"Didn't you get the new Fusion to test drive this week?" the boss asked as were taking a break from our weekly meeting. I nodded my head.

"You like that car, don't you?" he asked. Again, I nodded in an affirmative manner.

"Didn't they just introduce that model last year as an '06?" he asked.

"Yes sir," I answered, as my head was getting tired of moving up and down. "Ford sold 112,000 units in the first nine months after launching the model. It's won scores of awards and gotten rave reviews from auto writers across the country - including me." "This is an '07, isn't it?" the boss asked.

"Yes sir."

"What's new from last year's model, anything?" "A lot, actually," I said, leaning forward in my chair to tell him about the new all-wheel drive option now available to Fusion buyers. "If you want all-wheel drive, you won't find it on the competitive models. Also new for 2007 is standard front seat side airbags and side-impact air curtains. And yes, the Fusion has an auxiliary jack so you can plug your iPod into the audio system, but I'd rather listen to the 100-plus digital coast-to-coast channels on Sirius Satellite Radio."

"I'm guessing that it has a navigation system available?" the boss remarked.

"Sure does, and, it also comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty," I said. Available in three trim lines - S, SE and SEL - the 2007 Fusion has two engine options available. Consumers have their choice of a 2.3-liter I-4 (160 horsepower) or a 3.0-liter V-6 (221 horsepower). Both use regular unleaded gasoline. The I-4 is rated as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle while the V-6 is rated as Ultra Low Emission Vehicles. It has impressive fuel economy ratings, as well.

Buyers also have their choice of a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

I told the boss that whether you opt for the front- or all-wheel drive version, the five-passenger Fusion delivers exceptional ride, handling and performance on the road. "I think I remember that commercial where folks were asked to drive the Accord, Camry and Fusion on an Autocross course and most of the people rated the Fusion as their top pick," the boss said.

"That's what I've been telling people," I said. "If you drive it, you'll buy it. The fit, finish and craftsmanship of the interior are top notch. With a base price starting below $18,000, the Fusion is a very impressive vehicle.

Standard features include 16-inch wheels, remote keyless entry, power mirrors, speed-sensitive wipers, air conditioning, audio system with CD, two-tier center console, tilt and telescoping wheel with cruise control, power locks, power windows and illuminated entry. SE and SEL models add even more features. "It's definitely on my recommended test drive list for mid-size sedans," I told the boss.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.

2007 Ford Fusion (North America): SEL. (06/21/06)