Nothing exotic ever happens in the sleepy, leafy suburbs, right?
Most of us gather in our front yards, lawn chairs in hand, to watch a neighbor’s new sprinkler system spring to life.
Sometimes, sadly, we cheer.
We toast daybreak with goblets of pure orange juice, offering Doris Day salutes to the rising sun. In summer. In Texas.
But our well-ordered lives may soon get a bit saucier.
For the first time ever, suburban parking lots this summer could be filled with sizzling, head-turning midsize sedans.
What’s next — Kim Kardashian as mayor of “Our Town?”
Probably not. But thanks to competition and coincidence, midsize sedans — the peanut-butter-smeared grocery-getters of the auto world — are flashing some finely creased sheet metal these days.
Hotties like the Mazda6, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata and even the restyled Honda Accord look as good now as some high-end sports sedans.
And out comes maybe the most attractive door-slammer in the segment, the 2013 Ford Fusion.
As you probably know, the Fusion is all new, with European-influenced handling and looks that seem right at home in London or Berlin.
Obviously, Aston Martin influenced the Fusion, inspiring a five-bar grille that appears to have been lifted directly from a DB9.
But unlike most new cars today with their enormous headlights, the white 2013 Fusion Titanium I had recently sported relatively thin swept-back head-lamps that gave the car some mystery.
Its relatively long, sculpted hood may also keep people guessing. Most hoods on front-wheel-drive cars are little more than lids.
The Fusion, though, got a longer hood that gives it a sleeker, more proportionate rear-wheel-drive look, much like the sleek new Mazda6.
Moreover, the Fusion sports three aggressive character lines in the hood that kind of match pronounced lines on the sides that slice through both door handles.
Although the sedan has four big doors typical of cars in this segment, they are offset by a steeply raked windshield and wonderfully curved top.
Consequently, your sandy, ketchup-encrusted softball players will pile out of a slinky sedan that reads “Audi” as much as it does “Ford.” The other mothers may wonder whether you’re having an affair or something.
Not bad, huh?
I was a little less impressed with the Fusion’s rear, where high-mounted wrap-around tail lamps failed to lighten the thick sheet metal back there.
Still, this is a really handsome sedan — and mine wore meaty 23 5/40 tires mounted on 19-inch alloy wheels, further blurring the line between sport sedan and kiddie delivery vehicle.
Actually, the allusion to Audi might not be all that far off the mark. While most Fusions will be sold as front-wheel-drive sedans, my well-optioned Titanium model ($35,980) was equipped with all-wheel-drive and the two-liter EcoBoost engine.
Turbocharged and direct-injected, the gutsy engine churns out 240 horsepower channeled through a crisp-shifting six-speed automatic.
Don’t expect great economy. The feds rate the EcoBoost at 22 mpg city and 31 on the highway. But that seemed pretty reasonable, given the car’s performance.
I vastly prefer cars — and bosses — with their wheels planted firmly on the ground, and the Fusion’s Euro suspension didn’t disappoint.
Mine felt tight, stepping over bumps with compact, well-damped movements like something wearing an expensive German brand on its flanks.
In hard corners, the Fusion didn’t feel especially lithe — it weighed about 3,800 pounds — but it had minimal lean and good grip from its all-wheel-drive.
Like virtually every modern car I’ve driven in the past two years, the steering was a bit murky initially, thanks mostly to the electric power steering.
But it was quick and got livelier with speed, turning into corners with some gusto and balance.
Moreover, thanks largely to the lusty EcoBoost engine, the Fusion was just plain fun to drive.
Though not quite as smooth as the former V-6 in the Fusion, the turbo 2-liter had decent low-end torque, muscling up at about 2,500 rpm. With the turbo huffing, the engine pulls happily to 6,000 rpm, sprinting to 60 in about 6.5 seconds.
A couple of the other new midsize sedans can match that quickness, but the Fusion is definitely at the front of the pack.
While relatively smooth and strong, the gutsy little engine would sometimes sag briefly with turbo lag or a lazy transmission, usually when I nailed it in traffic trying to merge with a faster lane.
Those instances, fortunately for my blood pressure, were pretty rare.
Inside, the black leather interior mostly captured the Fusion’s rakish personality, though it was neither truly sporting nor fully kid-friendly.
Laid out cockpit-style, the curvaceous dashboard swept dramatically into a broad center stack and console. The stack was dominated by Ford’s controversial MyFordTouch infotainment and control system, which operates by touch points on the screen and panel beneath it.
Even I could make the system work, more or less, but not easily while the car was moving. Do it on the run, and you risk bunting a California lawyer in a rented Fiat down the North Dallas Crawlway.
Can you say “punitive damages”?
Likewise, legroom in back was fine, but headroom was tight for anyone over 5-foot-10, a byproduct of that sensuous top.
But the smooth leather seats with sculpted, perforated centers felt as good as they looked.
What’s apparent this year in the midsize segment is that we’re getting sedans with the sort of style and performance once reserved solely for the more profitable full-size segment.
And as the bureaucrats and blockheads in Washington continue to squeeze us with onerous fuel-economy standards, these midsize sedans may well become the full-size cruisers of the future.
Cars like the Ford Fusion just might make downsizing a tad more tolerable.