2010 Ford Taurus Reviews
Cars.com Expert Reviews
For 2010, Ford has finally turned the Taurus into a model that stands a chance of excelling in the market, thanks mainly to styling changes that address its greatest weakness. Note that I don't say the model will excel again, because the current Taurus full-size sedan hasn't truly caught on since its introduction in 2005 as the Five Hundred, not even with its name change in 2008 to Taurus. (Technically, it's the midsize Fusion that succeeds the original Taurus, which dominated the market in the '80s then fizzled its way to oblivion in 2006.)
Long a proponent of the Five Hundred/Taurus' roominess and overall potential, I feel like a recruiter who tried for years to convince fans of its value. Specifically, it was outrageously roomy for a car that was nearly a foot shorter bumper-to-bumper than the Crown Victoria it would soon replace. It offered all-wheel drive and sat higher than most cars, granting excellent visibility — enough to attract at least some SUV owners who had become accustomed to such attributes but wanted to escape their vehicles' bulk and poor mileage. Unfortunately, along with its improved looks, the 2010 trades off some of the attributes that made it attractive in the general sense.
The Five Hundred was plainer than plain, with big, bug-eye headlights that crept too far up and around the fenders. I wasn't wild about it, and it came at a time when bland was the worst thing a car could be; automakers had discovered that polarizing designs sell better, and the Chrysler 300 had become a rapper's delight. (Even if you consider the 300 a flash in the pan, that's preferable to never flashing at all.) In 2008, Ford added the three-bar chrome grille along with the "Taurus" badge, and it got the headlights under control, but it wasn't enough.
The 2010 has a much more handsome face — both in my opinion and in those of many admirers during my evaluation days. The three-bar grille is tastefully executed, and the domed hood manages not to look overdone. More of my observations are in the photo captions, but I must highlight one possible misstep: Ford brought back the concave flanks of the final midsize Taurus, which wouldn't be bad except for the indentation on the rear quarterpanel, which, frankly, looks like someone backed a car into it. On the upside, the rear bumper has a black center section that protrudes a bit; like or hate it, city dwellers and other street parkers will welcome its capacity to withstand real bumps and glancing blows better than body-colored bumpers do.
The Power Awaiting the Glory
The Five Hundred got a reputation as being too slow. In the role of coach, Ford sent our rookie to the gym in 2008, upping its 3.0-liter V-6 to a 3.5-liter and eliminating the ill-received continuously variable transmission. The newly renamed Taurus adopted the six-speed automatic that previously had been offered only with front-wheel drive. In the 2010, the same drivetrain is likely to satisfy almost any shopper who's drawn to the 2010's new looks. In my test car, a well-equipped 2010 Taurus Limited with all-wheel drive (read: heavy), the 263 horsepower was more than adequate, and the six-speed shifted smoothly — a relief, because the Fusion Sport I recently reviewed with a 3.5-liter and six-speed wasn't smooth.
Any leadfoot who needs more horses can opt for the Taurus SHO model, which we'll be reviewing soon. Its "EcoBoost" twin-turbo version of the 3.5-liter V-6 produces 365 hp that drives all four wheels through a six-speed with SelectShift clutchless-manual shifting. My test car also had SelectShift as an option, which you activate by moving the gear selector from D to the M (manual) position. You can then shift up and down using paddles on the steering wheel. I'm not a big fan of this feature in any car, but here it works reasonably well and is more like a true manual than some: It won't upshift for you if you rev the engine to its upper limit. On the downside, in an otherwise high-quality interior, the shift paddles themselves don't live up: They're effective, if a bit small, when you pull (upshift), but the segment that protrudes above the steering wheel spoke is cumbersome and bendy when you push it with your thumb to downshift.
Ride & Handling
I was pleasantly surprised by the Taurus Limited's ride quality: comfortably soft without being overly floaty. The unpleasant surprise comes in the Lincoln MKS sister model, which came out last year with an overly firm suspension. You'd expect the opposite from Lincoln, right? The thinking that the large, front-wheel-drive MKS competes with performance-oriented German luxury sport sedans is indeed wishful.
The Taurus SHO's goal is sporty handling, so it has a sport-tuned suspension that might be more like the MKS' — and certainly firmer than the other Taurus trim levels. If my regular Taurus is an indication, there are good things to come from the SHO. The Taurus Limited doesn't beg to be driven aggressively, but if you do, it has admirable poise and controllability. Even the front/rear balance is decent, perhaps aided by my car's all-wheel drive, which adds weight to the rear. There's some body roll in evasive maneuvers, but the car handles better than you'd expect — arguably better than it needs to. Though the steering isn't exceptional, it's appropriate for the car's type, and notably better than what you get in the average Volvo — the source of the Taurus' platform. The average Volvo has all the steering feel of a rudder, so it's good to get the brand's plusses in the Taurus without this minus.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Into a Tighter Shoe
The Taurus' interior isn't just better than it was last year; it's better than the current Fusion's, which itself is earning praise. One would expect the Limited trim level to be the nicest of the three, below the higher-priced SHO, and thankfully it is. Leather quality was good in my test car. Overall, the materials are high-quality and much more tightly assembled than last year's model. The dashboard and door panels are notably soft to the touch.
The gauges are brilliant, and they don't have the daytime glare problem I noticed in the Fusion. After dark, ambient lighting — standard here and optional on the SEL trim level — bathes the cabin in a glow of selectable color and intensity. Because the light sources are tucked out of sight, the light is truly ambient (I slammed the Fusion for having LED dots in clear view).
The average observer might not think twice about the car's roominess, but I'm disappointed because I know it used to be better. Interior volume is down to 102 cubic feet from 108 cubic feet in the 2009, where it equaled or beat the competition. Front legroom is up a bit, but headroom is down. The backseat lost more than 3 inches of legroom and an inch of headroom. The new breakdown:
|Full-Size Sedans Compared|
|Length (in.)||Passenger volume|
|Front headroom/ legroom (in.)||Rear headroom/ legroom (in.)||Cargo volume (cu. ft.)|
|2009 Ford Taurus||201.8||108||39.6/41.3||38.8/41.2||21.2|
|2010 Ford Taurus||202.9||102||39.0/41.9||37.8/38.1||20.1|
|2009 Buick Lucerne||203.2||108||39.5/42.5||37.7/41.4||17.0|
|2009 Chrysler 300||196.8||107||38.7/41.8||37.0/40.2||15.6|
|2009 Toyota Avalon||197.2||107||38.9/41.3||37.5/40.9||14.4|
Ford says hip room is up substantially in the front and rear, but claustrophobic people cry foul; the center console is more crowding than it was before. It didn't bother me, but I think the driver's seat's a little too mushy, and there's still too much lumbar support, even with it set all the way back. I'm always dubious of seats with too many adjustments, which are like 20-band graphic stereo equalizers: I'd rather have two tone knobs and good sound than something I'm always fiddling with that still never sounds right. Ford now highlights its optional Multi-Contour Seats with Active Motion ($595), which use 11 air cushions to improve comfort and ease fatigue. Reminds me of digital signal processing — an automated version of the old equalizer that may or may not improve the audio. You'll have to decide for yourself.
As the table shows, the backseat's shrinkage is definitive. My knees didn't touch the driver's seat backrest even when it was all the way back, but the only reason why seems to be that the floor is substantially higher in the 2010, which raises the knees. It's still a full-size car, but the roominess is no longer exceptional.
Cargo space has suffered less. Previously 21.2 cubic feet, it's now 20.1 cubic feet. That's a negligible difference for a trunk that blows away the competition by 3 feet or more. Ford boasted upon the Five Hundred's debut that its trunk could hold nine golf bags, which is handy if five golfing buddies hit the links, then break four full sets and refuse to share with each other. Now they'll have to do with only three spare bags, I guess.
Another plus, the Taurus has a 60/40-split folding backseat, a feature that remains rare among full-size cars, including models whose trunks are significantly smaller to begin with.
The Five Hundred/Taurus' Volvo-sourced platform hasn't hurt in the safety department. It was always ahead of the curve in crash-test ratings and is now the top-rated model in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Large Family Cars class, with top scores in frontal, side-impact and rear crashes. Along with front airbags, side-impact and side curtain airbags are standard, as are antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control. See all the standard safety features here.
Notable optional safety features include a blind spot warning system, which signals the driver if there's another car in a blind spot. It's much better at finding them than are many such systems, which trigger when a car's already in your mirror. The included Cross Traffic Alert system looks crosswise when you back out of a parking space, seeing a car approaching from as far as 65 feet — a great enhancement. Unfortunately, these features come only in option packages on the Limited ($2,000) and SHO ($3,000). I'd like to see safety features offered independently on all versions.
The same applies to the adaptive cruise control with collision warning, which is a $1,195 option available on the Limited and SHO. It uses the front radar to keep pace with the car ahead and to warn the driver of an impending collision through sound and a flashing light on the windshield. I triggered it once, and it works well.
Taurus in the Market
Current Ford CEO Alan Mulally's history with the Taurus dates back to the 1980s when he was more than a decade into his employ at Boeing. Then-Ford-CEO Don Petersen, a member of Boeing's board of directors, shared with the aeronautical company some organizational and product development innovations that would lead to the revolutionary Taurus. Mulally said lessons learned from the Taurus team propelled his stewardship of the Boeing 777 jumbo jet — a revolutionary vehicle in its own right. When hired as Ford's CEO in 2005, Mulally insisted that the Taurus nameplate return and get the treatment a flagship deserves. The new head coach has really stepped in.
In some respects, it's like the player's heading into the game lame, less capable than it was years ago and less competitive in practical respects versus the competition. That said, we all know how important looks are in this business and beyond. The Taurus is a solid and reasonably reliable hometown player that originates just a few miles from Cars.com's Chicago headquarters, and I'm pleased to see it poised for more success, for whatever reason. Great players aren't star players unless they get off the bench.
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