Ford sought to replace its original mid-size Taurus with a more modern look, deciding to produce the Fusion with a horizontal 3-bar grille that gives the car a more muscular appearance not unlike the Ford F-150 and Ranger pickup trucks. The grille is not the same style as the trucks but similarly executed to emphasize strength. It was unveiled to the public in 2003 with production beginning in 2005 for the 2006 model year.
The 2005-09 models are equipped with a 2.3-liter inline Duratec 160-horsepower 4-cylinder engine or the 3-liter 221-horsepower V-6. The 5-speed manual or 5- and 6-speed automatics were available to buyers. It sits on a 107.4-inch wheelbase and measures 190.2 inches long and 72.2 inches wide.
Offered only as a 4-door sedan the Fusion comes in S, SE and the SEL trim levels. The S model received the base inline-4 engine while the SE and SEL versions were available with the V-6 engine and 6-speed automatic. The SE and SELs are equipped with the optional Sirius Satellite radio and an onboard navigation system that responds to voice commands.
By the 2010 model year, engine options expanded to a 3.5-liter V-6. It received an updated front and rear, and a new interior that offered an optional 8-inch screen navigation system. The center console was redesigned and Ford installed its new "Ice Blue" illuminated instrument panel that also is a feature in the Focus and F-150 truck.
A hybrid version debuted in early 2009 with a $27,270 price tag, giving the Fusion 41 mpg and providing 700 miles on a full tank of gas. The Fusion has a 17.5-gallon gas tank capacity. In one road test the Fusion achieved 81.5 mpg, delivering 1,445 miles on a single tank. The fuel-cell hydrogen-powered Fusion Hydrogen 999 established a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats during the Aug. 10-17, 2007, Speed Week competition. The 2006 Fusion, driven by Rick Byrnes, achieved 207.297 mph.
The Fusion was introduced as a NASCAR racing competitor in 2006, replacing the Taurus and marking the first time since the Torino in 1968 that a Ford was entered in NASCAR racing the same year it was launched. Its first race was the Daytona 500 in 2006. Driven by Elliott Sadler, the Fusion was clocked at 187.6 mph, but fell short of its competitors and continues to struggle to capture first place honors on the circuit.
Sales of the Fusion have been consistent. Sales during the calendar year 2005, its debut for the 2006 model year, were 16,983. Its first full year of production saw 142,502 units sold, followed by 149,552 in 2007 and 147,569 in 2008.
The Fusion has been produced by the Ford Motor Co. since 2005 out of Ford's Hermosillo, Mexico, plant. It replaced the Taurus and shares the same platform as the Mazda6, although Ford announced in 2009 the Fusion will switch to the international Ford Mondeo EUCD platform. As a mid-size car it sits between the compact Focus and the new full-size Taurus, which had its nameplate revived. The Fusion represented a new look for Ford.