New Car/Reveiw

1997 FORD TAURUS WAGON GL

by Tom Hagin

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,195
     Price As Tested                                    $ 22,730
     Engine Type                             3.0 Liter V6 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 182 cid/2982 cc
     Horsepower                                   145 @ 5250 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               170 @ 3250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                    108.5"/73"/199.6"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3505 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    16 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P205/65R15
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Eight-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                 85 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/27/23
     0-60 MPH                                        9.4 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17 seconds @ 77.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           115 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

Despite all the recent successes of minivans, SUVs and light trucks, the four-door sedan still commands the largest share of the automotive market. And while some like the high seating position and multiple passenger accommodations offered by minivans and SUVs, many feel more confident in a lower vehicle that gives a more comfortable ride.

Station wagons have suffered more than sedans by the proliferation of SUVs and minivans but our roomy Ford Taurus test vehicle will nonetheless accommodate eight bodies, albeit in cramped quarters.

OUTSIDE - Ford's moniker, the oval badge, is a recurring theme throughout its styling, and is the subject of many a debate. Some feel the staid image of the old version wasn't in tune with '90s styling, and that the new model is fresh, innovative and provoking. Others feel it's too round, and can't get used to its ovoid shape, but from a buyer's perspective, Taurus is less likely to look dated when the last payment is made. Unfortunately, Taurus's styling controversy has overshadowed underlying improvements in chassis and comfort refinements. Taurus GL models use body-color bumpers, outside mirrors and side moldings. Full wheelcovers are standard, and look much like aluminum units, and are mated to grippy P205/65R15 all-season tires. Our car was fitted with an optional rear wiper/washer, which added a rear cargo cover and net.

INSIDE - Taurus' integrated control panel that houses the stereo and climate control won praise from our staff for its simplicity, with each button and knob within easy reach. Cargo room is plentiful, with 82 cubic feet of space available with the rear seats folded flat. Also, the load liftover height is just over 21 inches, which makes tossing gear inside easy. With its optional rear-facing, third-row seat, Taurus Wagon becomes an eight-seater. The third-row seat is fine for children. Standard equipment on Taurus Wagon GL includes air conditioning, power windows and outside mirrors, tilt steering, a rear window defroster and interval wipers. Our test vehicle came equipped with a preferred equipment package that included cruise control, an AM/FM cassette stereo, power door locks, an air filtration system and carpeted mats.

ON THE ROAD - Our Taurus GL wagon used a 3.0 liter vintage- engineered V6 engine that performs its job well. An upgraded descendent of the engine that powered the original Taurus back in 1986, it produces 145 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to special equipment, this engine has been fitted to meet today's stringent pollution requirements. Taurus GL models sold in California, New York and Massachusetts are now considered a transitional light-emissions vehicles. They are also available with flexible fuel packages - one converted to use up to 85 percent ethanol mixed with gasoline, the other using up to 85 percent methanol mixed with gasoline for states that have not adopted California's emissions standards. All Taurus models come standard with an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - New chassis rigidity helps keep squeaks and rattles under control, though the Taurus Wagon was not designed for anything approaching enthusiastic handling. Its front strut/multi-link rear suspension is tuned soft for a comfortable ride, but when it comes time for a brisk slalom run, it exhibits considerable understeer and body lean. More sedate driving, however, allows Taurus to soak up bumps easily, with only the most massive of shocks intruding into the cabin. Outside noises intrude the cabin somewhat, especially at high engine speeds, but wind noise is well muted. Speed-sensitive, variable-assist steering and gas-pressurized shock absorbers are standard, and our test car was fitted with an optional anti-lock braking system (ABS). Taurus Wagon models all feature disc brakes at the rear, and our 60-0 MPH stopping distances averaged to 148 feet, which is just adequate.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact protection are standard, while ABS and daytime running headlamps are optional.

OPTIONS - A Preferred Equipment Package adds $750 and the third seat is $200. Rear wiper is $295, ABS is $600 and daytime headlamps are $40.

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