Just three years ago, prospects didn’t look good for Ford. Sales were plummeting and deficits were stacking up while their product offering was simply less competitive. Then Allan Mullaly took the reins at Ford and things started to change. In fact, when he stepped in he pledged that within three years, the company would be producing vehicles that were more modern, more attractive and more exciting to drive. At the time, most people, including myself, shrugged their shoulders at what seemed to be false promises. And yet here we are, three years later, and Ford’s new models are looking surprisingly good.
Among these much-talked-about new vehicles is the new Taurus. After a tumultuous career and even being left for dead, it’s back with a vengeance. When it debuted back in the 80s, it really shook up the full-size vehicle market with its unique lines and road handling. Within a few years it had become the most popular car in North America, only to fall from grace, hit the rock bottom of sales and finally be abandoned as the new millennium began. It was replaced by the Five Hundred, which despite being an excellent vehicle on several levels, was rather homely and left much to be desired in terms of performance.
But that was yesterday. Today, the situation has changed dramatically with Mullaly bringing back the Taurus name a couple years ago and unveiling a new version for 2010. And what a version it is!
Inquiring minds want to know...
Throughout the entire week that I test-drove this vehicle, I had people coming up to me to express their admiration for this vehicle’s silhouette. In fact, their first question was what kind of vehicle it was. In a parking lot, one man even walked around to the back of the car to check the model and make. So, it’s safe to say that the manufacturer has made some major progress in terms of design, especially if you compare this Taurus to the Five Hundred.
The way its tail end cuts off, its short overhang, its sculpted sides with creases that run from front to back, narrow windows and a distinctly more elegant front grille, this vehicle was made to catch eyes. It’s also worth noting that this vehicle is no small player. Being roughly as big as the new Buick LaCrosse, it’s a real full-size automobile. The last thing I want to point out about its exterior is the fact that the wheels fill the wheel wells, and you can opt for 20-inch wheels.
The inside of the vehicle is consistent with the exterior. Sure, fans of European or Japanese cars will find it’s a little too American, but this style is as good as any other. The quality of the materials is fine and the finish is excellent. Worth point out is the fact that the colour and intensity of the ambient lighting can controlled. These lights are found in the doors, the cupholder and the front occupants foot space. Meanwhile, the instrument panel is electroluminescent and easy to read. You can adjust the a/c, sound system and the car’s primary functions on a liquid crystal screen, which also allows you to track the car’s movement using the GPS system, if you opt for it. And now, just like all other notable Fords, the Taurus is equipped with a SYNC voice-activated system. One last detail we’d like to mention is that the central console has USB or aux connectivity. They also thought to include a grommet to make plugging in your electronic module more easily.
The driving position is good thanks to the fact that the driver’s seat and steering wheel are adjustable in all kinds of directions, while the pedal carriage can also be adjusted. The front seats can be heated or cooled as needed. We test-drove a Limited version, which came with all the optional equipment available. Curiously, despite the presence of a liquid crystal screen, there was no rear view camera. This accessory is only available on the Taurus SHO, which is powered by the spectacular 365-hp EcoBoost engine.
The last thing I’ll mention about the interior is that the rear seating is spacious and comfortable, and the 60-40 split-folding seats will allow you to transport long and bulky items. Its very roomy trunk is matched with a large opening to access it and a relatively low cargo threshold.
Goodbye poor mechanics!
If American manufacturers currently have a less-than-favourable reputation compared to their Japanese counterparts, it’s because for years they offered mechanics that you could practically call retro, and their trim and reliability were both inferior to that of the competition too. But things have changed, and based on the Taurus we tested, the competition now has cause for concern. From the passenger compartment to the body, the fit and trim on this vehicle is impeccable and the materials are top quality. We shouldn’t expect to see flaws masked by thick carpeting or other kinds of accessories anymore.
Mechanically speaking, things have changed too. Today, the rigidity of the platforms for North American automobiles is often superior to what you find in Japanese cars. And that’s precisely the case for the Taurus, which has a very rigid platform indeed. Add to that an independent multi-link suspension and a more rigid steering column bracket, and you’ve got just what you need for great handling. And even though the Limited isn’t the sportiest of the lot, it comes with an anti-roll bar linking the two front suspension towers. As for the mechanics, the 3.5-litre V6 that powered our test vehicle produced 263 hp and was paired with an automatic six-speed transmission that can be controlled by wheel-mounted push-pull rockers. All-wheel drive is also part of this vehicle’s offering.
If we want to take into consideration the comments received during our test drive, people seemed to appreciate this car’s physique and overall presentation. From our point of view, we enjoyed the comfort and sophisticated instrumentation, but were most impressed with its road handling. With 19-inch wheels and a relatively firm suspension, this Taurus is a far cry from the stereotypical big American sedan. Just as good on major highways as country roads, this vehicle responds to your every whim. You do the steering and it pretty much does the rest. However, given that it’s such a large and heavy machine, drivers shouldn’t put the laws of physics to the test by driving fast and braking at the last minute. That said, the brakes are very effective and progressive, and quite resistant to over-heating.
Nothing is perfect in this world, not even the Taurus. But its shortcomings are not all that important. There’s an ongoing debate about the trunk release button placed on the right-hand side of the dash. Then there’s the multi-function lever to the left of the steering wheel that attempts to handle both the headlights and windshield wipers.
Meanwhile, the multi-function key doesn’t let you unlock the door on contact like many other competitors. The reason for this is that Ford refuses to do away with the SecuriCode Keyless Entry Keypad, located on the B pillar, on which you punch in a code to unlock the doors.
But, as you can tell, these are just details. Overall, the vehicle is very well made and well thought out.