2010 Ford Taurus SEL

There have been great love affairs over the years.  Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Brad and Angelina.  Penn and Teller.  The real classic?  Americans and large automobiles.  Gas prices are as volatile as Jennifer Aniston’s romantic life and yet we continue to cling to the notion that bigger is better.  There’s joke there, I’ll leave it be.

2010 Ford Taurus

Enter the new Taurus.  It’s a big deal.  Certainly it’s an important car for Ford but I’m talking size.   On average it’s a foot longer than cars like Camry and Malibu.  It’s 450 pounds heavier than the full sized Honda Accord.

In price it seems like Taurus is now competing with Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse and Acura TL (though here I’m talking about the high performance SHO model).  My moderately optioned SEL tester with heated leather seats, sunroof and SYNC system goes for about 32K.  Those wanting a mid-sized mid-priced sedan with a blue oval should shop Fusion.  Taurus has become the classic large sedan that Americans love.

A little history

Like a celebrity’s career, Taurus has seen it all.  Introduced in 1985 it was a breakthrough design.  The name reportedly sprang from a top Ford exec (his wife’s zodiac sign). In the early to mid 90s it was the best selling car in America.  In 1996 the third generation Taurus got a controversial ovoid redo. At that point it followed Nick Nolte’s career trajectory.  Ford began concentrating on high profit trucks and SUVs, neglecting Taurus into rental car purgatory and finally extinction.

Then Boeing lifer Alan Mulally took over as President and CEO.  Back in the 80’s when Mulally was at the Lazy B, he and Ford Chairman Don Peterson (who was on the Boeing board of directors) got key executives and engineers together.  Their goal?  To understand what their respective companies were doing to improve themselves.  Boeing’s group went on to produce the 777, Ford the Taurus.

So Mulally was no stranger to Ford when he arrived.  That experience and the ability to recognize a proven name brand led Mr. Mulally to revive the Taurus name.  It was affixed to an improved version of what had briefly been the Five Hundred, a car few people remember.  Engineers were assigned to quickly come up with a new design.  The result is now sitting on Ford dealer lots.

Visibly proud, Mr. Mulally would love it if you would take one for a test drive.  He makes an appearance in the streaming video as we drive the streets of Seattle.   Let me take this opportunity to thank him for his time on a rainy Labor Day, he’s an engaging interview.


A comfortable highway companion

In everyday driving, the full sized Taurus has an excellent ride quality.  Like many American cars these days the suspension is set Euro firm but not as stiff as Accords.  Quiet and comfortable, it’s composed in the corners.  The weight gets felt when pushing hard in curves, stability electronics kick in early (only the traction control can be turned off).  In the end this SEL is cast well for its role of everyday driver.  This big boy isn’t supposed to be a sport sedan, that’s the job of the all-wheel drive SHO model with its terrific 365 HP EcoBoost engine.

SELs get a 263 horse V6.  A big meaty lever operates a smooth 6-speed automatic.  Choose your gears manually with steering wheel paddle shifters if you’d like.  V6 Accords will win the drag race but the stout front wheel drive Taurus runs to 60 miles an hour in a respectable 7 and a half seconds.  It’s a top shelf highway cruiser.

Transmission shift time and kickdown is about average.  Today’s gear boxes hold to higher gears longer to improve fuel efficiency and Taurus is no different.  EPA rates a front drive Taurus at 18 city/28 highway, competitive in class (V6 Accord scores 19/29, Camry 19/28).  Good anti-lock disc brakes at all wheels stop the heavy Taurus right quick.

2010 Ford Taurus: SYNC with Traffic, Directions and Information

Moving inside

Like many new Fords, doors drop all the way down and cover the rocker panel.  The design keeps the sill and your pants clean.  It also moves it inward making entry and exit easier.  Just be careful with high curbs, the bottom edge can scrape along those.

Those up front get surrounded by an upscale sweeping instrument panel with a dual cowl design.   Leather seats are road trip comfortable, not much side support, drivers will slide a bit in hard cornering.  For the organized driver there are three cupholders in the center console plus a spot designed to hold a cell phone in place.  Controls that are a departure from the standard Ford button layout are simple and intuitive.

2010 Ford Taurus

There’s a lot of soft touch material, but areas often touched such as the pieces running up along the center stack are hard plastic.   With a few keys on my ring, they rattle against it.   The wood-like trim is clearly from plastic trees and the stylish greenhouse and high rump cuts into visibility a bit.  I recommend the optional parking assist or nav system that comes with a back up cam.

Loads of room and features, even a SYNC

Taurus can be optioned up with blind spot warning system, radar adaptive cruise control, keyless ignition and heated and ventilated seats.  This can get expensive though, a fully optioned Limited model can cross the 41K line fully zooted up.  Ford’s SYNC system (optional on my SEL) connects phones via Bluetooth and iPods through a USB port.  Developed by Microsoft, it can read incoming text messages and even reply with pre written responses (such as “Can’t text, I’m driving”).  The voice recognition is good, I’ve yet to run across one that’s great.

2010 Ford Taurus

As expected from a large car there’s plenty of space in the back seat.  Three adults will be perfectly comfortable here.  There’s no shortage of foot and legroom.  Map pockets on each of the seats plus bins in the doors will help families with storage issues, the folding center arm rest has cupholders.  Often missing, there’s an adjustable center headrest here.  There’s the option of bun warmers and power sunshade back here though surprisingly no DVD entertainment system.

Taurus has always had a big cargo hold.  The outgoing model based on the Five Hundred was best in class.  The 2010 car keeps the crown.  With its huge cave of a space and compact hinges it swallows a whopping 10 packs without any scrunching at all.  For reference, the average sedan holds six.  Split folding rear seat backs open up even more room (Accord’s seat does not split, it’s an all or nothing proposition).  A sedan of this size could be an alternative to a mid sized crossover, especially since AWD is an option.

2010 Ford Taurus

A recent poll of car buyers showed that those who bought compact vehicles were the least happy with their purchases.  While it’s clear we need to have more fuel efficient transportation these days, Americans seem to be heart broken and longing for large cars.  To capture the smitten, Ford is covering a lot of buying territory with the 2010 Taurus.  Those who like the size and style can pick one up at a starting price of $26,000.  Again, this SEL model with a few options goes for around 32.  Not cheap.  Order up a loaded SHO and it’s as high as $45,000.  Ford’s thinking big, pushing Taurus up-market.  It’s not just a modern take on the classic large American sedan, it’s a rebirth of an American classic.


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