There's a new Taurus in town--for the new model year, Ford's revamped the styling and packaging of its full-size sedan and created a more attractive, more capable competitor in a class that includes top sellers like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Malibu. The new 2010 Ford Taurus comes in SE, SEL, Limited and SHO versions. It carries a base price of $25,995, and can spiral over the $37,995 base sticker for the SHO performance edition. High Gear Media drove a manufacturer-provided Taurus and a Taurus SHO to produce this hands-on road test.
STYLING: All around, 2010 Ford Taurus presents an interesting new shape. The old VW Passat-like roofline is gone, replaced with a crisper profile that hints at the smaller Ford Fusion. The front fenders are pronounced and the roof is lowered, giving the sedan a sportier stance. Up front it's less than perfect--with a broad upper chrome bar and three dissimilar painted bars below, a new grille and wrap-around headlights, there's a lot to take in at first glance. The rear fenders are most interesting, with sculpted shoulders and firm, straight character lines playing off each other in a way no Taurus has even seen. Inside, the Taurus is more focused: defined areas for the driver and front passenger are marked with a low, long center console. The instrument cluster presents information to the driver in three, deeply recessed gauges, and lots of blue-lit gauges and small black buttons are placed logically. Standard Tauruses wear more traditional faux-wood and plastic trim, while the SHO gets special badging, glossy black dash trim and more metallic highlights inside and out, as well as a trunklid spoiler, twin chrome exhaust tips and a snazzier grille.
PERFORMANCE: The 2010 Ford Taurus has the moves to match its trimmer, more athletic looks. It sports a newly revamped 3.5-liter V-6 with 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque. It moves off the line smartly, and acceleration is smooth and plentiful at all sane speeds. The six-speed automatic's a smooth operator, but paddle shifters (on SEL and Limited versions) feel a little gimmicky in a big sedan like this. Fuel economy is impressive, at 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway for the front-wheel-drive models; adding all-wheel drive subtracts 1 and 3 mpg. Road manners are the biggest improvements: it's firmer than you might expect from such a big sedan, taut but not high-strung, with a smooth ride and some natural body roll. The steering is direct and precise, and provides plenty of feedback, an accomplishment since it's electronically dialed in, rather than hydraulically assisted.
The Taurus SHO benefits from a lot more power, but it's a little less transformational than in past SHO Taurus sedans. Older versions were very distinct from base cars; the new car's 365-horsepower, turbocharged "EcoBoost" V-6 version of the same engine breathes easily but not as dramatically as expected. Ford quotes a 0-60 mph acceleration time of 6.0 seconds for the new SHO; the curb weight of 4368 pounds must mask some of its strength. Fuel economy, in case you're wondering, is 17/25 mpg. As with the other paddle-shifted Taurus sedans, you can leave the SHO Taurus in manual mode and click off shifts as you please, with electronic backup in case your gear choices would harm engine and gearbox. The SHO suspension is tuned for handling, with stiffer shocks and springs, thicker anti-roll bars and new suspension mounts, and it pays off with crisp turn-in, and nicely balanced handling. Hustle it through corners, and the SHO leans a little before it takes a good set, and grips the pavement as well as any competitor, save for the Nissan Altima, the handling standout in the class.
COMFORT, UTILITY AND QUALITY: The 2010 Ford Taurus is a full-size car, and there's copious passenger room inside. Front seats are a little constrained by the large console, though the Taurus has great room for tall drivers. The basic seats are fine and sit high for good straight-ahead visibility. (SHO versions get tighter-fitting, suede-trimmed versions.) In the rear seat, the Taurus is wide enough to sit three across, but leg room is only adequate. With the front seats in their rear-most position, things are actually a little cramped. The biggest issues with the rear seat come from tall passengers, as always: the door opening is wide for feet, but the roofline is low, which makes entry and exit a little tougher than need be. With a sunroof installed and six-footers in back, headroom is a letdown, with constant contact between hair and headliner. In contrast, the Taurus' trunk is enormous, thanks to the high profile of the rear fenders and the tall decklid. At more than 20 cubic feet, it's almost twice the size of the Acura RL trunk; a tandem stroller and a Diaper Genie could get lost in it. Along with a more stylish cabin, the 2010 Taurus has better noise damping--even though it's not tomb-like, the interior is quiet and vibration free--and nicer materials. Plastics are higher-grade and more attractive in this new model.
SAFETY: On the safety front, the 2010 Ford Taurus is well equipped with standards including six airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; automatic high beams; and rain-sensing wipers. An SOS post-crash alert system is also standard--after an impact that causes airbags to deploy, the SOS system unlocks all doors, turns on the hazard flashers, and sounds the horn. Ford offers a collision warning system and adaptive cruise control on the new sedan, as well as Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alert systems; these use rear- and side-aiming radar to alert drivers to impending disaster. The Taurus SHO also offers an optional rearview camera. The sole strike against the Taurus thus far--crash-test agencies haven't tested it yet--is the poor rearward visibility that comes from its styling and big headrests on the back seats.
FEATURES: Standard features on the 2010 Ford Taurus make even base versions well-equipped. The $25,995 Taurus SE gets an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 playback; tilt/telescope steering; a 60/40 split-folding rear seat; a power driver seat; power locks, windows and mirrors. The next trim up, the $27,995 Taurus SEL includes Sirius satellite radio, automatic climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel; the Limited $31,995 adds 19-inch wheels, ambient lighting, a six-CD changer, reverse parking sensors, leather seats and power controls for the front passenger, and the SYNC entertainment controller. The SHO starts at $37,995 and with its unique powertrain and suspension, also gets a spoiler, push-button start, sueded seats and high-intensity discharge headlamps. On the options list, all-wheel drive adds $1850 to the SEL and Limited; there's adaptive cruise control; keyless entry with push-button start; and Ford's keyless entry keypad with a new pad flush-mounted on the driver's side B-pillar. Also available: Ford's MyKey feature that lets parents program a specific key fob with restricted vehicle function, such as maximum speed and maximum radio volume. A navigation system and sunroof are big-ticket options, too.
With the 2010 Taurus, Ford's taken the same tack as with its other recent products, like the 2009 Flex and the 2010 Fusion and Fusion Hybrid. Advanced technical features are a huge selling point for its new products, but take-notice styling is also a new hallmark--as are its turbocharged Ecoboost engines. The Taurus isn't quite the game-changing sedan that the 1986 original, but it's a solid step forward for the company's portfolio of high-quality four-doors--and one more way to challenge those upstarts from Honda and Toyota.
The Bottom Line:
The 2010 Ford Taurus punches up Ford's reputation for quality and features, with an engaging new SHO model to boost.