2013 Ford Taurus Limited Review By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2013 Ford Taurus Limited
Once, long ago, the full-size sedan was the mainstay of the American automotive world. Then came the SUV fad; and there went large sedans. But life is cyclical, and as monster SUVs gave way to crossovers, the full-size sedan made a comeback. Not everyone who needs interior space wants a crossover or SUV, and for those potential customers, Ford offers its latest Taurus.
Which looks a bit different from last year's Taurus only because it is. Although the basic architecture underneath hasn't changed, a moderate restyle of the hood and front fascia gives a refreshed appearance, also improved with projector-beam headlights. Unseen behind the grille, an active shutter system uses aerodynamics to help improve highway fuel economy. LED taillights distinguish the rear. Torque Vectoring Control uses electronic sensors and the stability control system to improve cornering behavior under acceleration. All versions of the 2013 Taurus use electrically-assisted power steering, which simplifies, reduces weight, and further helps improve fuel economy. The standard engine in the SE, SEL, and Limited models is a 3.5-liter V6, but this one has a host of upgrades to improve both power output, now 288 horsepower, and fuel economy, with 29 mpg allegedly possible on the highway. Want better economy with little loss of power? Ford's new 2.0-liter "EcoBoost" four-cylinder uses turbocharging and direct fuel injection to make a maximum of 240 horsepower when needed, with over 30 mpg possible on the highway. With more torque than the V6 -- 270 lb-ft vs. 254 -- performance is unlikely to suffer much. Both engines are matched with a six-speed automatic transmission to optimize acceleration and economy. Want more power? That would be the SHO, with 365 EcoBoosted horsepower and some new features of its own. But that's a different story for a different time.
Caveat: I learned to drive in a late-60s Ford Galaxie, a full-size (and then some) land yacht in the grand old American tradition. With a 390 cubic inch V8, the speedometer went one way about as quickly as the gas gauge went the other. With wheels shod with high-sidewall bias-ply death tires and encompassing marginal drum brakes, and a suspension sprung for "comfort" (in the manner of a living room sofa), handling was indeed nautical. Fuel economy? Even in the days of $0.27/gal gasoline it was a thirsty beast. As an ex-rental car in white, nicknames were easy.
A recent week with a well-equipped new Taurus Limited was revealing. The 2013 Taurus has nothing in common with the White Whale besides four wheels (now with good radials and encompassing strong antilock disc brakes) and Ford manufacture. Today's 3.5-liter (213 CID) V6 is far more sophisticated than yesterday's massive V8, not to mention much more fuel-efficient, at 24mpg overall for the week. The Taurus's fully-independent suspension is tuned for comfort, but not at the price of poor handling, and the brakes work very well. Nautical reference inappropriate. Yes, today's "full-size" is a bit smaller than yesterday's, but improved space utilization means that there's not all that much less space inside, or in the trunk. It will seat four or even five people plus stuff in comfort, with a better driving experience than a higher crossover. Or old "Yank Tank".
APPEARANCE: Details, details. The shape is familiar, but the grille has been reshaped, as has the front bumper fascia. The "more muscular hood" (Ford's words) has a longitudinal power dome, amusing considering that the engine is mounted transversely -- but with rare exceptions such bulges are purely styling effects, and this one does complement the car's lines well. Those lines are conservative and gimmick-free enough to age well. It's a standard three-box sedan, and the passenger cabin is the largest box.
COMFORT: Don't expect a front bench seat and three-on-the-tree here. That interior went out long ago, for reasons of comfort (if you remember flat bench seats, you understand) and safety (where to put the airbag? and how wide do we need?) The Taurus has plenty of room for five, although the contoured rear seat is best for two, not three adults. At the Limited level, with the comprehensive "Equipment Group 302A" option package with which my test car was equipped, the Taurus is close to entry-luxury in specification and comfort. And yes, with this what need is there for Mercury? Leather seating, with front seats both heated and cooled and the outboard rear positions heated, a power tilt-and-telescope adjustable wood-and-leather steering wheel (with cruise, auxiliary audio, phone, trip computer, and information display controls), and power-adjustable pedals mean that everyone can find their best, most comfortable and safest driving position. The symmetrical dual-cowl instrument panel features Ford's implementation of the "glass cockpit", with programmable information displays flanking a large speedometer directly in front of the driver. Soft-touch materials for the IP top and doors and faux-walnut trim show the Taurus Limited's upper-middle class position. Soft-touch "hard" buttons on the center stack control audio and climate controls, with further control there and of the navigation system via the touchscreen at the top of the center stack or the steering wheel. The interface has a bit of a learning curve, but is much simpler than what is found in German luxury cars. The trunk is huge, and a space-saver spare lurks underneath it.
SAFETY: Earlier versions of the Taurus earned IIHS Top Safety Pick ratings, and the new one should do at least as well. Trinity front-crash architecture is named for the three structural elements that absorb and/or redirect frontal crash energy away from passengers. "Side Protection And Cabin Enhancement" (SPACE«) adds further protection. Enhanced airbag restraints tailor deployment to passenger size, position, and seat belt status. AdvanceTrac« with Electronic Stability Control helps keep the Taurus going where its driver intended. Options including adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, and the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS┬«) with Cross-traffic alert add further safety.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Given its dimensions, the Taurus is more at home on the Interstate than on a narrow back road. No demerits for that, highways and city streets are its natural habitat. Want more sport in a Taurus? Look at the SHO. The regular Taurus is a superb highway machine, comfortable, solid, and quiet and capable of covering plenty of distance thanks to a well-tuned fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension and strategic use of soundproofing materials. Brakes are up to any real world task required. The electrically-assisted power steering is quick if a bit numb, good for the nature of the car. Front-wheel drive is standard with the 2.0 turbo or 3.5 Ti-VCT engines, with all-wheel drive an option with the Ti-VCT. My test car had front-wheel drive.
PERFORMANCE: Power and economy are not mutually exclusive. Use of variable cam phasing on all both intake and exhaust camshafts, called "Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing" or Ti-VCT by Ford, plus a high 10.8:1 compression ratio has helped increase power while decreasing emissions and fuel use. The 3.5-liter V6's 288 horsepower (at 6500 rpm) is a ten percent gain, and chain, not belt, drive for the camshafts, and forged connecting rods plus a forged, balanced crankshaft and four-bolt main bearing caps should help durability. Torque maximum is 254 lb-ft, at 4000 rpm. The six-speed automatic has low lower ratios for acceleration and high high ratios for economical highway cruising, with short steps between for optimum engine operation. Shifting in D is smooth and quick, and there is little reason besides curiosity to try Sport mode or manual shifting (via a rocker switch on the shift lever). Acceleration with the 3.7 is good, with a sub-seven second 0-60 time, so merging and passing won't be problematic. Need to tow? Yes, that can be done without an SUV, at least light-duty. Properly equipped, the Taurus can tow 1,000 pounds, meaning a motorcycle, personal watercraft, or medium-sized camping trailer. My 24-mpg average for the week was achieved with more than the usual amount of highway driving, and no complaints. Highway speeds where I live have little to do with EPA test simulated 55 mph, either -- that speed will get you pushed out of the slow lane.
CONCLUSIONS: The American full-size sedan is alive, well, and better than ever in the form of the 2013 Ford Taurus.
2013 Ford Taurus Limited
Base Price $ 33,000 Price As Tested $ 39,680 Engine Type dohc 24-valve aluminum alloy V6 with continuously-variable cam phasing on all camshafts Engine Size 3.5 liters / 213 cu. in. Horsepower 288 @ 6500 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 254 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 112.0 in. / 202.9 in. Curb Weight 3969 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 13.8 Fuel Capacity 19 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P255/45 R19 100V Michelin Primacy mxm4 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 29 / 24 0 to 60 mph est 6.9 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Equipment Group 302A - includes: adjustable pedals with memory, auto-dimming driver's- side outside mirror, blind-spot monitoring system, heated and cooled front seats, pushbutton start/stop with remote start, power tilt and telescope steering wheel, Sony audio system, active park assist, rain-sensing wipers and automatic high beams, heated steering wheel, heated outboard rear seats, "Limited" floor mats, rear window power sunshade $ 3,500 Adaptive cruise control with collision warning $ 1,195 Voice-activated navigation system $ 795 Ruby-red metallic paint $ 395 Destination charge $ 795