping around the outer edge, giving visual continuity with the upcoming Fiesta small car. The outer surround features an aggressive trapezoidal form diving into the lower fascia opening while housing two small projector fog lamps. The chrome detailing here represents Ford's attempt at heightening the perceived quality of its new mid-size contender. We're not sure why Ford decided to move the side marker lamps lower in the fascia - their placement seems a little haphazard and we would have preferred that they follow the same design as the 2010 Mercury Milan by sitting on the front wheel arch. But whatever, it's an improvement over the Bland Moves of the original Fusion.

The rear end of the 2010 Fusion has the same overall feel of the outgoing 2006-2009 model, but the devil's in the details. The use of existing rear quarter panels dictated the use of a similar shape for the taillights, but the detailing is all new. The dip to the lower lamp surface mimics the dip in the trunk surface and helps lift the rear visually. The taillights have lost the visual depth from the previous model (and the squircles!), but have gained an attractive honeycomb pattern that will help make up the difference.

The trunk surface gains a horizontal bevel that dips to mimic the taillights and borders the new, narrower license plate pocket. Another horizontal line runs through the top surface of the plate pocket and leads into the taillight to provide a resting place for the newly-chromed badge surround with integrated CHMSL.

Ford interior designers for some reason decided the Fusion's interior wasn't in need of a full refresh though the changes made were for the better. By moving the belt line of the IP up, the 2010 Fusion now appears less cramped and more inviting though we're not sure how we feel about the painted accents in the Sport model which remind us more of boy-racers than urban sophisticates. The horizontal break line splitting the top of the center stack reminds us of the horizontal lines of the front and rear, a nice tie-in to the exterior. The center stack now houses new HVAC controls and Ford's awesome SYNC 2.0 multimedia system. The steering wheel is a carryover piece but now features some aluminum bright work to help lessen the visual weight of the overwhelming black plastic.

Easily the coolest part of the 2010 Fusion interior is found in the Hybrid model. The greener-than-gas-alone model features two high resolution LCD displays on either side of the speedometer that give valuable information such as battery power levels, average and instant mpg. Ford really hit a home-run with this display and weíre excited to see future applications of this system.

2010 Mercury Milan

The 2010 Milan takes a subtle approach to its front end sheet metal changes. The waterfall grille is now wider and takes on a trapezoidal form with a large chrome strip on its top edge. An upward facing bevel runs around the lower edge and rises to meet the hood, running rearward to the outer edge of the windshield. The headlights lose their horizontal form from the previous model and now feature an attractive vertical layout flowing downward from the hood. The peak of the front fender runs down to the edge of the lower fascia and wraps rearward to create a small light catcher just before the front wheel arch. The front reflector has moved from the fascia cutline of the previous car to the flat edge of the wheel arch, following in line with the revised vertical headlight design. The lower opening of the fascia is now lower and wider and has two projector fog lamps neatly tucked within. Rear

Differences between the rear design of the outgoing model and the new 2010 Milan are again, very subtle. The use of the existing rear quarter panel once again dictates the outer edge of the tail lights and it seems as if Fordís designers gave up changing the overall form. The carry over trunk surface features a horizontal crease that runs into the tail light housing and forms the break-up of brake and reverse lamp details which now feature vertical elements that follow the trunk cutline and talk to the vertical elements of the front fascia design. The rear fascia has subtle differences that help modernize the car and visually tighten up and shorten the rear view. Interior

The 2010 Milan shares it's interior with the 2010 Fusion and thankfully loses some of the outgoing cars cheap looking metallic surfaces. As with the 2010 Fusion Hybrid, the Milan Hybrid gains the visually stimulating SmartGauge with EcoGuide; a sharp twin LCD unit displaying information to the driver about fuel economy and other vehicle functions.

2010 Lincoln MKZ

The 06-09 MKZ had to defend its spot in the Lincoln lineup when the handsomely designed MKS made its debut this year. The 2010 MKZ can rest easy knowing while still not as attractive, it received a worthy upgrade to its front sheet metal, highlighted by a stunning double-grille/headlight setup. When the 2007 MKR concept made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show, many heralded it a design renaissance for the Lincoln brand and the 2010 MKZ represents this philosophy well. The modern double-wing grille was first seen on the MKR concept and is also featured on the ‘09 MKS. Its historical inspiration is the 1938 Lincoln Zephyr.

This split grille is designed to resemble the bow of a boat cutting through the water while the new, larger Lincoln star sits proudly dead center. The grille features jewel-like chrome elements on the vertical blades and a finely detailed chrome strip runs around the full shape of grille and headlights. The headlights themselves carry most of the MKR concepts form until the unfortunate outer edge where they meet the carryover front fenders, resulting in a limp execution to an otherwise precise form.

The front fender peak runs downward through the headlights and wraps underneath the grille to meet the centerline peak. The lower fascia features a wide opening flanked by two fog lamp openings on either side. The design tries to communicate a similarity to the MKR concept through a chrome detail that runs along the lower edge of the fascia and the surrounding for the fog lamp bezels but fails to execute in the same delicate fashion. Rear

The 2010 MKZ carries on with horizontal LED tail lights that are now much wider, prominent and better detailed, almost touching in the center of the trunk surface. The top edge of the bumper surface wraps upward toward the front of the car and ties in with the rear forward swept surface of the MKR concept while the lower edge features two blackout sections for the dual exhaust and reflectors. Overall the rear design appears taller, wider and more elegant than the 06-09 MKZ.

The 2010 MKZ interior has been significantly upgraded over its Fusion and Milan siblings. A strip of either Swirl Walnut or Olive Ash wood runs horizontally across the center of the instrument panel and finishes on the newly designed door panels. The IP surface now features a horizontal layout as opposed to the vertical dual cockpit design of the outgoing model. The HVAC and radio controls run vertically, sitting below the wood trim line and a new larger NAV system with SYNC sits above. Square vents sit to the side of the NAV screen and the whole lot is surrounded by an aluminum trim piece that also runs parallel down the center stack and onto the center console. Twin beveled pads sit on top of the IP and help retain the feel of the front and rear exterior design by centering the THX center speaker. The steering wheel is mostly a carry-over unit but now features its wood trim between the 10 and 2 positions rather than being encompassed by the spokes. The door pads now feature a wrap up 360 degree door pull featuring a chrome strip that runs upward and towards the rear, above the wood trim. The leather used on the seats and the clamshell armrest is the same leather that was originally used on the Lincoln Continental Mark II and now features tuxedo stitching.

Dissection Conclusion

Ford has pulled off three successfully redesigned mid-size sedans for 2010, each carrying their own flavor and flair above and beyond the cars they replace. Each car has a decidedly European look and feel and we give kudos to Ford for showing it can still compete against the best the world throws at it. At least in design refreshes anyway. Call us when any and all of them get an Eco Boost engine under the hood.