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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
January 24, 2003
Vehicle Overview New seven-spoke wheels are equipped on 2003-model-year versions of Fords midsize Taurus sedan and wagon, and a wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel is now available. All Tauruses now have standard power windows and door locks, a tilt steering wheel and floormats. A new Sport SES model for younger buyers features a monochromatic body and a rear spoiler. Taurus sedans come in LX, SE, SES and SEL trim levels and can seat either five or six occupants, depending on the model.
The Taurus sedan and wagon earned major styling changes for the 2000 model year, and they appeared with a more conservative look than the 1996 1999 generation. The Mercury Sable is built from the same design as the Taurus and also is available in sedan and wagon forms, but the Sable comes with more standard equipment and a higher sticker price.
Exterior Aerodynamic teardrop-shaped headlights and large taillights are the major styling cues on the Taurus. The sedanw rides a 108.5-inch wheelbase, and at 197.6 inches long overall, it's approximately 7 inches longer than the Chevrolet Malibu and 8 inches longer than the Toyota Camry. Tires are available in 14- , 15- and 16-inch diameters.
t 197.7 inches long overall on a 108.5-inch wheelbase, the Taurus wagon is about the same size as the Taurus sedan and measures 7 inches longer than the Saturn LW one of its top competitors. All Taurus wagons have 16-inch tires.
Interior Depending on the model and seating configuration, the Taurus can seat either six people with a front bench seat and a folding center storage console or five occupants in models equipped with front buckets. Six-passenger seating is standard in 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, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. Remote keyless entry, cruise control and a cassette stereo go into the SE sedan. Moving up to the SES model brings antilock brakes, a six-way power drivers seat, a CD player and a split, folding rear seat. At the top of the lineup, the SEL gets automatic climate control, an in-dash CD changer, automatic headlights and power-adjustable pedals.
In the Taurus wagon, seating for six occupants is standard and includes a folding center storage console between the front occupants. Optional front bucket seats limit the seating capacity to five people, while an optional rear-facing third-row seat designed for children can boost that capacity to eight.
Cargo volume behind the wagon's middle row of seats measures 38.8 cubic feet, which expands to 81.3 cubic feet when the center seat is folded. Power-adjustable brake and accelerator pedals with a 3-inch range are standard in the SE Deluxe and SEL wagons.
Under the Hood Three 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-cam V-6 that makes 200 hp. Both engines mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Ford also offers a version of the Vulcan V-6 that runs on a mixture of E-85 ethanol and gasoline, or either substance alone.
Fords dual-overhead-camshaft Duratec V-6, rated at 200 hp, is installed in the SE Deluxe wagon and is available for the SEL wagon. Both engines mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Safety Antilock brakes are standard in the SEL and optional in the SE. Front airbags deploy at one of two inflation levels based on crash severity, the position of the drivers seat and whether the seat belts are buckled. Optional side-impact airbags protect the heads and chests of front occupants.
Driving Impressions The Taurus sedan is satisfying in most respects, but it doesnt stand strongly above the midsize pack, which includes the league-leading Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Taurus ride and handling are acceptable, but it can feel a little ponderous at times and its suspension doesnt produce a truly gentle experience.
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 impair visibility. The seats are comfortable and supportive. Despite a few drawbacks, Fords abundant safety features and attractive prices help make the Taurus a good buy against much of the competition. Like its sedan stablemate, the Taurus wagon has a lot to offer, but it doesnt excel in most areas. Only a handful of family-oriented wagons with comparable cargo space are available, so Ford has a strong hold on this modestly sized branch of the market.
The Taurus wagons ride and handling are acceptable. It can feel a little ponderous at times, and the road-going experience doesnt rank as gentle. Because the wagon weighs at least 169 pounds more than its sedan sibling, the dual-cam V-6 is a better choice than the Vulcan engine for performance. The Taurus wagons seats are comfortable and supportive.