[V8] Road trip or how I missed my V8....

Roger Woodbury rmwoodbury at roadrunner.com
Tue Mar 18 16:36:55 PDT 2008

We just returned from a seven day trip to North Carolina.  The actual
purpose of the trip was to get away from here for a few days, and to attend
a home builder's seminar in North Carolina. A side trip was to visit my
daughter and two granddaughters in southeastern Virginia.

The total was just a tad over 3000 miles in seven days, averaging 51 miles
per hour enroute and averaging 30.2 miles per gallon of regular gasoline

The utensil of choice was a Hertz Ford Fusion four door sedan, and I am
going to bore you with my impressions of this modern version of a generic
medium sized car from a US maker.  

My initial impression was that the car was very much comparable to my 1990
Audi 100.  Front wheel drive, good handling and good rid comfort.  All the
gizzies worked very well in the Ford...less so in my Audi, but the Audi was
giving away 115,000 miles.

Anyway, the Fusion performed exceedingly well.  MUCH better than I had

After bringing the car home from the rental office to load up, I took a
minute to read the owners manual.  At first I thought the car had the six
cylinder option, but upon opening the hood...no, it was a four.  That meant
that the car had the five speed automatic transmission.  I guess the engine
is a Mazda product, although I don't know, but the transmission IS Japanese
and worked perfectly for the most part.  It is NOT a "performance" oriented
gearbox, and sometimes was a bit lazy downshifting, and it down shifts A
LOT.  Those four little pistons have their hands...er...heads...full with
the overall weight of the car.

The trip was on Interstate highways for the majority, with a bit of two lane
local roads mixed in. The car handled extremely well, and maintained its
composure on the interstate so long as it wasn't asked to go much more than
75.  There was a vibration that set up above 75 that felt like a rear end
problem of some sort, but there was no shake in the wheel, and thus I
suspect the rear wheels or perhaps rear tires.  Only above 75, though,
nothing below that.

I experienced examples of the worst driving that I have ever seen.  While it
has been quite a long time since I have driven into what is best described
as "Generica", the tailgating and hotrodding in and out of traffic was
absolutely the worst that I have ever seen.

Of course, anytime you drive in metro New York, you see the weirdos out in
force and expect it.  New Jersey for us was pretty easy, as we only went
down a short distance to look at a V8....ahem!

Anyway, in western Virginia cruising along in moderate traffic, what came
blitzing by, but a Maserati Quattro Porte with transit/dealer/temporary
tags.  The car was pretty remarkable to see "in the flesh" as it were, but
the guy driving it was driving as though possessed.  

Steady traffic in two lanes going 65-75 with quite a large assortment of
18-wheelers.  Pretty decent spacing for the most part through the hilly
country, and the weather was mild, clear with dry pavement.  The Maser was
rocketing up behind one car, squeezing into the other lane, rocketing ahead,
and back out again.  The speed spurts were easily past a hundred miles per
hour, and soon the guy was out of sight.

About twenty minutes later, we were all stopped stock still.  I was sitting
in the left lane, and my wife, got into conversation with the trucker
"parked" right next to us.  The buzz on the truckers' CB was that there was
a three car pile up ahead.   The story was that one car had been weaving in
and out, clipped on car and put it into another. One car was aflame. (We
could see the big plume of smoke in the distance.).   

We sat stock still in the later afternoon sunshine until we gradually began
to move forward.  When we reached the accident scene we saw two 'runt' cars
on the side of the road, one blackened and smoldering, both in various
stages of smushing from a collision.  There was no third car, no crushed
Maserati, so we really have no idea what actually happened.  Perhaps the
third car got towed away before we got there and that is what cleared the
road.  Dunno.  

But it was an example of the wild driving that we saw, especially in North
Carolina, where it must be a rule in the driving manual that you try to
draft the car in front at every opportunity.

My overall impression of the Ford Fusion is that it is a terrific car for
driving on the wide pavements leading to Sam's Club in the place called
"Generica".  Coming down The Bayside Road toward home this afternoon, I
finally found the real area where the Fusion suspension
becomes...well...CONfusion.  The Bayside Road is heavily frost heaved, and
at 40 miles per hour, the Fusion was bothered enough by the road surface to
be annoying to ride in or drive.  The car pitched, and rolled excessively,
and clearly, unless the road surface is nearly perfect, the car is
just...well...ordinary.  By contrast, when I drove the Audi 100 home it felt
AT HOME at 55 on the same surface.

So, I would say that Ford has done a good job with the Fusion.  The "little"
four and five speed automatic is all that the car needs, so long as the car
is used on the Interstate or the broad, smooth boulevards of "Generica".
The transmission shifts around a lot, and is smooth for the most part, but
the engine sounds like it's working hard if you want the car to really step
out and move.

Overall, it compared very well to my 1990 Audi 100, with the only clear
advantage overall to the Audi being that it really is a much larger and more
comfortable car.  I would say that after 18 years, Ford now has a product
that is almost as good as my 18 year old Audi.

But compared with my wife's newly refurbished 1994 Quattro Avant?  The
Fusion is clearly not close to the same class.

Enroute we stopped and I looked at a '93 V8 that is lingering on my horizon
and has been there for a goodly while now.  Pearl and black, which is
interesting to me, and good miles...just over 100K.  Needs some little
things, and has just had new shocks....oh, soooo nice to drive a V8 again.

We are planning to make another trip to western Virginia and eastern
Pennsylvania in the not too distant future.  Based on this trip, my wife and
I have come to the agreement that a V8 would make it MUCH better.

The sickness continues.


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