2010 Ford Taurus SEL FWDPosted on November 13th, 2009
Ford’s flagship sedan gets a 21st century makeover
By Nina Russin
The Taurus has been Ford’s bread-and-butter car since I started writing about this industry two decades back. Over the years, the Taurus evolved from a plain vanilla sedan into the automaker’s flagship. The 2010 Taurus that rolled out this summer had multiple shoes to fill. It needed to appeal to a new generation of technology-savvy buyers, as well as former Crown Victoria owners, since the full-sized sedan has been discontinued.
Engineers also brought back the SHO moniker, hoping to build on equity from the original model. While the base Taurus comes with the 3.5-liter Duratec V6 engine, the high-performance SHO features Ford’s all-new EcoBoost V-6, which uses twin turbochargers to boost both power and fuel economy.
Ford is using the Taurus to showcase the company’s newest safety technology, including adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, and a blind sport information system with cross traffic alert. Infotainment options include Ford’s Sync voice-activated communications system, a Sony surround-sound audio system, massaging seats, and voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic updates.
Last summer, I got a brief test drive in the Taurus in the Phoenix area. This week, I had the chance to take the upscale SEL grade on an extended road trip between Phoenix and California.
Power for the SEL comes from the 263-horsepower Duratec V6 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. Formula-style paddle shifters on the test car allow the driver to manually chose gears using levers on the steering wheel.
A fully-independent suspension features a front stabilizer bar to keep the chassis flat in the turns. The SEL comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels: an upgrade from the base 17-inch rims on the SE. All grades get standard four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking for optimum performance in wet weather conditions.
Form meets function
In prior iterations, style was not the Taurus’ strong suit. At best, the sedan blended into the pack: not something designers like to hang their hats on.
The new Taurus is a bolder car inside and out. A bulge in the hood hints at the engine underneath, and gives the front end a more purposeful look. Large headlamps frame the Ford three-bar grille. A high beltline and aero-profile give the exterior a sporty feel.
A new version of Ford’s keypad keyless entry system keeps the numbers concealed until the driver brushes his hand over the control panel. The design is cleaner and more discreet than the one it replaces. I love the system because it allows multiple passengers to enter the car without having to use a key.
The standard capless fuel filler system uses a rubber sleeve to seal the filler neck in lieu of a metal cap. Not only does it eliminate a piece of hardware that often gets lost; the new system prevents the check engine light from illuminating, due to an incorrectly installed gas cap.
The car’s interior is so much better than former models, that it defies comparison. Gone are the plastic feeling interiors with bland cloth upholstery, the combination of which screamed “rental.” The test car interior is upscale and ergonomic, with logically designed controls, comfortable seats, and plenty of storage around the passenger cabin.
The center console sweeps up into the center stack, with a large, substantial-feeling shift lever, a deep center console bin, numerous cupholders and storage cubbies. I put my largest Camelback water bottle in the cupholder: it fit with no problem, and didn’t slip. The doors also have map pockets and bottle holders.
Inside the storage bin, auxiliary, USB and 12-volt ports allow passengers to plug in and recharge portable electronic devices. Second-row passengers get their own 12-volt power point, located behind the center console.
Redundant audio, Bluetooth and cruise controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. To activate the shifter paddles, the driver moves the gear shift lever into the manual position. While using the paddles optimizes performance, the fully automatic mode provides better fuel economy, with a smooth transition between the gears.
The section of the 8 interstate east of San Diego is a perfect test of a car’s power, rising from sea level to just over 4000 feet at the Tecate divide. While the Duratec engine lacks the low end torque of the more powerful EcoBoost V6, it has enough to climb steep grades smoothly, without harsh downshifts.
I had no problems passing slower vehicles, even on the steepest grades. Steering response from the power rack-and-pinion system is excellent at all speeds, with a positive on-center feel.
The sedan’s high beltline has some effect on visibility to the front and sides. When I cornered to the left, I found myself looking up and over the driver’s side mirror. Over-the-shoulder visibility is good to both sides.
I found the seats to be quite comfortable during my six-hour drive. Average fuel economy for the round trip, including stop-and-go driving during my one-day stay in San Diego was 24.7 mpg.
Although MSRP for the Taurus in well below $30,000, the interior comes with many standard features normally limited to luxury cars. Dual-zone temperature controls keep both front occupants comfortable in weather extremes. Optional heated leather seats on the test car ($1395) are a nice feature for buyers who live in cold weather climates.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel stays out of the way of smaller drivers. The standard digital message center in the gauge cluster includes a distance-to-empty feature that’s helpful during long road trips.
I can’t say enough good things about satellite radio, which is standard equipment. It makes the trips across the desert much less monotonous, and saves the driver the inconvenience of having to bring compact discs or a thumb drive along.
An optional convenience package adds the Sync system, reverse sensing with an audible warning, adjustable pedals and ambient lighting ($2500). Ambient lighting in the foot wells, cupholders and other areas makes the interior brighter and more attractive at night. All models come standard with dual reading lamps up front and a dome lamp in back.
Despite its floor tunnel, the back seat can hold three passengers on shorter trips. One reason is that designers used a cut-out in the middle position, to maximize legroom. Standard rear vents circulate air through the back of the cabin.
Second-row seats fold flat to create a pass-through for larger cargo. In addition, the Taurus has a colossal trunk. While I hesitate to call any sedan bicycle friendly, the Taurus will hold a road bike with the front wheel removed in a pinch.
The SEL grade comes with Ford’s new MyKey: an important safety feature for parents with teenagers who drive. The key allows parents to limit top speed to 80 miles-per-hour, mute the sound system until all passengers buckle their seatbelts, provide an earlier low fuel warning and more.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, traction and electronic stability control, and four-channel antilock braking. The SOS post crash-alert system automatically notifies the police and medical personnel if the car’s airbags deploy.
Base price on the test car is $27,170, not including a $825 delivery charge. The 2010 Taurus is on display at Ford dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A solid, stylish five-passenger sedan with good fuel economy and ample power. The sedan’s large trunk provides ample storage space. The Ford has a high level of standard safety features, and is available with industry leading optional safety systems.
Dislikes: High beltline limits visibility to the front and sides. Driver’s side mirror obstructs the line of vision when cornering to the left.
Model: Taurus SEL FW
Base price: $27,170
As tested: $31,890
Horsepower: 263 @ 6250 rpm
Torque: 249 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 18/28 mpg
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