It is midnight in the midst of what, for me, is an unnerving ritual:
Heavy trucks nesting alongside Interstate 81 shift into drive. One by one, they enter the road shoving large volumes of air with their massive bodies, flinging gravel and rocks from whining tires.
The trucks carry goods that feed our economy. It would be hard living without them. But living with them on a midnight highway is scary when all I'm trying to do is get home.
It helps in such moments to be behind the wheel of a car you believe in, one that feels solid, safe, comfortable and substantially more than competent. That means it's also fast -- get-out-of-the-way fast, the kind of fast more designed to avoid collisions than it is to win races, a kind of strategic acceleration bountifully available in this week's subject automobile, the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited.
Late-night, long-distance driving is a matter of triage. If you're on a highway bordered by reasonably located service stations, you don't worry so much about running out of fuel. Instead, your main concerns become power and agility.
Can the car move when called upon to do so? Can it dodge that flying piece of poorly re-treaded tire thrown from an 18-wheeler?
The new Taurus answered those questions in the affirmative -- and did so repeatedly on a long drive through Virginia. It is a car much different from the Taurus introduced in 1986.
The new model is full-size and boxy versus the original, jelly-bean-shaped car's midsize proportions; and the 2010 version is far more accomplished in terms of overall performance and presentation than the 2009 model it replaces.
That's saying something. The Taurus born in 1986 set precedents for automobile design, primarily for family sedans, throughout the 1990s. But its imitators soon became its superiors and left it in the dust.
Ford's first response to the Taurus brand's loss of status was to kill the brand altogether, beginning with the 2007 model year. But that decision was reversed shortly after the arrival of Ford's current president and chief executive, Alan R. Mulally.
Mulally argued that the only thing wrong with the brand was what Ford had done to the Taurus, which essentially was to neglect its further technical and performance development in favor of cheap cosmetic spiffs.
Under Mulally's tutelage, Ford polished up a so-so, full-size Ford Five Hundred sedan and reintroduced it as the 2009 Taurus, with promises of better Taurus automobiles to come. The 2010 Taurus fulfills that promise. It is a premium car minus pretense -- and absent premium price in all versions except the top-of-the-line Taurus SHO (Super High Output).
Buyers who choose the popularly equipped Taurus Limited model driven for this column will be able to live with that. With a base price below $34,000, the Ford sedan offers almost as much power, and just as much comfort and safety, as the Audi 3.0 A6 Quattro for $16,000 less.
Purists and devotees of automobile-buff books might scoff at that. The 3.0 Audi A6 Quattro delivers a maximum 300 horsepower compared with the 263 horsepower offered by the Taurus Limited. But at the end of a long highway dance in which the Ford nimbly and swiftly moved around those big trucks, that 37-horsepower difference hardly seemed to matter.
I got home safely and drove with perfect confidence, comfort and safety -- doing it all in an appealingly well-made, attractively priced (in comparison with competitors) automobile.
Mileage was not great at a combined 20 miles per gallon (17 miles per gallon city/25 mpg highway). But it was competitive (a combined 21 mpg for the Audi 3.0 A6 Quattro, for example). It helped that the Ford drank regular unleaded fuel, instead of the premium stuff demanded by the Audi.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Joe Bruzek||Cars.com National||October 16, 2009|
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||July 16, 2009|
|Mike Hanley||Cars.com National||February 26, 2009|
|Sherrice Gilsbach||Mother Proof||June 4, 2010|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||February 4, 2010|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||December 20, 2009|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||December 10, 2009|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||November 22, 2009|
|Clifford Atiyeh||Boston.com||October 28, 2009|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||September 10, 2009|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||September 6, 2009|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||August 23, 2009|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||August 2, 2009|
|Scott Burgess||The Detroit Newspapers||July 16, 2009|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||July 10, 2009|
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