The Ford Taurus has a lot to offer in terms of comfort and refinement, but it’s a dated design. The Taurus was last redesigned for the 2010 model year and restyled for 2013.
Not much has changed for 2016, apart from making a rearview camera standard on all models. The latest SYNC 3 connectivity technology comes on upper models, but lower trim levels retain SYNC with MyFord system.
Although the original Taurus of the late 1980s flaunted a rather radical design for its time, the current version is far different. Less efficient than more contemporary full-size sedans, and not as sharply styled, Taurus has barely kept pace with such rivals as the Chevrolet Impala, Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon. Fuel economy is mediocre.
However, the Taurus offers luxurious cabin amenities, with good-looking interior trim that feels substantial. Although the ride is firm, a Taurus is quiet and comfortable.
Three engines are available, all with a 6-speed automatic transmissions. All-wheel drive is optional on SEL and Limited trim levels with the V6; front-wheel drive is standard. Most models will come with the 3.5-liter V6, developing 288 horsepower and EPA-rated at 19/29 mpg City/Highway. The most fuel-efficient engine is the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, making 237 horsepower and EPA-rated at 22/32 mpg City/Highway, or 26 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops the estimate to 18/26 mpg.
Topping the performance spectrum, the Taurus SHO carries the highest-output engine: a turbocharged V6 that generates 365 horsepower, offered only with all-wheel drive. Though it doesn’t engage the driver as directly as an authentic sports sedan, the SHO feels calm even when driven hard, and corners capably thanks to a tauter suspension. Gas mileage is EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg.
Taurus has a good safety reputation, though few active-safety features are available. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2016 Taurus five stars (out of five) for overall safety, side, and frontal crash tests, and four stars for rollover. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives Taurus its top Good rating, though it hasn’t been subjected to the new small-overlap test.
The 2016 Ford Taurus is offered in four trim levels; SE, SEL, Limited, and SHO. Taurus SE ($27,110) comes with V6 engine and front-wheel drive, cloth upholstery, rearview camera, power front seats, keyless entry, SYNC with MyFord, and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Taurus SEL ($29,540) gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, reverse sensing, and 18-inch wheels. SYNC 3 is optional. SEL AWD ($31,390) has all-wheel drive. The more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is an option ($995).
Limited ($34,460) comes with leather upholstery, heated/cooled front seats, SYNC 3, power-adjustable pedals, pushbutton start, and 19-inch wheels. Limited AWD ($36,310) has all-wheel drive.
SHO AWD ($40,220) gets a more powerful turbocharged V6 engine, all-wheel drive, a sportier suspension, suede sport-seat inserts, and high-intensity headlights.
Standard safety features include Curve Control, which reduces power when the driver enters a turn too quickly. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert are available for Limited.
Taurus carries on with a low profile, sleek roofline, and crisp lines throughout the body. Wheelbase is long and the car is wide, with substantial overhangs at each end, totaling 203 inches in overall length. Those abundant dimensions actually strengthen its low and powerful look.
Strong rear flanks and sculpted character lines and add some interest to the overall design. In short, Taurus remains stylish, but it’s a shape has been around for a long while.
Helping to acquire a distinctive appearance, the Taurus SHO leads with a black mesh grille, substituting for the horizontal bars used on other models. Lower front body moldings include a substantial air dam.
Despite its mainstream history, the Taurus interior comes across as near-luxury, at least. Materials quality and finishes, ranging from soft-touch plastics to simulated wood and chrome, produce an upscale aura. Even the base Taurus SE suggests attention to detail.
What Taurus lacks is space. It’s simply not as roomy as expected for a car of its size. The wraparound instrument panel and the wide console create well-defined areas for the driver and front passenger. Because that console occupies a lot of space, the cabin feels smaller than it should.
Three adults fit in the rear, but they might feel claustrophobic. The low roofline restricts headroom, and legroom is skimpier than expected. Outward visibility is limited, too. Thick roof pillars and a relatively high beltline make rear windows surprisingly small, and the turret-like back window doesn’t help.
Getting in and out of the back seat also is challenging, demanding substantial ducking below the low roof. On the plus side, the trunk is huge, offering more than 20 cubic foot of luggage space.
Large front seats are both comfortable and supportive. Optional multi-contour seats are helpful for drivers who differ from average size.
For its age, the Taurus behaves well. Despite impressive road manners, however, a Taurus can feel big and heavy, thus less engaging than some lighter sedans. Road feel falls somewhat short, due to that excess heft.
Because of recent ride/handling improvements, the suspension is more progressive, with less harshness over bumps. A Taurus rides more firmly than other big, comfortable sedans, remaining smooth even though the body can lean significantly when cornering. Taurus tires grip the pavement effectively, but optional 20-inch wheels yield a harsher ride without discernible benefits. Electric power steering is precise, providing more direct feedback than many rivals. Brakes feel confident. Optional automatic Park Assist works better than the system Lexus offers.
The four-cylinder EcoBoost engine is a bit short of power with a passenger or two aboard. Acceleration is better with the V6, though it’s not the most refined engine. Helped by a low first gear, the V6 conveys a powerful feel at low to medium engine speeds. Paddle shifters, standard on SEL and Limited, seem unnecessary.
In the SHO, the engine and transmission cooperate to keep power delivery while upshifting. Acceleration to 60 mph takes a little more than 5 seconds. The SHO suspension uses stiffer shock absorbers and springs, plus thicker anti-roll bars, resulting in pleasant balance and crisp.
Ford Taurus is an older product than some of the competition. Still, in addition to refinement and quiet running, you can expect a firm but comfortable ride, and be assured of excellent safety ratings.
Driving impressions by The Car Connection. Mitch McCullough and James M. Flammang contributed to this report.