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    Sedans Improve as Their Market Declines

    By Philip Ruth–

    Goodbye, sedans. You’ve had a good run, but time marches on.

    That’s what Ford has said, and it’s not an idle threat: production plans for non-crossovers except the Mustang have all been issued an end date. It wasn’t so long ago that sedans were ubiquitous enough that the enormous Ford LTD of the 1970s was dubbed a “standard size” car—the one in which most drivers would end up.

    Today, that status has been passed to the SUV and crossover, with the minivan also reinforcing that ideal transport is embodied by a high-roofed cocoon. As with aluminum construction on its F-150 pickups, Ford is boldly carving out the leading edge of current trends by axing its generally venerable car lines.

    Of course, there were periods when one could make the case for Ford just going ahead and canceling its cars—obese Torinos and flammable Pintos come to mind—and its persistent neglect of the originally game-changing Taurus cues observers to think that Ford has been intent on reserving its engineering excellence for its trucks and SUVs.

    But the Fusion isn’t like that. It debuted early this decade with fastback style that has heavily influenced almost all of its competitors, and the Fusion was the first Ford to adopt the Aston Martin-like grille that now extends all of the way to the firm’s vans. It’s a kicker that American sedans are being killed off just as they have finally become solidly competitive with anything from overseas.

    In fact, the tricked-out Fusion Platinum Hybrid that I drove was credibly fancy enough to compete with another recent mid-sized tester, the Lexus ES 300h Hybrid. Toyota’s Lexus brand is following its parent company’s lead in continuing to commit to sedan production—the ES has been redesigned for 2019, so it’ll be around for a while. The 2018 that I drove shares its platform with the Toyota Avalon, and it has the usual Lexus upgrades.

    That translates into a feeling of supremely creamy damping in every response, from the steering feel all of the way down to the console latch. Whatever kind of day you’re having improves even just slightly after interacting with a Lexus, because most everything about it feels gratifying.

    There are too many loose ends on the Fusion to create that kind of impression. Trim misalignments typical to the brand are apparent as you approach the car, and the driver’s door closes with a hollow clunk.

    But once inside the tested highest-grade Platinum, you’re taken aback: the visuals are a knockout to you and everyone else who climbs in. Baseball-glove-like leather covers the instrument panel in elaborately stitched formations, giving the effect of a formal parlor and seeming to justify all by itself the optioned tester’s near-$40K price.

    The price of the ES starts there and increases with options, but the 2018 will likely be discounted as the heavily revised 2019 model hits showrooms. If you still want a sedan, then you might find a bargain in either last year’s ES or the forsaken Fusion.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant ( www.gaycarguy.com ). Check out his automotive staging service at www.carstaging.com