Remember the TV show "Extreme Makeover?" On it, people opted for plastic surgery and new diet and exercise regimens and ended up looking so different they were almost alien. The 2010 Ford Taurus has undergone an equal amount of transformation, minus the freakish effects. During my test drive, I parked next to an older Taurus and the difference was shocking. The 2010 model was twice as tall as and so much more stylish than the older version. Ford seems to have created an entirely new animal without using a single strand of the old generation's DNA.

Once upon a time, the Taurus was the typical bland sedan with four doors, a roomy interior, sluggish performance and pricing to match. Today's Taurus is a performance machine built to turn heads and stimulate enthusiasm. The Taurus starts at $25,170; my test car — a top-of-the-line Limited trim with front-wheel drive — cost $37,080.

This full-size sedan is powerful and fun to drive — even more so when I used the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. However, it maneuvers like a big, heavy car. I had some difficulty parking it because of its size.


EXTERIOR


Despite its size, the Taurus is sporty. The front end looks intimidating because of its angular headlights and large chrome grille. Sporty creases on the Taurus' sides add to its sporty look. Many cars have stylized front and rear ends, but they seem to forget about the sides. With Taurus, its spicy character sizzled everywhere I looked.

2010 Ford Taurus

The Taurus has a 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. It gets an EPA-estimated 18/27 mpg city/highway. I was relieved to see that the Taurus takes regular gas because I was at the gas station in it more often than I like.

My boys had no problems opening and closing the sedan's doors and climbing in and out of the sedan. The trunk is gigantic, but my father pointed out that its opening could've been bigger, especially considering the cargo area's size. All in all, I was able to transport my groceries just fine, and I loved the cargo net that kept bags from flying around the trunk.


2010 Ford Taurus

SENSE AND STYLE


Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On


INTERIOR


My family really liked the looks of the 2010 Taurus, both inside and out. However, its center stack and instruments overwhelmed me at first. I grew to appreciate the shiny trim pieces. The chrome trim surrounding the instrument gauges reflected outside lights and created bolts of moving light that were pretty but distracting while driving.

2010 Ford Taurus

Near the gearshift and center console, clutter in the two front cupholders can be hidden behind doors. The power-adjustable pedals and tilt/telescoping steering wheel makes life so much easier for height-challenged people like myself.

Instead of a bench seat in the front row, the new Taurus has bucket seats, which were the most comfortable seats I've ever experienced. I felt comfortable driving the Taurus thanks to its optional heated seats and ingenious massage system, which is meant to aid circulation during long trips. Any trip with kids is long, so I opted to leave my massagers on at all times.

The Charcoal Black leather throughout the interior was a bit dark but sexy in its own right. If I were buying a Taurus I'd stick with the leather seats, but opt for the neutral Light Stone interior color to better hide all the crumbs my kids leave behind.

Not really the technology buffs, my hubby and I had to pull out the owner's manual to get my phone to connect with Ford's Sync multimedia system; thankfully, it only took a few minutes to set it up. The kids loved calling Dad from the car, which we did every single time we got in it; it was a long week for my hubby. It was cool to hear his voice coming through the speakers, but I'd recommend making several practice calls while in Park before using the system on the road.

The Taurus' second row is spacious and has a fold-down armrest with two cupholders within easy reach. The backseat has optional heated seats, too.


IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT


Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample


SAFETY


I've never seen a Latch system like the one in the Taurus; it's certainly not designed with a family in mind. The location of the lower Latch anchors is really awkward. Instead of sitting in the traditional positions in the outboard seats, they've been moved inward toward the backseat's armrest. This position causes a booster seat to sit on top of the seat belt receptor. My sons' booster seats have rigid clamps that grab the lower Latch anchors, but they didn't work well in this setup.

The Latch anchors' position would work for a convertible child-safety seat and a rear-facing infant-safety seat. There's plenty of legroom in the backseat to easily accommodate rear-facing car seats.

While I'm not wild about the Taurus' Latch system, I do appreciate that it's been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this safety award, a car must receive the top score of Good in frontal, side-impact, rear and rollover crash tests as well as have a standard stability control.

In addition to the standard stability control, the Taurus has standard antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control and six airbags, including side curtain airbags for both rows. The Taurus also has optional all-wheel drive.

My test car had optional rear parking sensors, a blind spot warning system and a collision prevention system.

Get more safety information about the 2010 Ford Taurus here.


2010 Ford Taurus