The Taurus received major styling changes and additional safety features for 2000, but this year it is a rerun, except for a few items. Among the changes, an 18-gallon fuel tank replaces one that held 16 gallons, and the base LX models now have standard power door locks.
Perennially one of the top three passenger cars in sales, the Taurus comes as a four-door sedan and a station wagon. The Mercury Sable is built from the same design and also is available as a sedan and wagon.
After Ford replaced the controversial rounded, elliptical shape of the 1996 1999 Taurus with more straight lines, sales jumped nearly 10 percent during 2000, indicating that buyers prefer more conventional styling for their midsize cars. The wheelbase on the Taurus is 108.5 inches, and the overall length is 198 about 8 inches longer than the Chevrolet Malibu and nearly 10 inches longer than the Toyota Camry.
Ford says last years styling changes increased headroom for the front and rear seats and added 1.2 cubic feet of trunk space to the sedan now measuring 17 cubic feet. All four doors have map pockets, which were added as part of last years revamp.
The sedan offers a choice of seats for six, with a folding center storage console in front, or seats for five with front buckets.
Power-adjustable accelerator and pedals with a 3-inch range are an option not found on competitors vehicles.
Under the Hood
Engine choices include two 3.0-liter V-6 engines, a 155-horsepower version with overhead valves and a 200-hp version with dual overhead camshafts. Both team with a four-speed automatic transmission.
The Taurus has front airbags that deploy at one of two inflation levels based on crash severity, whether the seat belts are buckled and the position of the drivers seat. A standard warning system activates a red warning light and intermittently sounds a chime if either the driver or front passenger are unbelted.
Side-impact airbags that protect the heads and chests of front occupants are optional. Antilock brakes with an all-speed traction control system also are optional.
Conservative styling does not seem to hurt the Camry or Honda Accord the two cars that are ahead of the Taurus in the sales race so Ford probably made a wise move in toning down the appearance of its top-selling car. The current styling may appeal to more buyers, but rear passengers still have to duck under the sloping rear roof pillars when getting in or out a problem not remedied by last years changes.
The Taurus is functional, attractively priced and enjoyable to drive, especially with the overhead-camshaft V-6 engine, which is smoother, quieter and more potent. There are several good midsize sedans in which to choose, and the Taurus deserves consideration because it offers more safety features than some rivals.