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2010 Ford Taurus AWD
Taurus fights like a bull for position in the full-size sedan market
By Chuck Reimer
Forget what you know about the Taurus you grew up with (in our case, a 1993 Ford Taurus wagon), because that ship has sailed. Long gone is the class-leading, Euro-inspired mid-size sedan that shocked the world and turned Ford into the class leader in sales; even becoming the best-selling car in the US.during its second generation from 1992-1995.
No, the Taurus today has evolved into something more. More in a literal sense, as in full-size sedan. When the Ford Fusion was introduced for 2006, it took over the responsibilities as Ford’s mainstay mid-sizer, and the Taurus was largely forgotten, both by Ford and the general public. (Editor's Note: It was renamed and marketed as the Five Hundred for a couple of years, but Ford soon wisened up and restored the original brand name.) The all-new for 2010 Taurus needed to make a splash in the marketplace, and by golly, it did (and not just because it’s bigger).
So in light of its newfound persona (and personal curiosity) we decided to check out this reformed beast. Our tester was a 2010 Ford Taurus SEL AWD in Steel Blue Metallic with Charcoal Black leather interior.
Competition: Trimmed out in AWD guise, the Taurus doesn’t have too many direct competitors, but there are a few other large cruisers available with all-wheel drive. First up is the Chrysler 300 Touring AWD; another former class-leader, albeit not as long ago as the Taurus. Next is the also-new for 2010 Buick LaCrosse, available with AWD in CXL trim. Full-size domestic cruisers don’t come any bigger than this trio of land-yachts, and they all boast plenty of space for their occupants.
In FWD spec, the Taurus suddenly finds itself in a much larger playing field, also going up against the likes of the new Honda Accord, Toyota Avalon and perhaps even the Chevrolet Malibu. The Taurus is unnaturally large, commanding more space than any of the previously mentioned cars, but its starting price is lower than either of the other two direct competitors. It also comes standard with a lot of features that are optional on the other cars, even walking into luxury car territory on some occasions.
Exterior styling: The previous generation Taurus/Five Hundred sedan was a blandly styled large-barge people-mover that didn’t inspire anyone with its looks, and Ford was determined to change that with this iteration. The new Taurus features bold styling cues splayed over a large canvas of sheet metal, starting with the now-standard three- bar grill at the front. The headlights and the air intake underneath the grill take some cues from European Ford styling, known as ‘Kinetic Design’. The hood is very long and features a so-called ‘power dome’ which doesn’t help the forward view from inside the car, as all you tend to see is that long expanse stretching out into the distance.
The side of the car has a deep character line that runs just under the door handles from the faux fender vent through to the back door, is interrupted by the rear wheel fender bulge, and continues briefly on the rear panel. This last little indent behind the rear wheel looks misplaced, and at a quick glance almost appears as though you’ve been in a minor accident. The beltline is high and runs upwards from the front to back, ending in a trunk line that is so high, opening the trunk feels like opening the hatch on a crossover. This also means that when sitting in the driver’s seat, visibility out of the rear window is not very good.
Score – 3/5
Interior design/functionality: The inside of the new bull was a nice place to spend time and our tester came with a few options that made it nicer. The Technology package included Ford’s SYNC entertainment system with voice-controlled iPod integration, power adjustable pedals and pushbutton start. The instrument panel and dash looked very upscale, but some of the plastic switchgear felt a little cheap, and the lettering used on the media display looked a bit dated.
For users with a large media library on their iPod (like us), music is a little difficult to navigate on the small display, and the SYNC voice system is good but doesn’t always pick up some of the more obscurely-named artists or albums. The steering wheel mounted buttons were not very well placed as they extend right to the edge of the wheel centre and were easy to accidentally hit when turning a corner; we constantly paused our music accidentally when changing hand positions on the wheel. When it recognized our preferred artist and wasn’t paused, the 12-speaker Sony stereo sounded excellent.
Score – 3/5
Interior comfort/space: With the size of the Taurus, you would expect to find lots of room inside to travel comfortably no matter the length of your trip and you wouldn’t be disappointed. Up front, the leather seats are very comfortable, and for the driver things just got better with the inclusion of multi-contour Active Motion seats, which were eight-way power adjustable, heated, and featured a subtle rolling massage that quickly became one of the first things we activated upon starting a commute to work.
The front seats are separated by a high centre console that extends all the way from the dash to the back of the front seats and makes you feel a little isolated from your driving companion. In the back, two people would have absolutely nothing to complain about, and even three people could probably cohabitate fairly reasonably.
The trunk is gigantic as expected and will be put to good use when the Taurus goes into Police Interceptor duty in a year or so (replacing the outgoing Ford Crown Victoria). For civilian duty, the trunk is well suited for golf clubs, or perhaps misbehaving children (we kid, we kid).
Score – 5/5
Power/transmission: While the rest of the car is completely redesigned, under the hood you’ll find something familiar; a 3.5L Duratec V6 that has been around for a few years and has seen duty in some of FoMoCo’s previous offerings, such as the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. This engine produces 263 horsepower and 249 lb-ft of torque, which is pushed through a six-speed automatic gearbox that works very well in conjunction with this big car, moving it along smoothly and getting up to speed pretty effortlessly.
Every model save the base Taurus comes standard with paddle-shifters which allow you to control the automatic, but this is no sports car, paddle shifters need not apply. For the application, the auto does fine on its own and we found that the big paddles just got in the way.
Score – 4/5
Fuel efficiency: Ford rates the AWD Taurus at 12.3/7.9 litres/100 km (city/hwy) which isn’t too bad for a car that weighs 1916 kg/4224 lb. However, the Taurus SHO with its 3.5L twin-turbo EcoBoost engine with almost a hundred more horsepower manages almost identical fuel economy (12.3/8.0). Imagine what the Taurus could do with the 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that Ford showed in the 2008 Explorer America concept, with 275 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. During our week of driving, we saw an average of 11.7 litres/100 km, which slides in between the rating given and in our opinion was not a bad result for the mass this vehicle is burdened with.
Score – 3/5
Handling: On the road, the Taurus’ steering was solid and the car felt very planted and confident. Part of that might be due to the car’s sheer heft, but the chassis is well sorted to soak up bumps and cracks in the road surface to keep the car tracking true. Over uneven sections of pavement the ride feels a little floaty at times, but mostly in a comfortable cruiser sort of way, rather than feeling unsettling. At slower speeds like parking lots or drive-throughs, the steering is weighted rather heavy, making it somewhat difficult to manoeuvre the big car in tight spaces.
We were always thankful for the backup sensors on the rear bumper because it was hard to imagine the length that stretches out behind you when backing up. On several occasions we actually had to get out of the car and see how much room we had left behind us -- because we simply didn’t believe the backup sensors when they told us we were getting too close. Unfortunately, they were always right and we were kept in a constant state of disbelief at just how long this car really is.
Score – 3/5
Value: Pound for pound, the Taurus stacks up quite well against its major competition. Nicely styled, competitively priced, and loaded with features to entice buyers, this is a car that will appeal to the executive set that want to arrive in style, but with money left in their bank account. Perhaps the biggest competitor might actually be its own family friend, the Lincoln MKS. The pricing of the Taurus SHO and a base Lincoln MKS are within an arm’s length of each other, so there may be a little sibling rivalry happening on the show floor. If Ford would introduce a smaller EcoBoost engine into the regular Taurus lineup, they would really put their competition on notice. Until then, it’s a shame that they’ve kept the fabulous 3.5L EcoBoost exclusive to the SHO.
Total Score – 7/10
-Smooth, comfortable ride
-Great seats, especially heated with Active Motion
-Loaded with technology
-Large size makes it hard to manoeuvre
-Some interior touches feel/look cheap or dated
Base Price (FWD): $29,999
Base Price (AWD): $34,799
Price as Tested (AWD): $39,029
Destination Fee (freight): $1,350
Options on Tester
SEL Technology Package - $2,800
-Intelligent Access w/push button start
-Battery upgrade from 58AH to 72AH
-Power adjustable pedals
-Reverse sensing system
-SYNC voice-activated communications/entertainment
-Radio: Sony AM/FM Stereo/6 CD/MP3
Engine Block Heater - $80
Heated leather-trimmed bucket seats - $750
Multi-contour seats - $600
Chuck Reimer's story previously appeared on AutoNorth.ca. Posted on CarTest! April 19, 2010.