You can always count on automakers to turn up at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show to try to convince drivers that their latest cars hold a lot more potential than meets the eye.
Consider the Ford Fusion sedan.
One can't be faulted for thinking the Fusion is simply a modernized Taurus, the car it replaces in Ford Division's range. To shake off the family-car stigma, Ford presented six tuned Fusions at the SEMA show last month in Las Vegas to alter that perception: two for looks, two for handling and two for power.
3dCarbon Inc., of Newport Beach, Calif., and Street Scene Equipment Inc., of Costa Mesa, Calif., concentrated on the Fusion's appearance. Rather than go with wild wings and wide body flares, both companies opted for a European performance-sedan persona.
Both designs are bold, with ground-hugging stances that remain true to the car's original lines. Think Mercedes-Benz AMG or BMW's M division.
While HPA Motorsports Inc., of Surrey, British Columbia, and suspension specialist H&R Special Springs LP, of Bellingham, Wash., built Fusions that look fast, their efforts targeted driving dynamics. Both companies exploited the car's handling potential by fully upgrading the suspension pieces.
The biggest change in perception may have come from DraXas LLC, of Palmdale, Calif., and FocusSport, of Anaheim, Calif. These shops took a 2.3-liter inline-four Fusion and not only made the car look faster and turn harder, but they bolted on intercooled turbochargers, a process both companies are familiar with from tuning the Focus. DraXas estimates its Fusion will churn out 400 hp.
Now that's no modernized Taurus.