2011 Ford Taurus Limited AWD Review
WITH CAREY RUSS
2010/2011 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
If, in this age of crossovers, a full-size sedan seems like an anachronism, it isn't. At least if the full-size sedan in question is the newest version of Ford's Taurus.
Why a sedan instead of a crossover? Why not? Does everyone who needs or wants more room than in a mid-size sedan need a wagon? "Full-size sedan" does bring to mind a certain demographic group, and not the "young, active-lifestyle" people that are the darlings of automotive marketing. No, more like their grandparents… but today's Taurus is a car for all ages. As Ford's flagship sedan, it features all of the Blue Oval's safety, infotainment, and communications technology as standard or available equipment. And unlike the full-size sedans of yore (and some even today), its chassis tuning is far from marshmallow-soft. Think Euro-standard and you'll be right. With crossovers available for private bus duty, Ford has made the Taurus, even in standard, non-SHO trim, more of a driver's car than ever before. This also is more likely to meet expectations of younger buyers raised on imports…
The Taurus lineup is SE, SEL, and Limited, plus Ford's executive jet on wheels SHO. All have a version of the 3.5-liter twincam alloy "Duratec" V6, naturally-aspirated with 263 horsepower in the SE, SEL, and Limited and 365 twin-turbo direct-injection EcoBoost™ horses in the SHO. My introduction to the new Taurus was a week with an SHO last Fall. Lovely car, quick, capable, and surprising fuel-efficient considering its size and power. Afterwards, I was interested in the non-turbo version. Scheduling being what it is, that took a while. But I've just finished a week with a well-equipped all-wheel drive Limited.
The regular Taurus is not an SHO in performance, ride, and handling, nor is it meant to be. But it is also not your grandmother's Crown Vic. Positioned between those extremes, it's a sedan that can comfortably (let me re-emphasize that "comfortably") hold four large adults. The center rear position, the penalty box in smaller "five-passenger" cars -- or crossovers -- is a reasonable place for more than five minutes. The trunk practically defines "cavernous" in an automotive sense. All of the conveniences expected in an entry-luxury car can be had in the Limited -- a good sound system with satellite radio, Ford/Microsoft "Sync" connectivity for external audio devices and cell phones, and multicolored ambient lighting are standard, with a navigation system with Sirius Travel Link and weather and integrated rear-view camera with guide lines on the screen, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, and Ford's BLIS® radar-based blind-spot information system with cross traffic warning available.
All of those options were on my test car, along with "multi-contoured" front seats with built-in cushion or back massage (and heating or cooling). That made for a comfortable week. But even without all of the "features", the basic Taurus is a worthy car with a fine combination of space and comfort in a traditional package.
2011 Update: After the major changes for the 2010 model year, don't expect much difference for 2011. New color choices headline.
APPEARANCE: If it's about the size of a mid-1960s "mid-size" Ford Fairlane, the Taurus is a large sedan by today's measure. But Ford's designers have done a good job of visually minimizing it, unless it's seen in direct comparison to an 80s or 90s Taurus. Its chunky, high-shouldered body and long, low passenger cabin, with well-sloped windshield and rear window, give it a muscular look, which is further emphasized by bold character lines on the hood and sides. Chrome trim is a venerable American tradition, and the Limited has it around the grille and lower intake in front, the faux vents in the front fenders, the tops of the outside mirrors, and around the windows on the sides, around and between the taillights, and on its wheels.
COMFORT: While space is not at a premium inside the Taurus, neither is it wasted. The result is hip- and leg-room usually associated with a crossover or SUV. No complaints about headroom, either, and there are many useful small and not so small storage areas around the cabin. Interior design is pleasing to the eye, conservative but stylish with a twin-brow instrument panel that places backlit instruments and controls in logical and easy-to-use positions. Leather seating is standard fare in the Limited; the optional multi-contoured, heated and cooled front seats with integral vibro-massage put the Taurus equal to some premium-brand luxury sedans in comfort. A leather-and-wood steering wheel with cruise and auxiliary audio controls plus optional power-adjustable pedals ensure that all drivers can find a comfortable and safe driving position. Outboard rear passengers get seat heat and a power sunshade with the "Rapid Spec 303B" option pack, which includes nearly every option offered except the nav system, adaptive cruise control, and the multicontour seats. The trunk is immense, and a space-saver spare lurks under its floor.
SAFETY: Standard Taurus Limited safety equipment starts with a strong, rigid main unibody structure designed and built for passenger protection. A full complement of, front, front side, and full-length "Safety Canopy"® air bags is standard, as is the Personal Safety System™ of sensors, the AdvanceTrac® electronic stability control system, and SOS Post-Crash Alert System™. Among optional safety systems, the most innovative is the BLIS blind-spot system with Cross Traffic Alert. Based on radar, rather than the camera of earlier systems, and with warning lights in the outside mirrors and a buzzer, it alerts the driver not only to vehicles (as small as a motorcycle) in the blind spots, but also to oncoming traffic when backing from a visually-impaired parking spot. Adaptive Cruise Control monitors traffic up to 600 feet ahead in order to keep a safe distance between the Taurus so equipped and vehicles ahead. Collision Warning with Brake Support uses the adaptive cruise control radar to provide visual and auditory warnings when traffic ahead slows. It also pre-charges the brakes and enables the brake assist system in order for the driver to stop more quickly.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The standard Taurus's fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is tuned moderately, for good ride comfort, but with good attention paid to the details of tuning. Everything works in harmony, so bumps and holes are dealt with without aftereffects. It's soft enough that there is plenty of body roll, but the Taurus is well-behaved. It is a two-ton vehicle, and so not as responsive a a lighter one -- the laws of physics will be obeyed -- but it is much more of a driver's car than expected from a large American sedan. The all-wheel drive system works primarily in front-wheel drive mode and transfers torque to the rear when needed. This virtually negates any torque steer, and should improve traction on slippery surfaces.
PERFORMANCE: Total performance in a Taurus is spelled S H O. But the naturally-aspirated models are not deficient, with 263 horsepower (at 6250 rpm) and 249 lb-ft of torque (at 4500 rpm) from the 3.5-liter twin-cam V6 engine. Variable cam phasing on the intake cams and fuel shutoff on deceleration help improve fuel economy, and the engine also gets a ULEV-II emissions rating. All Tauruses have a six-speed automatic transmission; SEL and Limited models get SelectShift™ manual mode, which helps when absolute maximum acceleration is desired and is entertaining but mostly not necessary otherwise as the shift logic is very good. SE and SEL models get a high 2.77:1 final drive ratio for fuel economy. Front-wheel drive Limiteds have a 3.16:1 final drive for improved acceleration, with the slightly heavier AWD version getting an even lower 3.39:1 ratio to compensate. The result is good acceleration, and a slight fuel economy penalty. EPA estimates are 17/25 mpg. I got 16 to 18 mpg around town and 22 to 24 on the highway.
CONCLUSIONS: Full-size sedans are not dead! See the current Ford Taurus for details.
2010 Ford Taurus Limited AWD
Base Price $ 33,620 Price As Tested $ 40,485 Engine Type aluminum alloy dohc 24-valve V6 with variable cam phasing on intake cams Engine Size 3.5 liters / 213 cu. in. Horsepower 263 @ 6250 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 249 @ 4500 rpm Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode Wheelbase / Length 112.9 in. / 202.9 in. Curb Weight 4224 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 16.1 Fuel Capacity 19 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P235/45R19 100V Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink Drivetrain transverse front engine, all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 25 / 20 (16/23) 0 to 60 mph est. 7.2 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Rapid Spec 303B - includes: Limited branded floor mats, heated and cooled front seats, rear window power sunshade, heated rear seats, adjustable pedals w/memory, rain-sensing wipers & automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring system, pushbutton start, Sony 12-speaker audio $ 2,500 Adaptive cruise control with collision warning $ 1,195 Voice-activated navigation system $ 1,750 Multi-contoured front seats $ 595 Destination and delivery $ 825