Pros: Handles like a lighter car; has ample cargo volume; is loaded with tech;

interior is quiet

Cons: Feels cramped inside; lacks passenger room

What's New: More efficiency from 3.5-liter V6, addition of turbocharged four-cylinder engine, updated  design

Fans were pleased when Ford revived the Taurus name in 2007 by rebadging and discontinuing the Five Hundred. Still, in the half decade since then, the Taurus hasn't regained the beloved status it once enjoyed among the American public. In fact, even after a complete redesign in 2010, Taurus sales sagged last year while the rest of the car market began to surge.

In an attempt to revive sales and give the Taurus a modern Ford look, moderate interior and exterior visual enhancements lead the list of changes for the 2013 model year. These changes bring it in line with the new styling of other well-received recent Ford make-overs such as the highly anticipated 2013 Fusion and 2013 Escape, as well as the 2012 Explorer and 2012 Focus.

With other relatively small changes that improve fuel economy, handling, acceleration, comfort and convenience, the 2013 Taurus does hold some significant advantages over the outgoing model, but it still has trouble recapturing the broad appeal of its heritage.

Chalk it up to changing consumer tastes, enhanced domestic competition on the low end or pricing that pits it against the German brands on the high end-for whatever reason, it's hard to see exactly where the modern Taurus fits.

Comfort & Utility

There is no question that Ford has made it a priority to enhance the interior of the 2013 Taurus. Soft-touch materials cover nearly every surface, and controls are within easy reach. Unfortunately, the huge center console makes the cabin feel a bit claustrophobic for such a wide vehicle, and its dimensions cut down dramatically on knee room. Also, the MyFord Touch system is sometimes hard to see, especially in bright sunlight, because of the angle of the console and where the touchscreen is located. The bottom sliver is obstructed as well.

Rear-seat legroom is sufficient but feels cramped for a sedan of this size. Certainly the 20.1 cubic feet of monstrous trunk capacity is welcome, but it could have been cut down to provide more room for rear-seat occupants.

Although the 2013 Taurus is priced starting at about $30,000, when fully optioned, it can reach into the mid-$40,000 range. Knowing this places it in direct competition with some luxury/performance brands, Ford has succeeded in making the interior feel more like a luxury vehicle with nice standard and optional luxury and semi-luxury features such as massaging heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, adjustable foot pedals, power rear sunshade, active park assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Attention to detail is as evident on the 2013 Taurus as it is on almost every other modern Ford on the road. Upgraded soundproofing materials make the interior of the Taurus one of the quietest available in this price range.

Technology

The biggest technology improvement for the 2013 model year is the significantly updated MyFord Touch system. It is much faster, easier to use, encounters less critical system errors, and is better organized than the previous generation, which spawned a serious love/hate relationship with owners. For those who have come to love and/or hate the current generation, this will be a welcome improvement in functionality. The updated MyFord Touch system isn't exclusive to the new Taurus and will be available for some older vehicles as well, via an upgrade that Ford is sending out to owners of all compatible vehicles.

All-wheel drive is optional on the base model and standard on the SHO, but it isn't available on the 2.0-liter EcoBoost version. During testing on wet and icy back roads the AWD system coped surprisingly well, although it does cut down on fuel economy. On the SHO the AWD system doesn't make it feel as sporty as rear-wheel drive would, only transferring power to the rear wheels when it senses slippage, but it does make for some spirited driving.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The 2013 Taurus's 3.5-liter V6 base engine is carried over but with added variable valve timing. This ups output to 288 horsepower and increases fuel economy by a hair, to 19 mpg city/29 mpg highway. In the middle of this year Ford will add a 2.0-liter, 240-hp 4-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine to the mix of drivetrain options. With a whopping 270 lb-ft of torque, this engine combines reasonably fun driving with more than 31 mpg on the highway and could prove to be a big seller given rising gas prices.

The SHO performance package is also back for 2013, retaining the turbocharged 3.5-liter, 365-hp EcoBoost engine of the previous generation. Ford says the SHO should be able to reach 60 mph in less than five seconds, an amazing feat for an almost 4,500-pound vehicle. A different SHO-inspired grille and unique wheels set it apart from the other trims. Fuel economy for the SHO remains unchanged at 17/25 mpg.

The electric power steering creates a bit of a detached feeling, especially on the SHO, but it is tuned to provide a good compromise between handling well when needed and comfortable driving the rest of the time. Braking has improved noticeably for 2013. Stopping distances are surprisingly short and regulating speed in city traffic is smooth and free of jerkiness.

The benefits of the newly added torque vectoring control are immediately noticeable on high-speed winding back roads. That system controls power to the outside wheels, modulating it when it senses a turn has been entered too fast and quickly adjusting to make even the most inexperienced driver feel like a master. When combined with the well-tuned electric power steering and the improved braking, the Taurus feels like a much lighter vehicle.

Safety

The 2013 Taurus is loaded with high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels to create a rigid safety cage, and it also has a full complement of side and front impact airbags. Other standard safety features include electronic stability control, rollover sensors and a post-crash alert system. Optional safety systems include adaptive cruise control, collision warning with automatic braking, blind spot monitoring and a cross-traffic alert system.

Driving Impressions

In general, the 2013 Taurus is a remarkably comfortable vehicle, especially when loaded with comfort extras. Unfortunately the gigantic, albeit stylish, center console cuts into long-distance driving comfort by curtailing knee room and making front passengers feel they are sitting in a spaceship. Out on the road, the Taurus exhibits poise befitting a much smaller vehicle, thanks to its upgraded handling, power steering and braking capabilities. When combined with all-wheel drive, it moments when it inspires the type of driving confidence typically found on more expensive performance vehicles.

Other Cars to Consider

Chrysler 300 - Perhaps the truest competitor for the 2013 Taurus, the Chrysler 300 comes in many of the same flavors (a base model complemented by a performance package) and hits the same range of prices.

Toyota Avalon - Although it's not much of a performance vehicle, the Avalon is arguably a better value.

Chevrolet Impala - Are you a Chevy person or Ford a person? Until Chevrolet releases an updated Impala, this generation of Taurus wins hands down.

BMW 5 Series - Although the 5 Series starts in the mid-$40,000 price range, if you're shopping for a Taurus SHO you'll end up in the same territory. Even Ford says the 5 Series is the vehicle most commonly cross shopped against the SHO, which leaves us wondering if the SHO can truly compete with German luxury/performance.

AutoTrader Recommends

The SHO is fun, but for everyday driving, comfort and value, your best bet is the base 3.5-liter V6 Limited with upgraded MyFord Touch and front-wheel drive. If fuel economy is your most important consideration, go with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost. If you live in an area with harsh winters, add all-wheel drive.

author photo

Nick Chambers is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he's been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.

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