Over thirty-some years, the Ford Taurus has become an icon. In the beginning it was lean and radical, but today it’s a full-size front-wheel-drive sedan is on the brink of collapse. That’s not entirely through fault of its own, but it does have issues that stem from its age and weight, in particular a dated exterior, interior, and packaging. The Taurus is based on a relatively old design shared with Volvo.
The current model was launched for 2010 and received minor updates for 2013; for 2017 there’s nothing new. Bigger optional wheels and upgrades to the optional Sony sound system aren’t enough to keep up with the competition, including the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, and Chevrolet Impala.
Base engine is a 3.5-liter V6 making 288 horsepower, and, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, it works well for daily driving. There’s also a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 240 horsepower and gets two more miles per gallon, but that’s on premium fuel, and it costs $995 more, so you’re left with less power and no savings. It’s also not available with all-wheel drive like the V6. It uses the same 6-speed automatic.
The 365-horsepower turbocharged V6 in the all-wheel-drive SHO model is more like it; in fact it’s a blast. It accelerates from zero to sixty in about five seconds, using a 6-speed paddle-shifting transmission and riding on a tuned suspension.
The V6 gets 18 city, 27 highway and 21 combined miles per gallon with front-wheel drive, 2 less mpg with all-wheel drive. We drove more than 250 miles in an all-wheel-drive model and got nearly 20 mpg combined. The turbo four gets 20/29/23 mpg, while the SHO gets 16/24/19.
The NHTSA gives the Taurus five stars overall in crash testing, with four stars in rollover. The IIHS gives it top Good scores in every test, although they haven’t performed the difficult small-overlap frontal test that most cars can’t achieve a Good score on. And probably won’t, because the car is so old.
A rearview camera is standard. Active safety features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, forward collision warning, and active lane control are available on SEL and higher models.
Taurus models are SE ($27,345), SEL ($29,775), Limited ($36,855), and SHO ($42,520). The turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine costs $995 more, and adding all-wheel drive is $1850.
The SE comes with fabric upholstery, rearview camera, frustrating Ford Sync with Bluetooth connectivity and a 4.2-inch screen, six-speaker stereo, 18-inch wheels, and power adjustable front seats.
SEL includes dual climate control, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Options include the better SYNC3 infotainment with 8.0-inch touchscreen ($1050), 20-inch wheels and sunroof.
Limited models get SYNC3, leather seats that are heated and ventilated in front, keyless ignition, and wood trim. Options include Sony premium audio, heated steering wheel, and advanced safety features such as blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alert.
The SHO is fully loaded.
The Ford Taurus makes the most of its 112-inch wheelbase, adding 80 inches of front and rear overhang to try to make it look sleek. That might add character, but not sleekness, just bulk. Its sharp lines and strong haunches aren’t unattractive, but they are old.
The Taurus cabin boasts quality materials and a good finish, to help justify its price, but you still have to add more to get the SEL and up, for the acceptable SYNC3 infotainment system. The standard simply-SYNC is difficult to use.
A wide center console and a wraparound instrument panel divide the front seat into driver and passenger zones, a design found more often in coupes than sedans. The front seats are supportive and generally comfortable for average sizes, but despite being large, they could use more contour. So the option of multi-contour seats adds welcome adjustment if you’re big or small.
The Taurus might make the most of its wheelbase with the exterior design, but not inside. Passengers might struggle to get in and out of the back seat because of the sedan’s low roofline; and the smaller Ford Fusion actually has a fraction of an inch more legroom than the Taurus’s 38.1 inches. Three adults can fit in the rear, but not for long, at least not happily.
Trunk space is huge, 20.1 cubic feet.
It’s good that a rearview camera is standard. Rearward visibility is particularly poor, with wide pillars and a small rear window.
The standard V6, with its 288 horsepower and 254 pound-feet of torque, moves the Taurus with relative ease. It’s responsive and ready to roll at lower rpm, and the 6-speed automatic transmission is geared low in first gear to improve the takeoff. The Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger have a bit more horsepower, but respond slower.
The ride is relatively quiet and comfortable. In previous models, we’ve found that the optional bigger wheels make it slightly less comfortable. With those tires carrying 4000 pounds, the Taurus feels its weight.
The V6 can be mated to all-wheel drive, but not the 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder EcoBoost, which makes 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, using the same 6-speed automatic.
The SHO, with its turbocharged V6, makes 365 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque over an impressively wide range, from 1500 rpm to 5000 rpm. Having no turbo lag, the strong acceleration is always there.
With stiffer shocks and springs, and larger anti-roll bars, it turns in crisply, especially for a big sedan. The steering delivers good feedback and a precise, direct action. It feels nicely balanced and grips the road well, although the body leans when driven hard in corners.
It’s hard to find a reason to recommend the aging and backseat-impaired Taurus, except for the turbocharged V6 SHO, but even there, the competition is stiff, especially for the price.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.