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AUTO REVIEW: The best Taurus since 1986

There's a meaty master's thesis for some MBA candidate in the history, and historic mismanagement, of the Ford Taurus, which launched to overwhelming praise for the 1986 model year and has sagged since.

There's a meaty master's thesis for some MBA candidate in the history, and historic mismanagement, of the Ford Taurus, which launched to overwhelming praise for the 1986 model year and has sagged since.

The 1996 redesign was a legendary failure -- the resulting overweight, unattractive car made few friends, and though a mid-cycle redesign helped a little, the Taurus ended its run with a whimper when, by 2004, it was marketed as a rental car, then killed off completely. It was replaced by the Five Hundred in 2005, and when that car didn't sell, it was renamed the Taurus, finding Ford in the uncomfortable position of admitting a mistake in eliminating the nameplate.

For 2010, Taurus is back with a new -- well, almost new -- model, a clear mission and plenty of marketing dollars that Ford hopes will make you remember 1986, when the Taurus unseated the Honda Accord as the top seller.

For all intents, this is a new car, though it is still based on the Volvo-derived platform used for the last model, and the base engine remains the Duratec 3.5-liter V-6. The exterior is entirely different and, in a sort of old-fashioned, Buick-like way, handsome and distinctive. The interior is excellent. Even though this new car is an inch longer than last year's it actually has just slightly less interior room.

The base-model Taurus SE starts at $25,170, the same price as the 2009 model. The test car was the Limited, loaded with luxury equipment. With options and shipping, the price of the test car was $37,675.

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On the road, the 3.5-liter V-6 has all the power most anyone will need. If you want more, though, be aware that there's a Taurus SHO (Super High Output) sports model offered that adds twin turbochargers to this engine that ups horsepower to 365. But with the smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, the base engine works just fine.

The suspension is on the soft side, and hard cornering reminds you that this is, indeed, a big, heavy car. Steering that is slightly stiff and numb doesn't help. But for highway driving and around-town duty, the new Taurus is more than up to the task.

The test car also had lots of safety equipment, both standard and optional, including standard stability control, side and side-curtain air bags, a reverse sensor and MyKey, which allows parents to limit certain functions of the car for teen drivers, such as top speed and maximum stereo volume.

This is the best Taurus since 1986, and Ford has a lot riding on it. It won't revolutionize the market the way that original model did, but Ford has done the right thing by giving the Taurus all it needs to succeed.

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2010 FORD TAURUS LIMITED

Base price: $25,170

Price as tested: $37,675

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EPA rating: 18 miles per gallon city driving, 28 mpg highway.

Details: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive sedan with a 263-horsepower V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

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