Fords midsize sedan and wagon earned major styling changes for 2000, with a more conservative look than the 1996 1999 generation. In recent years, it has invariably been one of the top three passenger cars in the annual sales race. Sales rose by nearly 4 percent in 2000 to an impressive 382,035 units. The Mercury Sable is built from the same design, also as a sedan and wagon, but it has more standard equipment and a higher sticker price.
Apart from new body colors, little has changed for 2002. New approach lamps let people know at night that a door is open. Ford has had a Taurus in its lineup since 1986. Available in LX, SE, SES and SEL trim levels, Taurus sedans can seat either five or six occupants, depending on the model.
Aerodynamic teardrop-shaped headlights and large taillights are the major styling cues on the four-door Taurus sedan, which rides a 108.5-inch wheelbase. At 197.6 inches long overall, the Taurus is about 7 inches longer than the Chevrolet Malibu and 8 inches longer than the redesigned Toyota Camry. The Taurus sedan is 73 inches wide and 56.1 inches tall, and it comes with 16-inch tires.
Depending on the model, buyers can seat either six people, with a folding center storage console in front, or five passengers with front buckets. Six-passenger seating is standard on the LX, SE and SES sedans, while the top-of-the-line SEL has space for five. All four doors contain map pockets, and the trunk holds 17 cubic feet of cargo.
Standard LX equipment includes air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, cloth upholstery, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Remote keyless entry, cruise control and a cassette stereo go into the SE sedan. Moving up to an SES brings antilock brakes, a six-way power drivers seat, a CD player and a split, folding rear seat. Heading the lineup, the SEL gets automatic climate control, an in-dash CD changer and cassette player, automatic headlights and power-adjustable pedals. Also optional on other models, the power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals have a 3-inch range.
Under the Hood
Two 3.0-liter V-6 engines are available. The base engine has overhead valves and produces 155 horsepower, and the SEL sedan comes with a dual-overhead-camshaft V-6 that makes 200 hp. Both engines mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Front airbags deploy at one of two inflation levels based on crash severity, whether the seat belts are buckled and the position of the drivers seat. Optional side-impact airbags protect the heads and chests of front occupants. Antilock brakes are optional, combined with an all-speed traction control system.
Though the Taurus sedan is satisfying in most respects, it doesnt stand strongly above the midsize pack, including the league-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Ride and handling are acceptable, but the Taurus can feel a little ponderous at times and its suspension doesnt produce a truly gentle experience. The Mercury Sable tends to come across as more appealing, whether its for highway or urban driving.
Performance with the dual-cam V-6 is vigorous and responsive. The automatic transmission functions in an easygoing manner, with just a bit of hesitation when downshifting. Interior space is ample, but large roof pillars have a negative effect on visibility. Seats are comfortable and supportive. Fords abundant safety features and attractive prices help make the Taurus a good buy against much of the competition, despite a few drawbacks.