Far more conservative than its oval-windowed, ovoid-flanked 1996-1999 predecessor, the 2000-2007 Ford Taurus moved from cutting edge design experiment to practical family hauler. Taurus continued to be offered as a four-door sedan with room for up to six passengers or a cozy but still cable wagon with seven-passenger capacity when fitted with the available rear-facing third-row seat. On the sedan, the more mainstream roofline added headroom for both front and rear seat passengers and the less curvy hind quarters netted increased trunk space. For 2000, Ford debuted the Advanced Restraint System with standard dual "smart" front airbags that adjusted the airbag deployment force based on crash severity and occupant location. Optional front seat side impact airbags, all-speed traction control and power adjustable pedals also became available. The high-performance V8-powered SHO sedan was discontinued for 2000.
Why You Want It
Smooth-riding, comfortable, roomy with a big 17 cubic-foot trunk, and powered by a torquey V6 when many of its import competitors had just four cylinders, Taurus offers a lot of car for the money. It may not be a car connoisseur’s cup of tea, but there is good reason that families, rental-car companies and fleet managers alike snapped them up by the hundreds of thousands year after year. The well-equipped Taurus was the best-selling Ford in the early 2000s. And the wagon version is a descendent of the best-selling wagon in the U.S. in the 1980s and early 1990s before SUVs became the rage, with more than 80 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded flat. In 2005, both Parents magazine and the AAA listed Taurus as one of the best family vehicles.
Notable Features and Options
The 2000-2005 Taurus sedan was available in four trims: base LX, well-equipped SE, sporty SES and luxurious SEL. LX standards included a 155-hp V6, four-speed automatic transmission, A/C, variable-effort power steering, tilt wheel, four-speaker AM/FM stereo, power windows, mirrors and door locks. Upgrading to SE gained cruise control, alloy wheels, keyless entry, a six-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo and access to options like leather seating, ABS, traction control, a CD player and a 200-hp V6. The sporty SES added standard ABS, power driver’s seat, split-folding rear seat and options such as a rear spoiler, moonroof and auto dim mirror. The top-line SEL came standard with items such as automatic A/C, automatic headlamps, a security alarm, leather steering wheel, and adjustable foot pedals. All trims were available with a choice of front bench or front bucket seating.
With the introduction of the Ford Five Hundred for 2005, Ford tailored Taurus for fleet buyers and simplified the lineup to just SE and SEL trims.
2001: Previously optional 18 gallon fuel tank replaces standard 16 gallon tank.
2001: Standard power door locks on LX.
2002: New SEL options include wood and leather steering wheel and approach lamps at doors. Six-passenger bench seat made standard on LX, SE and SEL.
2003: New seven-spoke alloy wheels.
2004: Mild facelift with revised front fascia, new taillamps and new eggcrate grille. Updates to design of gauges and steering wheel. Optional garage door opener offered on SEL.
2005: SEL adds woodgrain trim on doors, instrument panel and console.
2006: Wagon model dropped. With Volvo S80-based Ford Five Hundred added to the lineup, Taurus continues as a fleet model only. Duratec 200-hp DOHC V6 exits the Taurus lineup.
2007: No official model but some remaining 2006 inventory rolls over to 2007.
Engines and Performance
Two 3.0-liter V6s that have no common parts were offered. The Vulcan 3.0-liter is an older-design pushrod workhorse, rated at 153-155 horsepower and 185-186 lb-ft of torque. The more modern Duratec 3.0-liter is a double overhead cam all-aluminum engine, pegged at 200-201 horsepower and 200-207 lb-ft of torque. The Duratec V6 was dropped after the 2005 model year. There was also a Flex-Fuel version of the 155-hp Vulcan V6 that could burn unleaded regular gas, cleaner-running E85 ethanol or any combination of the two. A four-speed automatic was the single transmission choice.
EPA fuel economy estimates for the two V6s were nearly identical, ranging 19-20 mpg city and 25-29 mpg highway. However, the Flex-Fuel engine on E85 fuel achieved only a 14-15 mpg city/19-20 mpg highway estimate due to the lower energy value of ethanol.
Performance with the 200-hp Duratec V6 was on par with midsize sedan competitors. Consumer Reports measured an 8.3-second 0-60 mph time. The magazine found the ride to be composed and stable, but handling lacked nimbleness, the turning circle was wide for the class and stopping distances were long.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The 2000-2006 Taurus had more than its share of safety recalls from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
2000: Faulty headlamp knob could break off.
2000-2001: Front coil springs could fracture due to corrosion. Windshield wiper motor could overheat and cause a fire. Grease in adjustable pedals could cause brake lights to malfunction. Center stop lamp on optional spoiler could fail to operate properly.
2000-2002: Brake lamp switch may be defective. Brake and accelerator pedals on cars with optional adjustable pedals were too close together, which could lead to unintended acceleration.
2001: Child safety seat anchors were not properly secured. Owners manual did not show rear center child seat anchor locations. Front seatbelts might not latch properly.
2002-2003: Potentially loose front windshield.
2003: Engine air filter element can burn, leading to a fire.
2004: Incorrectly built power seat frames could injure occupants in a collision.
2006: Lack of grease on wiper motor may damage gears.
NHTSA gave the 2000-2003 Taurus Sedan and Wagon five stars for driver and front passenger frontal impacts. Taurus 2004-2006 model ranking for frontal impacts degraded slightly to four stars for the driver and five stars for the front seat passenger. In side-impact testing (with or without optional front-seat side airbags), all 2000-2006 Taurus models were rated at just three stars for the driver and front passenger. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2000-2006 Taurus a good rating for frontal offset impacts, but did not test the car for side impacts.
Ford warranted the 2000 to 2007 Taurus Sedan with 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage as well as 3-year/36,000-mile powertrain coverage.
Word on the Web
CarComplaints.com lists owner issues with broken coil springs due to corrosion on 2000-2003 models, poor heater performance on 2000-2003 models, and transmission failures on 2000-2005 Ford Taurus models.
ConsumerReports.org predicts average reliability overall for the 2000-2006 Taurus Sedan and Wagon, but below average to average reliability in the areas of brakes, electrical system, climate control and fuel system.
It’s hard to beat the combination of good reliability, user friendliness and impressive fuel economy the Toyota Camry offers, but you’ll pay more for a good used example. The Honda Accord is more fun to drive and approaches Camry in reliability while matching Camry’s fuel efficiency and Taurus’ base engine V6 power with just four cylinders. The Chevy Impala of this vintage offers a robust V6/four-speed automatic powertrain and achieves impressive EPA fuel economy estimates, but drab styling breaks the spell.
Nothing fancy here, a used Taurus is wheels and you’re looking at one because you need a reliable, safe midsize family car, but can’t afford a new one. With well over a million examples of the 2000-2006 model on the road, there are plenty to pick from. Always go with low-mileage cars with few previous owners. Taurus had a lot of recalls in the first few years of this range, so stick to the later year models that benefitted from Ford’s continuous improvements. The Taurus wagon from this vintage may be an attractive alternative to an SUV, minivan or crossover, offering plenty of people and cargo space yet delivering carlike ride and handling. Look for the optional Duratec DOHC 3.0-liter V6 that not only delivers 25-percent more power than the base pushrod Vulcan 3.0-liter V6, but is smoother and quieter while delivering equivalent fuel efficiency. Also recommended are the higher-level SE, SES and SEL trims that often came with anti-lock brakes, traction control, alloy wheels and premium audio systems.