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Ford Taurus (2001)

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL: Ford Taurus SES 
ENGINE: 3.0-liter V6 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 200 hp @ 5,650 rpm/200 lb-ft @ 4,400  rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic 
WHEELBASE: 108.5 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 197.6 x 73.0 x 56.1 in. 
STICKER PRICE:  $22,615 

When everyone asked me what car I was driving this week and I answered Ford Taurus, they usually shrugged and walked away. I don't understand why. Taurus has been Ford's top selling sedan since it was introduced in 1985. It was the number one selling car overall in the US for several years as well before being overtaken by the Toyota Camry. It now runs third to Honda Accord, but still sales are more than 300,000 annually.

So I have trouble understanding people's apathy and lack of interest in the Taurus. Based on the car we drove, the Taurus is at least the equivalent of the Camry and Accord, and has some unique features that may actually give it more to offer than its Asian competition.

All three cars are powered by 3.0-liter V6 engines. There is some difference in power, of course, but the Ford V6 in the SES is rated at 200 horsepower. The Camry's 3.0-liter is rated at 198 hp and the Accord's 200, so they're equal. Power reaches the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission, as with the more popular versions of the other two. I liked the engine. It had enough power for almost anything I wanted to do. It was quiet, even when I tromped down hard on the loud pedal and asked for more power. And it was smooth, especially with the automatic.

I also liked the fact that the shifter was on the column. Far too many manufacturers these days (including Toyota and Honda) are into center consoles, which may be practical in offering storage space but are totally impractical as a family car in that they take away seat space.

Ford attacks the problem from a different standpoint. There is a console, if you want it. But if you don't want it, the console folds up and provides a seat for a person who may want to squeeze into the front seat. There's also an armrest that folds down over the console or as an armrest between the front seats. It serves as the back of the makeshift seat as well.

In general, the Taurus feels larger than the competition, and itr is, with a longer wheelbase and overall length. I know the front seats have a lot of legroom, and also have adjustable pedals if you like to sit far away from the steering wheel but have short legs. The power pedals at first looked like a gimmick, but they're a nice option. The safest driving position is away from the steering wheel in case of an accident. You're away from the steering wheel and that big balloon that will come out of the center in case of an accident. If you're sitting too close to the wheel, your injuries could be worse than if there was no airbag.

The Taurus also has a decent trunk. It's listed at 17.0 cubic feet, and is a good size as well as a useful size. Some trunks with larger numbers have unusable space that make them, in effect, smaller.

There was a great deal of concern about the Taurus styling when the third generation came out. Many journalists and the general public felt the change was too drastic with the swoopy nose and tail. I personally liked the car. In this "freshening," the drastic swoopiness has been squared off slightly, giving the car a look that more closely resembles the original Taurus. The Taurus offers a compliant ride that tends more toward the soft than performance side. This isn't so soft that the car can get out of hand, but it's more directed toward comfort. Comfort probably sells more cars than performance, especially if the comfort doesn't detract that much from the performance. I wouldn't take the SES Taurus to a race as a competitive car, but I'd take it to a race as a family car.