There are still herds of ancient Ford Tauri from the 1980s and ‘90s roaming the American hinterlands, their once-daring, worn-bar-of-soap styling looking more and more like the automotive Lava Lamp. That original Taurus took Ford into front-wheel drive and better, more fuel-efficient aerodynamics and became a best-seller. But by the naughts Ford — perhaps distracted by the profit margins of pickup trucks and SUVs — was alternately ignoring its bread & butter sedan or brutally slashing its costs, content and, ultimately, value. The Taurus became a rental car and then went all but extinct.
Today’s Taurus is a different beast. Maybe the old name provides comfort and familiarity, but underneath the badge is a highly credible biggish car — comfortable, roomy, modestly chic, and not even unrewarding to drive. Today’s Taurus could serve as the default American sedan, the price-value yardstick against which others are measured. So if your new autobahn-bred import costs twice as much, it had better be twice as good.
There are four Taurus variants. The standard engine in three of them — SE, SEL, Limited — is a V-6 now tuned up to 288 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. Optional is a smaller turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine rated for 240HP and 270 torques (on premium gas). EcoBoost 4 drivers won’t feel undergunned off the line, yet they should gain about three more miles per gallon, to 22 mpg in city driving and 32 on the highway. This with front-wheel drive only; AWD is not available with the 4-cylinders.
The enthusiast’s Taurus, the $40,000 SHO (Super High Output), gets the EcoBoost V-6 — 365HP, 350-lb-ft — plus up-rated suspension and brakes and a lot of toys. This is more power than Ford wants to route through the front wheels alone, so the SHO is all-wheel-drive only.
Ford has tweaked its stability-control electronics to what it now calls Curve Control, and made this standard on all Tauruses: If the car decides its speed is too great for a particular corner, Curve Control automatically cuts the throttle and, if necessary, squeezes the brakes. All Tauruses also get the latest in fuel-economy wizardry: shutters behind the grille that automatically open, to allow cooling air to the engine, or close for better aerodynamics at speed.
Our example was a mid-range SEL with the standard V6, all-wheel drive and a sticker price of $34,445. It was equipped with a good but basic suite of features that included projector-beam headlights and bright, fast-reacting LED taillights, dual automatic heating and cooling zones, a compass and trip computer, wide-angle inserts in the (heated) side mirrors, pushbutton ignition, and radio and cruise-control switches on the steering wheel.
Unlike most press cars — usually stuffed with pricey gadgets — it was equipped the way a thoughtful and cost-conscious buyer might do it. The sole add-ons were heated leather seats for $1,495 and Equipment Group 202A ($3,795), which adds Sync voice-activation for music, telephone, climate control, navigation, news and incoming text messages; a rear-view camera and backup sensors; and adjustable pedals, a computer touchscreen and pushbutton remote starting.
I would have ordered two more options that I’ve come to appreciate: blind-spot monitors — Ford’s now can also detect traffic crossing behind the car as it backs out of a driveway or parking slot — and interactive cruise control. (Basic cruise control won’t automatically adjust its speed in traffic.)
The standard 6-speed automatic transmission has a Sport setting and a manual shift button, but they’re hardly necessary. This particular SEL fairly shouts “company car!” As such, it is a quiet, relaxing place to do business and the miles pass by almost unnoticed.
For many years, much Detroit iron left the clear impression that the makers were trying to enhance the corporate bottom line by delivering as little value as possible for the buyer’s dollar. We know how that worked out. For this 6th-generation Taurus, however, it seems the design and engineering teams got together and decided to build something they were proud of and we’d be pleased to own. Every car (and nearly every SUV) now wearing the blue oval feels like a solid check mark in the plus column.
Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at email@example.com.