2010 Ford Taurus Expert Review:Autoblog
In 1985, when few models really stood out from the midsize pack, Ford created one of the most influential vehicles of the late 20th century: the Taurus. Radically styled and intelligently packaged, the Taurus won the hearts and minds of millions of car buyers, and for over a decade, it was a dominant force in the retail car market. Eventually, competition from the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord proved too much for Ford to handle, and the Blue Oval hung its game-changing sedan out to dry. Product development dollars were funneled to trucks and SUVs, and the Zodiac's bull died a pauper's death in 2007 after an achingly long stint as a tattered fleet Queen.
When Alan Mulally took the helm of FoMoCo, the new CEO wondered why the recognizable – if tarnished – Taurus name had been abandoned. So a branding Band-Aid was affixed to the underperforming Five Hundred sedan and, unsurprisingly, consumers saw through the botched rebadging. The "new" Taurus was still the old Five Hundred; a dynamically challenged sedan whose biggest selling point was a really large trunk. In hindsight, the move may have been a way to revive the Taurus in the public's consciousness as Mulally and company went back to the drawing board to create a new world-class sedan capable of taking on the biggest names in the segment. The 2010 Ford Taurus is here... but does it have what it takes?
Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.
Before the rebadged Taurus arrived in 2008, the Blue Oval's bull was a midsize sedan. Not anymore. The 2010 model is larger... much larger. At 202.9 inches, the Taurus spans an additional five inches over the Toyota Avalon – or to put its gargantuan length into better perspective – nearly an inch longer than a Chevrolet Tahoe. That makes it a sedan even Baby Huey can love. But the 2010 Taurus doesn't just differentiate itself from past Taurus models in size, it's more upmarket in both look and feel.
Undoubtedly, one of the primary reasons that the last Taurus reclamation project fell flat was the donor Five Hundred's utterly uninteresting exterior design. The 2008 Taurus was so bland and unnoticeable it needed a chromed, Flava-Flav three bar grille to keep other motorists from running into it. For 2010, Ford has taken a different approach, making the two-ton sedan stand out with strong character lines on the hood and beltline that create a wide, muscular and luxurious exterior.
Up front, Ford has inset a set of modern, dynamic headlamps to accentuate the Taurus' sophisticated mug. The lower fascia makes this Blue Oval appear more aggressive, with a wide, trapezoidal shape reminiscent of the so-called "Kinetic" designs found on the European Mondeo and Focus. Our only issue is with the contrived three bar grille, which contrasts nicely with the lower fascia but falls short with its odd looking holes on the top and bottom slats. Out back, Ford has attempted to recapture some of the spark from its 2003 427 concept, so the Taurus's rump receives a set of squarish taillamps and a canted stance that gives the bull's butt a dynamic presence, with a minimalistic bumper that does its best to keep the already prodigious rear overhang in check.
While there's no question the Taurus is remarkably better looking than its predecessor, if Ford wants to recapture buyers, the interior would need to be special. In the past, Ford aimed for "class competitive" interiors, and in some cases, using the term "competitive" would be... generous. Thankfully, the days of strategically placed soft touch materials attempting to hide cheap dashboard bits and mismatched plastics are a thing of the past.
Seated inside our tester's substantial cabin, Ford's upmarket assault is front and center, with a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel (fitted to every 2010 model) and exceedingly comfortable leather thrones that wouldn't feel out of place in something costing tens of thousands more. Ford has opted for a dual cockpit approach for the all-new Taurus, with massive, symmetrical overhangs at each end and an impressive center stack sweeping back to strike a perfect balance between visual appeal and terrific ergonomics. HVAC and radio switchgear are well within reach and the controls are exceptionally easy to navigate. And while the front may be one of the best seats in the house, since the Taurus is a family sedan at heart, Ford paid special attention to the occupants in the rear. In smaller vehicles, the kiddies tend to kick the driver's seat. In the Taurus, there's more than enough legroom to accommodate your average chocolate-faced adolescent. When the time comes to haul the detritus of modern life, the new Taurus' 20 cubic-foot trunk is another big plus for the family man or woman, with ample space to fit luggage, golf clubs, groceries and some camera equipment – all at the same time.
If you get gratuitous with the options, the Taurus can easily crest $40,000 with the addition of adaptive cruise control, moonroof, navigation and all-wheel drive, but our $30,980 SEL is probably a good indication of what the average Taurus will be outfitted with, and although it didn't come equipped with Ford's excellent but pricey navigation system, SYNC was included. As we've testified before, Ford's SYNC voice-control system just works, with Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary inputs for your MP3 player or phone a few clicks and spoken words away from connection. New for 2010 is the addition of Bluetooth Audio, which allows one to connect a Bluetooth-enabled MP3 player like an iPhone or iPod Touch to the stereo without wires. We're continuously amazed at how comfortable and intuitive SYNC is, and over time, it's become a staple of the Ford Driving Experience.
After spending time inside the new Blue Oval flagship, its obvious that Ford was shooting for world class levels of equipment and materials. But while the Taurus's cabin is a huge leap forward for Ford-badged vehicles, all is not rosy. Since the interior of the Taurus is so massive, spaces needed to be broken up, and the tan, leather-clad innards of our tester joins faux wood accents to accomplish the task. We're not huge fans of fake trees, and the materials look real enough, but that doesn't mean we're partial to it. The wood – particularly with the beige interior – is just too dowdy and dull, especially when matched with such a dynamic, modern design inside and out. Further, we could have done without the oddly hidden cupholders north of the center arm rest. It's nice to have them out of view when not in use, but the lines are very visible and break up an otherwise attractive center stack.
However, none of these nits get in the way of the Taurus driving experience, as the massive sedan is a competent and coddling cruiser. At just under 4,100 pounds, the Taurus is fully 600 pound heavier than a Chevrolet Malibu, and nearly a foot longer. Despite this, the Taurus' agility is impressive for a vehicle occupying such a sizable land mass.
During a particularly healthy flogging on some twisty B-roads, the Taurus proved a relatively tight package, with limited body roll and weight-defying grip. But when pushed hard, the Taurus feels too tall, too long and too heavy. The upgraded independent multi-link suspension offers a compliant ride that doesn't come across as floaty, and while the steering is fairly precise and decently weighted, road feel is nonexistent. The new Taurus is no backroad bomber, but this hefty sedan counters with the ability to isolate occupants from the world around them. Noise levels are nicely muted, making it easy to have an "indoor" conversation with back seat occupants, and pot holes and rail road tracks are soaked up without much hassle; something we can't say for some of the Taurus' competition, let alone your average purpose-built sports sedan. Obviously, the enthusiast set isn't the fish Ford is looking to hook, so it's comfort uber alles, and at that, Ford has succeeded.
On the power front, the Taurus makes due with a carryover powertrain in the form of Ford's 3.5-liter V6. With 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque channeled through a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, the Taurus is a lackadaisical cruiser, with just enough acceleration to keep you out of trouble, but hardly enough to get the blood pumping. Naturally, those looking for more pop can opt for the 365-hp EcoBoost SHO variant, but that starts at over $37,000. We suspect the average consumer will be content with the base powertrain, as most potential Taurus buyers probably don't tussle regularly with their inner Mario Andretti. With our right foot held largely in check, we achieved 22.9 mpg in mixed driving; a respectable number for a vehicle this size, and right at the center of its 18/28 EPA numbers.
With the new-for-2010 Taurus, you get the overwhelming sense that Ford has created a vehicle that knows exactly what it can and can't do. It delivers on style, comfort and features, while leaving sportiness to lighter, more dynamic performers like Dearborn's own Fusion. That can only help the Taurus compete against the likes of Toyota and Honda, and with customers placing more emphasis on value, the 2010 Taurus could give luxury stalwarts like the Cadillac DTS, Lexus ES, Acura RL and even the Lincoln MKS, something to worry about. But that can only happen if the new Taurus is bold enough and good enough for consumers to forgive Ford for its past sins with the Taurus. It's time to get over it – and after a week – we have.
Photos copyright ©2009 Chris Shunk / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
All-new emotive flagship is impressive.
The Ford Taurus is all-new for 2010. The 2010 Taurus is impressive, well-equipped and extremely competent, a charismatic full-size sedan that could establish Ford as America's premier auto manufacturer. The 2010 Ford Taurus comes with a Duratec V6, delivering a generous 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque.
Also redesigned is the high-performance 2010 Taurus SHO, with a twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 rated at a breathtaking 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The SHO, which stands for Super High Output, delivers enough power and cornering poise to leave pricier Audi and Lexus models coughing in the dust.
Dramatically different and advanced in comparison with the mildly pleasing previous version, the 2010 Taurus models offer brisk performance, precise and reassuring handling, lavish comfort, and a comprehensive occupant-safety package. The Taurus and Taurus SHO are the flagships of Ford's entire line. And since, at long last, sedans are once again outselling trucks nationally, Ford has every reason to be optimistic about the Taurus's role in Ford's future.
We found the Taurus to be a responsive, comfortable, and protective family sedan, whether in SE, SEL or Limited trim. But this car is far more than a dull, utilitarian appliance.
Ford refers to Taurus's world-car styling as emotive and bold. Its looks have magnetism and a sleekly contemporary appearance designed to win owners who take seriously how they appear to the outside world. Judged on price alone, this is no luxury car. Yet its visual impact will go a long way toward making its occupants feel very good about themselves. This is a car to be seen in.
In the case of the Taurus, great looks don't prevent preclude brainpower. The Taurus is packed with innovative technology and electronics, beneficial driver-assistance provisions, and safety packages that outstrip import sedans costing half again more. Among these packages are comprehensive warning systems programmed to warn of obstacles front, side and rear, a boon in crowded parking lots. A brilliant adaptive cruise control system lets the driver relax on the highway, while it automatically controls the gap to the car ahead. Beyond the new technology, impressive as it is, it will still be the car's over-the-road driving character that determines its ultimate worth.
We drove both the Taurus and Taurus SHO along a lengthy route of highways, then put in a demanding day in the twisty hill country of Tennessee. The Taurus proved an altogether exemplary world sedan, while the SHO was a full-bore, high-revving demon, taming difficult roads with racecar grace.
The 2010 Ford Taurus comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6, six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
Taurus SE ($25,170) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning manually controlled with air filter, six-way driver seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with six speakers, three auxiliary power points, message center with trip computer, programmable performance-limiting key, illuminated visor mirrors, power windows with driver one-touch up/down, black exterior mirrors, rear window defroster, capless fuel filler, chrome exhaust tips, halogen headlamps with automatic windshield wiper activation, remote keyless entry, keyless entry keypad, floor mats, 17-inch wheels.
Taurus SEL ($27,170) adds six-speed paddle shifters, body-color heated exterior mirrors, 18-inch wheels, Sirius Satellite Radio, message center with trip computer and compass, auto-dimming mirror, leather-wrapped shifter knob and steering wheel, anti-theft perimeter alarm. Taurus SEL AWD ($29,020) is equipped the same but includes all-wheel drive.
Taurus Limited ($31,170) upgrades with leather-trimmed seats with 10-way power in both front seats, driver seat memory, leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood inlay, woodgrain applique, SYNC hands-free communications and entertainment, 6CD changer, universal garage opener, global-open window controls, chrome mirrors and taillamps, ambient interior lighting, cargo net, mirror with microphone, reverse sensing system, 19-inch chromed aluminum wheels. Limited AWD ($33,020) adds all-wheel drive.
Options include voice-activated navigation with Sirius Travel Link ($1995), adaptive cruise control ($1195), leather-trimmed seats for SEL ($1395), multi-contoured front seats ($595), rear window power sunshade, auto high beam headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, power moonroof ($895), cargo organizer, remote start ($395), all-weather floor mats, 12-speaker Sony audio, adjustable pedals with memory. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturers Suggested Retail Prices and do not include destination charge.)
Taurus SHO ($37,170) features a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, all-wheel drive, electric power-assist steering, sports suspension, high-intensity discharge headlamps, rear spoiler, 19-inch premium wheels, door-trim color matched to seats, SHO floor mats, push-button start, aluminum pedals, leather seats with Miko suede inserts, leather steering wheel with perforated insert. The SHO Performance Package ($995) includes performance brake pads, EPAS-calibrated steering, ECS Track Mode/True Off, 3.16 final drive ratio, 20-inch painted wheels with 245/45YR20 performance summer tires.
Safety features include dual front airbags, front-seat side-impact airbags, and canopy airbags, collision warning with brake support, blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert, tire-pressure monitoring system, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, SOS post-crash alert, traction control, reverse sensing system, anchors for child seats. All-wheel drive is available.
The new Taurus is a thoroughly American design, yet it owes almost nothing to the long, ponderous line of over-styled American sedans of the past. Its styling is exciting and chic, more than a match for any foreign competitors in its price class or even for competitors that cost a good deal more. Even in its most mundane models, it has an aggressive, ready-to-go demeanor.
The signature three-bar grille on the Taurus wraps around to sleek, swept-back headlamp complexes. The expression on this car's face is a wry glint that says, this car knows what it's doing.
The side panels are muscular and handsomely sculpted, while the side profile shows a distant similarity to the currently fashionable Audi family. The only peculiarity is the odd bullet-head of chrome on the front fender sides just ahead of the front-door cut. Isolated where it is, it's a tic that Ford styling could do without.
At the rear, the car's lines feature another pair of sleek lamp complexes, tied together with a gleaming horizontal chrome strip. On the Taurus SHO, the upper lip of the trunk is adorned with the inevitable spoiler, but with the speed a SHO can generate, you may need the extra downforce.
Particularly in the upper reaches of the model line, handsome wheels bring the Taurus's profile brightly to life. In the Limited and SHO versions, big 19-inch wheels and tires give the Taurus a resolutely competitive look.
A key element of the SHO formula is the subtlety of its unique exterior design cues. The SHO is distinguished from other Taurus models by special wheels, decklid spoiler, twin exhaust tips, unique grille work and unique parking lamp bezels.
Inside, the new Ford Taurus is roomy, comfortable, and quiet. The dashboard takes an unusual form. Its upper surface is a broad, downward-curving shape that behaves almost like a sunshade over the dash's cascade of equipment and gauges. The gauges have a fresh, modern look, and all instrument lights are fully lit at all times. This is important, because so many cars dim their instruments in daylight, enough so that in high sun, the gauges and readouts are unreadable. For this bright decision, give Ford an A-plus.
The Taurus paddle shifters are based on the BMW paradigm, with shifters on both sides of the wheel, a pull of the forefinger granting an upshift and a push of the thumb yielding a downshift. The six-speed transmission, present in all models, works remarkably well, especially in the SHO, which is spec-ed to provide still-faster gear changes than the normal Taurus. However, this writer prefers the Ferrari paradigm, where the paddle on one side of the wheel summons an upshift, and downshifts are summoned at the opposite side of the wheel. This is simpler and more intuitive. Functionally speaking, however, the Ford system works beautifully.
The Taurus is fully equipped with the usual Ford interconnectivity. Sirius Satellite with Travel Link provides a broad range of information about the environment, everything from weather radar to gas prices to movie start times.
Onboard radar gives you collision warning on the road when a car ahead is getting too close, then automatically executes full braking force the instant you step on the brake pedal. Similarly, it warns you when a car is in your blind spot on multi-lane roads, preventing lane-change accidents. And backing out of a spot in a parking lot, the car warns you if any car is approaching from the rear or either side, or if a child or small object is behind where you can't see it.
Adaptive cruise control lets you set your speed in highway traffic, while it measures your distance to cars ahead and automatically slows to prevent a collision. Then when your way ahead is clear, the cruise control just as automatically returns you to your programmed cruising speed. This full range of technologies is offered in no other family sedan within the Taurus price range.
The seats are lavishly comfortable, with one exception: In order to achieve its full five-star rating in crash protection, which it successfully did, the front seat headrests lean slightly forward. (In the test, this position yields zero head movement, a requirement of the five-star rating.) We resorted to reclining the seat a little more than normal to get the headrest away from the back of our head. This is not our preference. To soothe our nerves, we indulged in the excellent Active Motion massage cycling, delivered by massagers within the seat cushions and seatbacks.
The climate-control system was vigorous and more than adequate, and the optional Sony 12-speaker audio was superb. In addition, an available CD Jukebox system allows storage of over 100 CDs. The controls switchgear was uniformly excellent, with a luxurious soft touch that connotes luxury.
The voice-operated navigation and other prompts took a moment to get used to (you need to learn the right vocabulary) but it worked really well when operated as designed.
This is a roomy car. In the matter of interior volume, the Taurus earns its standing as a full-size sedan, delivering total passenger volume of 102.2 cu. ft. It's big on the outside, too, though its deft styling makes it seem slightly less so. All in all, the Taurus interior is generous, comfortable, extremely quiet and pleasing to be aboard.
Cargo space is a massive 20.1 cubic feet of trunk volume.
While driving, we found the Ford Taurus to be a thoroughly satisfying family sedan. It is not fast by street-racing standards, but it is by no means underpowered, either. For daily driving and the commuter wars, it more than holds its own. And taken out into canyon country where the roads weave and wind, its handling has the alert, sporty liveliness that has recently become a Ford trademark.
Power from the 263-hp 3.5-liter Duratec V6 is smooth, progressive and entirely suitable for daily transportation. It's even been exhaust-tuned to deliver a satisfying little growl under acceleration, confirming to the driver that this is a serious road car. And there is no tacky sudden throttle tip-in here.
Taurus ride quality is nicely damped and comfortable. It transmits information from the road accurately to keep the driver informed, but it soaks up road irregularities skillfully. And taken through a series of corners, the Taurus exhibits only moderate roll. It feels well planted and ready for your next move at any instant.
Large four-wheel disc brakes bring the Taurus to a powerful halt. Admirable. The name Audi keeps coming up around the new Taurus, but that is unavoidable. The Taurus has an Audi-like feel on the road, which is a very good thing. Better still, it costs about $20,000 less than the luxury Audi A6 it refers to.
Taurus SHO offers an entirely different world. Every one of the Taurus's virtues is doubled in this mighty performance sedan. It's the ultimate sleeper in today's market. With standard all-wheel drive, twin turbocharging and a nearly instantaneous 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque on tap from the EcoBoost V6, the SHO simply rages ahead.
Touch the shift paddles, and it switches gears in the blink of an eye. Then turn the car into a corner at high speed, and its specially calibrated shock absorbers and nearly non-existent body roll instill a feeling of precise control, something that could not be said of early SHO models.
Veering into the next corner, the SHO's brakes, with standard ABS, electronic stability control and traction control, give the car phenomenal poise and tightly controlled dynamics. This blue-blood American performance sedan is a worthy competitor when pitted against any others, from Audi up or down.
Perhaps the most enticing thing about the SHO is, it doesn't wear the boy-racer outfit of so many performance sedans. Indeed you must know where to look simply to identify this car as the special Taurus. We like that.
The Ford Taurus is a full-size sedan that should make Detroit proud of itself once more. This is a mature, comprehensively engineered, and lavishly equipped world car. And its big sister, the SHO, is one of the great performance sedans of the day.
Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his drive of the Taurus and SHO models in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Ford Taurus SE ($25,170); SEL ($27,170); Limited ($31,170); SHO ($37,170).
Options As Tested
Option Group 201A ($700) includes SYNC hands-free communications and entertainment system, reverse sensing system; Option Group 202A ($2,500) includes ambient interior lighting, intelligent access with pushbutton Start, power-adjustable pedals, Sony 12-speaker audio, 19-inch aluminum wheels with P255/45VR19 all-season tires; power moonroof ($895); multi-contour massage seats ($595); metallic paint ($495).
Ford Taurus SEL ($27,170).
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