AUTO REVIEW: Ford recharges much-maligned midsize sedan with amazing aplomb
Remember that trip a few years back when you arrived at the airport, took the rental-car shuttle, signed the paperwork and walked to the parking lot only to face the prospect of driving a Ford Taurus?...
Remember that trip a few years back when you arrived at the airport, took the rental-car shuttle, signed the paperwork and walked to the parking lot only to face the prospect of driving a Ford Taurus?
Times have changed.
The Taurus once again is a star, living up to its initial success when it set standards in design and handling for a midsize family car. It's quite a comeback for a car that lost its status with a botched 1996 redesign and was axed in 2005.
By then, it had become so uncomfortable and cheaply built that friends of mine referred to it as the "Tsuris" -- a Yiddish word meaning grief, trouble or aggravation.
The Taurus got a reprieve in 2008 when the full-size Ford Five Hundred received a minor makeover and was rechristened the Taurus. But the name change didn't help. The Taurus' reputation had been sullied at the rental-car counter. Clearly, some heavy-duty surgery was called for.
Enter the 2010 model.
Taking its styling cues from the Ford 427 concept car, the new Taurus sports a powerful, muscular visage. It looks big -- really big -- at least on the outside.
When you get inside, it feels smaller. Why? The car's roof has been lowered a couple of inches, which reduces rear-seat height and legroom. Added technology forced the instrument panel rearward, gobbling up additional space.
The result is a model that feels cozy and safe, yet sporty and sophisticated.
The reaction you'll get is surprise, usually with an incredulous air: "That's a Ford Taurus?"
Uh-huh. And this bull knows how to charge.
The Taurus starts at just under $26,000 for the front-wheel-drive SE sedan with a 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with six-speed automatic transmission. SEL and Limited models get more standard gear and optional all-wheel drive.
But the steer I test-drove is the one Ford that performance fans have been waiting for: the SHO, or Super High Output, model. Starting at a none-too-shy $37,170 and topping out at more than $45,000, this has flagship written all over it.
If that price makes you gasp -- I know I did -- look closer. Unlike past Taurus SHOs, this one is as technologically up to date as imports at twice the price.
The transmission has steering-wheel-mounted paddle- shifters, which allow for manual shifting with a simple tap.
There's also blind-spot detection, which alerts you to vehicles in your blind spot; cross-path detection, which alerts you to oncoming traffic when you're backing out of a space; and a rear-view camera that comes on when the car is in reverse.
The key fob can stay in your purse or pocket. The car unlocks and starts at the touch of button.
Of course, there's traction control, antilock brakes and stability control. But Ford also offers adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains the space between you and the car in front of you, and a collision warning system, which warns you of slowing traffic and activates the brakes if you don't.
Then there's the Sony audio system with Sirius satellite radio and Sirius Travel Link. The latter applies traffic and weather information to your navigation system's map. And that's before Micros oft Sync, which allows you synchronize wireless devices to the car.
My favorite option is the multi-contour seats, which provide a subtle, continuous massage. The seats can be heated or cooled, which makes long drives tolerable.
Oh, yes, long drives. Here's what you'll need to know: You'll want to do them.
Under the hood is Ford's new EcoBoost twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 producing 365 horsepower.
The name "EcoBoost" is no misnomer. Despite the car's power and heft, fuel economy came in just under 24 mpg, remarkable for an all-wheel-drive car of this size and better than most all-wheel drive compacts I've driven.
Power comes on strong and smooth in a linear fashion. The SHO lacks the hairy-chested adolescent fury of previous models but compensates with a sublime ride and flat cornering.
Despite all-wheel drive, pushing hard in corners makes the 20-inch Michelins howl as you come close to overwhelming their grip.
Still, for a car this size to handle as well as it does is rare. One with a trunk this size is rarer still.
It's enough to make anyone realize that the Taurus isn't just a great full-size car, it's proof that Ford Motor Co. is firing on all cylinders.
WHAT WE SAY: This bull is great, and that's no bull
Pro: What's not to like?
Con: Almost too quiet for a sports sedan
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6
Wheelbase: 112.9 inches
Length: 202.9 inches
Weight: 4,368 pounds
Cargo space: 20.1 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds
EPA rating (city/highway): 17/25 mpg
Fuel economy: 23.9 mpg
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
Base price: $37,170 (for SHO)
As tested: $45,175