Like a prehistoric animal living blissfully without influence from the rest of the world, the 2014 Ford Taurus has had evolutionary blinders on; it simply hasn't changed quickly enough to stay competitive in this class.
In fact, the Taurus might just get eaten alive by the more modern and advanced Hyundai Azera, Chevrolet Impala, and Chrysler 300S. See them compared side by side here. We tested these sedans and a few others in Cars.com's $38,000 Full-Size Sedan Challenge.
The Taurus' possible saving grace, however, is as a family pack mule, with a backseat that can fit three kids or three child-safety seats across, plus trunk space to schlep even the most challengingly large family loads.
The Taurus hasn't changed notably for the new model year. The only slight change is the addition of an available lane-keeping system in Limited and SHO trim levels. See the 2013 and 2014 models compared side by side here.
The 2014 Taurus has four trims to choose from: the front-wheel-drive SE, the front- or all-wheel-drive SEL and Limited, and the all-wheel-drive SHO, all of which are powered by a high-performance, twin-turbo V-6 engine. The SE can also be had with a four-cylinder. See the trims compared side by side here.
The Taurus' front grille looks a little like the wide, gaping mouth of a whale shark. It does get a little better from there, however, with additional bits of chrome jewelry on the exhaust tips and solid, grounded-looking 19-inch wheels on the Limited version I drove. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard on the base SE trim.
The Taurus comes in a range of 10 available exterior colors with body-colored door handles. While all the basics are there, there are also a few unique color options for the more adventurous ones among us, like Kodiak Brown Metallic and Sunset Metallic (a sparkling burnt orange color), so we can express ourselves.
As a family workhorse, this full-size sedan has the ability to haul even full-size families with full-size cargo needs. All three positions of the rear seat are quite comfortable (I know — I tried them out myself over many miles). A low floor hump below the center passenger's feet and a bench that's almost as soft and comfortable there as in the outboard positions makes the center seat just as usable as the others. This may sound like a minor thing, but sitting in the center rear seat in every vehicle in our recent Full-Size Sedan Challenge has given me newfound sympathy for my youngest daughter, who often gets squeezed into that rock-hard and sometimes raised middle seat.
The 20.1 cubic feet of trunk space in the Taurus was the most voluminous in our Challenge thanks to the Taurus' recessed floor. It allowed a shocking 10 golf bags to be piled in. Hockey sticks, backpacks, sleeping bags and Costco runs can all be swallowed without so much as a burp from the Taurus. This feels massive compared with the Chrysler 300's 16.3 cubic feet of trunk space.
The Taurus' functionality and backseat are overshadowed, however, by the antiquated and messy aesthetics of the front of the cabin. An abundance of black plastic surfaces gives this brand-new vehicle the look of a gently used rental car. I loved having three cupholders in the center area between the driver and passenger, as I regularly have both a latte and a bottle of water during my morning run; having that third cupholder meant my husband could also store his coffee. However, the cupholders have hinged lids that have to be flipped open to use the cupholders. This created a cluttered look, with sharp, squared-off corners and edges sticking up this way and that. I'd much rather have cupholders that are always open for easy access — and that are trimmed out more elegantly, like those in the Toyota Avalon.
While Ford and Microsoft have theoretically improved the MyFord Touch system, there's still a general lag in touch-response time, not to mention the cluttered and confusing interface that's impossible to interact with without removing your eyes from the road. If my $200 iPhone can react instantaneously when I touch it, a $35,000 car with touch-screen technology should be at least as quick and easy to use. One of my biggest pet peeves with this system is the presence of four main navigation "buttons" in the corners of the screen that are too narrow for a normal-size finger to touch.
Tall drivers with longer legs may also complain about the wide center console cutting into their knee room. The consumer who test-drove all the cars in our Challenge had to press his knee and leg up against the side of the console for the entire drive in order to properly reach the accelerator. He commented on how uncomfortable this would be for long drives.
If you can get around this issue, buyers of the Taurus Limited will fawn over the heated and ventilated front seats, which are standard on that trim level.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Unfortunately, the Taurus just didn't live up to the high driving standard set in our Challenge. When accelerating, there was quite a lag before the Limited's 3.5-liter V-6 engine's power really kicked in. It took more nursing than I would like to get smooth acceleration up to speed from a full stop.
The front-wheel-drive Taurus gets an EPA-estimated 19/29/23 mpg city/highway/combined with the V-6, which puts it in the middle of the similarly equipped sedans in our Challenge. The 300S, Dodge Charger SXT Plus and Azera (all 2013 models) are all rated 23 mpg combined. The 2014 Impala and 2013 Nissan Maxima are rated 22 mpg, and the 2013 Avalon leads with an estimated 25 mpg combined.
The Taurus suffered a lot of lean in corners, which I noticed both as a driver and as a backseat passenger. In the back, I was thrown around on a twist and then a turn while the driver got up to speed approaching a highway on-ramp. From the center rear seating position, I had to grab the handles on either side of the car to catch myself and stay upright. This lack of support isn't just in the rear seat, but can also be sensed by the driver as a feeling of apprehension when cornering, plus an innate desire to brake midway through a corner just to gain a sense of sure footing. The brakes were a bit touchy, which I felt equally as a passenger.
The Taurus' suspension did recover easily from a large recessed bump in the highway while at speed, where several of the other cars in our Challenge bounced a few times before finally settling down.
Cabin noise inside the Taurus was quite obtrusive, even on smoother roads. I had to raise my voice to be heard from the backseat, and the notes I dictated to my iPhone while in the Taurus were illegible. You might be quick to blame this on Siri's lack of voice-recognition skills, but I could easily decipher all my notes taken in other cars in our Challenge, which covered the same roads at the same speeds. The ones taken in the Taurus were about as understandable as hieroglyphics: "Very fast can come are the toilet seat" and "Wakefield Moshi comparing to the other." (If you have any idea what those might mean, please email me.)
The 2014 Taurus received an overall crash-test rating of five out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the 2013 Taurus earned the institute's Top Safety Pick designation, which represents top scores in all tests except the new small-overlap crash test, to which no car in this class has been subjected. Because the Taurus is mechanically unchanged for 2014, the results should apply to the new model year.
As has been required since the 2012 model year, the 2014 Taurus has standard antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control. The Taurus also features six standard airbags, including driver and passenger front airbags, driver and passenger torso side airbags, and side curtain airbags extending to cover both rows. While this may seem good enough, again this feels like an area in which Ford has the expertise to expand and evolve; competing cars in the segment offer up to 10 standard airbags.
A Belt Minder system that alerts the driver if any of the front or rear occupied seats have an unbuckled seat belt is standard on all trim levels, as is a tire pressure monitor. A rearview camera is standard on Limited and SHO trims and optional on the SEL. A blind spot monitoring system with cross-traffic alert is optional on both the Taurus Limited and SHO, as is a lane-keep assist system.
The wide backseat in the Taurus makes it one of the few sedans we've tested than can fit three child-safety seats side by side, in certain configurations. The Taurus' Latch anchor configuration is a little different from most vehicles. While most cars have two sets of Latch anchors (one set in each of the outboard seats), they typically don't allow a center seat to be installed via Latch by using an anchor from either side. The Taurus' anchors are different. They're slightly offset, but built to allow for attachment to either the center position or the outer positions, but not both at the same time. This allows for greater flexibility for a growing family with one or two child-safety seats to install with the Latch anchors. However, three cannot be used with Latch at the same time. Learn more in the 2014 Taurus Car Seat Check.
The downside to this configuration lies in a family situation like my own. My two youngest daughters (ages 8 and 10) are still in booster seats, and we use Latch to attach their Clek Olli seats. One of the Taurus' Latch anchors is directly behind a seat belt buckle. So, if two Latch-connected boosters were installed in the outer two positions, the left seat would sit directly on top of two sets of belt buckles, effectively blocking both the left and center positions from being able to buckle their belts.
See all the standard safety features listed here.
TAURUS IN THE MARKET
"Taurus" is one of those nameplates that has simply been around forever. I remember my parents renting a Taurus on vacation when I was a young child, and I thought it was the coolest, most comfortable car ever. While the current Taurus' backseat is still quite plush and comfortable, nearly everything else about the car is due for an overhaul. Let's hope that overhaul comes sooner rather than later. Otherwise this iconic name may get left in the dust in favor of its more progressively evolving competitors.