2005 Ford Taurus Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Significant improvements for 2004.
The Ford Taurus just keeps on ticking. The Taurus was last redesigned and re-engineered for 2000, but Ford has been continuously improving this solid sedan. The Taurus offers excellent drivetrains, good looks, plenty of creature comforts, and the added bonus of a surprising level of driving pleasure.
The styling has been revised for 2004. A new grille and fascia freshen the front, while new taillamps and fascia dress up the rear. The 2004 Taurus interior is further improved with an updated steering wheel and instrument cluster and an updated multi-function switch for the wipers, turn signals and flash-to-pass. The 2004 Taurus engine and transmission offer improved efficiency and shift quality.
The interior was updated for 2003, resulting in a quieter cabin. Cabin noise was reduced through better sealing and sound damping measures. Seat fabrics, both leather and cloth, were improved, with lighter colors used to brighten the car's interior, the dashboard was revised, and controls for the adjustable pedals were moved to the instrument panel for easier access.
Ford has been offering big incentives on the Taurus, so buyers should watch for cash rebates and cut-rate financing.
Ford Taurus is available as a four-door sedan or a station wagon. The sedan comes in LX, SE, SES, and SEL models. The wagon is available in SE and SEL versions.
Two different V6 engines are available, the old overhead-valve Vulcan V6 and the modern dual overhead-cam all-aluminum Duratec V6. Both are 3.0-liter engines, but the Duratec is more sophisticated and much more powerful. All models come with four-speed automatic transmissions.
LX and SE are powered by Ford's Vulcan V6. LX ($19,660) comes with air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, AM/FM stereo, six-passenger seating, tilt steering, and intermittent wipers. SE ($20,195) adds cruise control, a cassette player, remote keyless entry with perimeter lighting, and aluminum wheels.
SES ($21,380) is equipped with front bucket seats with six-way power and a manual lumbar adjustment on the driver's side, and an in-dash single CD player in place of the cassette. SES comes standard with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and the Vulcan V6. The Duratec V6 ($695) is optional.
SEL ($23,305) comes standard with the Duratec V6 and adds seven-spoke machined aluminum wheels, AM/FM/cassette with a six-CD changer, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dark paledo wood-trimmed interior, automatic electronic temperature control, and keyless keypad entry. Power adjustable pedals and side-impact airbags are optional.
Wagons are better equipped than their sedan counterparts. They are equipped with four-wheel disc brakes (an improvement over the rear drum brakes of the SE sedan). Wagons come standard with ABS and a rear anti-roll bar for better handling. The SE wagon ($21,630) features a six-way power driver's seat, a cleverly adjustable luggage rack, and a unique bumper shape with step pads at the rear. The SEL wagon ($23,455) has seven-spoke machined aluminum wheels, a six-CD changer, keypad entry and automatic climate controls. The Duratec V6 ($1,200) is optional.
Side-impact airbags ($390) are available as an option on the Taurus SEL and we highly recommend them. Taurus continues to earn a double five-star rating from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the highest crash rating NHTSA awards for frontal crash tests. In addition, Taurus is rated a 'Best Pick' by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in its offset frontal crash test.
The Ford Taurus is a familiar design that has been with us for eight years now. For 2004, there's a new egg-crate grille, new taillamps, and redesigned front and rear fascia.
Taurus has a muscular, forceful appearance. Its flanks undulate handsomely with crisp character lines, and its rear end bears a resemblance to the sexy stern of the Jaguar S-Type.
The sedan's trunk is of generous size and contains the mini-spare tire. The wagon has a flip-up rear window in its tailgate.
As mentioned, the Ford Taurus offers a choice of V6 engines. The standard Vulcan V6 is rated at 155 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque. It's a 3.0-liter 12-valve V6 that uses a traditional overhead-valve design. Our past experience with the Vulcan has been generally positive. Although not particularly quick from a standstill, once rolling it delivers more than adequate performance, along with a nicely rorty exhaust note. A flexible fuel version of the Vulcan engine can run on E-85 ethanol, regular unleaded gasoline or any combination of the two in the same 18-gallon fuel tank. The FFV engine is a no-cost option.
The Duratec V6 is a more sophisticated engine with double overhead cams working 24 valves, so it breathes more freely and revs higher. The Duratec produces 201 hp and 207 lbs.-ft. of torque. The Vulcan engine is good, but take one drive with the more responsive Duratec and you may never be satisfied with less. For 2004, a revised exhaust system helps make the Duratec engine LEVII compliant (as a low-emission vehicle). The Duratec is slightly more efficient as well, with an EPA-estimated 20/28 mpg City/Highway for the Duratec and 20/27 for the Vulcan.
Equipped with the Duratec, the Ford Taurus is a genuinely satisfying car to drive. It's as responsive as a finger snap, delivering crisp acceleration from low revs straight through to the glass-smooth full-throttle shift point. This engine not only provides good thrust, it makes an understated, but throaty declaration that it means business. The Taurus SEL reminds us a bit of the lamented high-performance Taurus SHO, only it's much more refined.
The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. Its shifts are positive, authoritative, and at the same time, almost impossible to feel. The kickdown response is very good.
If you ever wonder just how important modern electronics have become, the Taurus with its powerful Duratec engine can quickly demonstrate the benefits of traction control: Simply switch off the traction control, nail the throttle, and the front tires will shriek as they claw for traction. Powerful front-wheel-drive cars like the Taurus SEL need traction control to reduce wheel spin and provide better control of the car.
The fully independent suspension provides a smooth, impact-free ride. Gas-pressurized shock absorbers improve its cornering responsive. When pushed in the corners, it remains stable, nimble and ready for more. Cornered hard, its body roll is moderate, and the nicely tuned variable-ratio power rack-and-pinion steering delivers a steady stream of road information. The steering also offers good on-center response when crusing in a straight line.
In an emergency lane-change demonstration set up in a parking lot, the Taurus stopped smoothly, with anti-lock brakes allowing steering control during hard braking.
With its excellent chassis and Duratec power, the Ford Taurus comes close to being a sports sedan for the price of a family mid-size sedan.
The Ford Taurus remains one of the 10 best-selling vehicles, car or truck, in the United States. Since it was introduced in 1985, Taurus sales have averaged more than 350,000 units every year, and the car line recently surpassed 6 million units in total sales. An all-new Ford Five Hundred sedan is on the horizon, but we expect to see the Taurus sell on a price basis for several years to come.
The Taurus soldiers into 2004 offering value in the form of cash rebates and other incentives. Base prices and option prices have climbed, however, and content has not always increased.
Taurus rides smoothly for family duty, yet offers crisp, sporty handling. Plus it's bigger than most mid-size cars. We recommend the newer Duratec engine for its responsiveness and efficiency, and we highly recommend opting for ABS and side airbags.
Taurus LX sedan ($19,660); SE ($20,195); SES ($21,380); SEL ($23,305); SE wagon ($21,630); SEL wagon ($23,455).
Options As Tested
side-impact air bags ($390); traction control ($175); power adjustable pedals ($120); power moonroof ($895); Luxury and Convenience Package ($185) includes auto-dim rearview mirror w/compass and heated side mirrors; power passenger seat ($350); leather seating surfaces ($945); Mach premium audio ($345).
Ford Taurus SEL ($23,305).
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