The Taurus (nee 500) is a full-size four-door that acts as the range-topper for Ford's sedan lineup. Though it isn't as big inside as its looks suggest, the Taurus does offer a broad spectrum of technology and convenience features along with an efficient four-cylinder "EcoBoost" motor capable of 32 mpg on the highway.
Ford updated the Taurus (and its high-performance Taurus SHO sibling) for the previous model year with revised exterior styling, additional luxury content and a refined interior.
Despite somewhat awkwardly-exaggerated overhangs, the Taurus has definite visual presence due to its bold hexagonal grille, rising beltline and steeply raked rear roof. Full LED taillights - part of last year's facelift - provide a heightened sense of style.
Inside, the dashboard features an attractive dual-cowl design rendered in high-quality plastics. Ford recently spent a great deal of time reducing noise levels with the use of extra insulation and baffles, so occupants can be assured of a quiet ride.
Elements of the exterior - particularly the beltline and roofline - conspire to make the rear of cabin feel somewhat cramped compared to the competition.
On the plus side, the interior does benefit from a combination of eco-minded materials and advanced technology. Recycled materials are used in the cloth surfaces and headliner and also for sound dampening materials found under carpets and attached to panels. The Taurus' seats also use soy-based foam in place of petroleum-derived materials, which helps reduce dependence on oil and leaves a more eco-friendly byproduct when the seats reach the end of their service lives.
All Tauruses (Tauri?) except for the base model come standard with SYNC, Ford's Bluetooth-based connectivity system that allows smartphone users to place calls and stream music by using voice commands or steering wheel-mounted buttons. It can also read incoming texts aloud to help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, and allows the use of Ford-approved apps like The Wall Street Journal news and Pandora radio.
The Taurus can be spec'd with MyFord Touch, an infotainment system that builds on SYNC by letting users control everything from navigation to climate control to the sound system with voice commands. MyFord Touch also replaces conventional sound system knobs and buttons with a center-mounted eight-inch touchscreen, dual 4.2-inch displays in the instrument cluster and touch-sensitive controls in the center stack. Many consumers report that the system is a "love it or hate it" item, so those interested in the Taurus are advised to try before they buy.
What's Under Hood?
The Taurus features a standard 3.5-liter that employs twin independent variable camshaft timing to help produce 288 horsepower and 254 lb-ft of torque. The mill returns 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
Uniquely, Ford gives Taurus buyers the option of paying extra for a four-cylinder motor in place of the V6. Of course, this isn't just any old four-banger - it's a turbocharged and direct-injected EcoBoost unit. Despite its small displacement, the motor bests the torque of the V6 with 270 lb-ft, while horsepower checks in at 240 ponies. Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
Both engines come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission. Though front-wheel-drive is the default configuration, V6 models can be equipped with an all-wheel-drive system for improved inclement weather performance. It reduces mileage to 18/26 mpg.
The Taurus recently benefited from a number of minor efficiency improvements, including a low-tension front end accessory drive belt, a smart battery management system, more aggressive fuel shutoff during deceleration, variable-displacement air conditioning compressor and reduced friction lubricants throughout the powertrain. Ford also switched the Taurus' steering setup from a hydraulically-boosted unit to a electric assist system to reduce parasitic losses
While individually these measures may only contribute a fraction of a percent of improvement, Ford says the overall effect can equate to measurable improvements.
Other changes that came as part of the facelift include revised springs and dampers to improve handling and ride quality, as well as a brake-based torque vectoring system. This technology is intended to replicate the effects of a true limited-slip differential without the added components thanks to computer-aided selective braking applied to inside wheels while navigating turns.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Taurus can be had in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels.
The SE is fitted with A/C, power windows and locks, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an AUX input, automatic headlights, cruise control, LED taillights, keyless entry, power-adjustable front seats and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The SEL adds dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, SYNC Bluetooth connectivity, a proximity key, remote start, heated mirrors and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Buyers can spruce up the SEL with two options packages. Group 201A adds MyFord Touch with two USB ports, an extra speaker for the audio system and rear parking sensors. Group 202A builds on those features with a rearview camera, power-adjustable pedals, ambient interior lighting and 19-inch wheels.
The Limited includes features in the SEL's optional packages plus leather upholstery, heated front seats with memory functionality, imitation wood trim. A new addition to the Limited for the latest model year is a lane keeping system that warns the driver if the Taurus begins to wander into an adjacent lane.
Like the SEL, the Limited presents buyers with the option of two extra-cost packages. Group 301A brings heated and ventilated front seats, a 12-speaker Sony audio system, HD Radio, a blind-spot warning system with cross traffic alert, and a power-adjustable steering wheel. To those features, Group 302A adds heated rear seats, a heated steering, automatic high beams, an automated parking system and a rear sunshade.
Stand-alone options include a sunroof, a navigation system, 20-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control and collision warning, and multicontour seats with built-in massagers to help keep the driver and front passenger alert and comfortable on long drives.
Every Taurus model comes standard with dual front and side airbags along with dual front and rear head airbags. Other safety features include traction and stability control systems and electronic brakeforce distribution.
A blind spot warning system with cross traffic alert and a collision warning system are also available on upper-trim Taurus models.
The Taurus faces strong competition from a rejuvinated field of full-size sedans, including the stylish, rear-wheel-drive Chrysler 300, the luxurious Buick LaCrosse, the value-laden Hyundai Azera and the redesigned Chevrolet Impala.