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Ford Taurus SE (2000)

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

The Ford Taurus is a benchmark in the midsized sedan class, and one of the best-selling cars in the country. For the 2000 model year, it has been extensively revised and restyled, and the lineup has been simplified.

"Simplified" means fewer trim levels. 2000 Taurus sedans are offered in LX and SE trim levels, with wagons in SE only. The V8-powered luxury-performance SHO is gone, but both the pushrod "Vulcan" and dual overhead cam "Duratec" 3.0-liter V6 engines have more power. And the number of other changes in the new Taurus is significant enough that, while it can't quite be considered a third generation, it should be considered to be at least version 2.5.

I've just spent a week with a new Taurus SE sedan with the "SE Comfort Group" package. It's a pleasantly roomy car, large enough for real space without being hard to park, and has plenty of power from its Duratec V6. It feels almost as quick as the SHO, if not quite as sporty. The multitude of changes for the 2000 model year have improved the Taurus's character and have made a class benchmark better.

APPEARANCE: While the 2000 Taurus is unmistakably still a Taurus, all external panels except the doors are new. It's not as radically-styled as the smaller Focus, but does have better definition. The overly oval styling introduced in 1996 is history, revised with a conservative version of Ford's angles-and-planes "New Edge" design. The larger headlights and front honeycomb- patterned grille give it a more modern look, similar to other current Ford cars. The new headlights are brighter at night, too. Although the roof looks the same at a glance, it's actually higher, improving headroom. Larger wheels and tires and subtle fender flares add substance, and the oval rear window has been replaced by a larger rectangular one for improved looks and visibility. The trunk lid is higher, for increased trunk capacity and better aerodynamics. The tail panel is now chopped off instead of rounded, and is highlighted by large, triangular taillights. It's the only oval panel on the 2000 Taurus.

COMFORT: When the second-generation Taurus debuted in 1996, the interior was even more radically-styled than the exterior, with prominent oval designs almost everywhere and conspicuously- lacking storage spaces in door pockets. The style-over-substance design was not completely popular. As a result, the 2000 Taurus has a very mainstream interior design, with very useful door pockets in all four doors. It's at the large end of midsized, so there is plenty of room inside. A six-passenger interior, with front and rear bench seats, is standard, with a five-passenger setup optional. My test car has a dark tan-over-light tan color scheme for an airy feeling, and the five-passenger interior with front bucket seats and a console-mounted shift lever. Both open and covered storage can be found in that console. Instruments are shaded by a brow, and the useful integrated control panel, incorporating climate and stereo controls, continues, albeit in redesigned rectangular form. Control buttons are to the typical large, easy-to-use Ford standard. Ford's air conditioning is fast and efficient, and the Taurus proved comfortable even in a triple-digit heat wave. Driver comfort is important for safety, and a standard tilt-adjustable steering wheel and power driver's seat and available adjustable pedals allow a correct driving position for nearly everyone. Trunk capacity is increased, and access is easier.

SAFETY: According to Ford, the 2000 Taurus is the only mid- sized car to receive a five-star rating for driver and passenger safety in a frontal collision. It's the first car with Ford's "Personal Safety System," which integrates many separate safety components into a coherent system. The chassis features safety cage construction, with front and rear crumple zones. A glow-in-the-dark internal trunk release can prevent children from being trapped in the trunk. Head and chest protecting side airbags are available.

ROADABILITY: Detail revisions to the suspension and steering systems have improved the ride and handling qualities of the new Taurus. Road, wind, and tire noise have been reduced. Ford's work has turned out well. The ride is smooth and quiet, soft and comfortable but not too soft for good control. There is plenty of body roll in hard cornering, but it is well-controlled.

PERFORMANCE: The 3.0-liter twincam, 24-valve "Duratec" V6 is not short on useable power. In fact, numerous modifications have increased both horsepower and torque this year, while reducing weight, engine noise, and vibration. Now with 200 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque - both 15 more than previously - the Duratec has very good response at all speeds, and feels much stronger than previous versions at low and midrange engine speeds. It is matched to a four-speed automatic transmission, which had been enhanced for faster, smoother shifting.

CONCLUSIONS: The Ford Taurus remains a benchmark in the midsized sedan class.

2000 Ford Taurus SE

Base Price               $ 20,895
Price As Tested          $ 23,185
Engine Type              dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6
Engine Size              3.0 liters / 181 cu. in.
Horsepower               200 @ 5650 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)           200 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission             4-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length       108.5 in. / 197.6 in.
Curb Weight              3,328 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    16.6
Fuel Capacity            16 gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular, 87 octane
Tires                    P215/60 TR16 Firestone Affinity
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / drum, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear   independent MacPherson strut / 
                           independent quadralink
Drivetrain               front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      20 / 28 / 21
0 to 60 mph                 8.3  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)            16.3 sec

Front floor mats                    $  30
Rear floor mats                     $  25
5-passenger seating with floor console and shifter   $ 105
All-speed traction control          $ 175
Adjustable pedals                   $ 120
Side impact airbags                 $ 390
Leather seating                     $ 895
Destination and delivery            $ 550