Nothing lasts forever.

Whether by bad luck, bad design or the stars just stop aligning; every good (and bad) thing passes. But that doesn't mean it can't come back: Cinderella may have cleaned a lot of fireplaces, but even she got hitched.

The Ford Taurus arrived three decades ago with a youthful vigor that would propel it to become the No. 1 sedan in America. It was a winner, a juggernaut, the San Francisco 49ers of the '80s with Joe Montana in the driver's seat.

But Montana split for the Kansas City Chiefs and the neglected Taurus became a regular rental. Neither ever really recovered. The malaise of this century hurt the Taurus so much it sputtered on life support. Ford Motor Co. finally pulled its plug, hoping to replace it with the Ford Five Hundred, which then needed more than 500 changes to it after the first model year. It was a tragedy of Shakespearian proportions.

Welcome to Act III: The 2010 Ford Taurus, a car worthy of the original Taurus name and deserving of the title "flagship."

There are a lot of boxes to check to truly become a brand's top-of-the-line vehicle. The Taurus doesn't miss any. It's the most technologically advanced, quietest, most comfortable, largest sedan in Ford's fleet.

It's the premium premiere vehicle Ford has -- and even SHOs off its capabilities with a performance 365-horsepower version.

But it's also attainable starting at $25,995, the same price as the outgoing model. While Ford may not care for this advice, I could not tell any consumer to buy the 2009 Taurus for the same price as a 2010 -- really, there is no comparison between the two.

The 2010 Taurus is so much better.

First, there are the features that come with this car. It has nearly everything but a refrigerator in the second row (which Ford will tell you the large crossover Ford Flex does).

Here's just a sampling:

* Adaptive cruise control: Radar mounted under the front bumper monitors the traffic in front of the car and maintains the speed of other vehicles. If they slow down, so does the Taurus.

* Blind spot detection: A little yellow light turns on in the outside mirror if a car is the blind spot. After using this feature twice, you will demand every car comes with it.

* Keyless entry: Finally a number pad on the door that doesn't look like an aftermarket remote control. Touch it with the car's key in your pocket and the door unlocks.

* Cross Traffic Alert: Very helpful when backing up because it looks both ways for oncoming traffic, so you don't have to.

There's more: Rain sensing wipers; navigation with Sirius Travel Link; third-generation Sync to control your phone, iPod, and Sony stereo; and a programmable key to limit a teen driver's overconfidence.

Then there's the class-exclusive derriere rubber. Ford calls its Multi-Contour Seats with Active Motion -- designed to keep the circulation rolling in your legs on long trips. Whatever name you use, it works fabulously with an embarrassingly awkward introduction. The great indoors

But the interior is more than a collection of gadgets. There's a cohesive quality to the layout. There's flow, high-grade materials and a sense of purpose. Sure you can switch between seven different interior lighting colors, but it's the ambient lighting scheme that makes the Taurus feel more luxurious. The high sitting center stack makes the front feel more like a cockpit of a race car than a Sunday driver.

Additionally, Ford uses a few tricks to make you think it's even nicer. Check out the door inserts, how the material looks and feels like leather. It's not, but your friends don't need to know that little piece of information. It's also why the Taurus comes in a much more affordable price.

There's loads of space inside the cabin with more than 41 inches of legroom up front and 38 inches of legroom in the back. Three adults can easily fit in the back. The trunk is also massive, with 20.1 cubic feet of space.

There's more luxury than you'd expect.

And significantly more performance than you'd think. Ford says it focused on making the Taurus more fun to drive. It's not Mustang, but for a big sedan, it can get up and play. Here's how it did it.

Give the Taurus an independent suspension, a powerful V-6 and power rack-and-pinion steering. Include some big wheels (up to 20-inches) and stiffen up the ride slightly so the body doesn't roll like a boat at high seas. The Taurus manages to remain stately on the road while providing more than a few smiles.

The all-wheel drive models I tested felt more agile on the road than their front-wheel-drive-only brothers. But this car drives smaller than it looks.

The power steering feels a little numb in city driving but excellent on open highways. Impressive power

The 3.5-liter V-6 pushes out an impressive 263 horsepower. The six-speed automatic transmission is very smooth, even during aggressive driving. It tends to want to get to sixth gear a little too quickly for my liking, but that's because it wants to stretch every drop of gas. The EPA estimate for the Taurus is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Ford includes paddle shifters on the Taurus for those who want to try and push the car a little. They seem natural on the performance Taurus SHO, but awkward on the regular sedan. Then again, you don't have to use them.

Another notable quality on the new Taurus is how quiet it rides. Consumers equate quiet rides to quality for a reason: Better built cars, using higher grade materials, tend to ride quieter. Sometimes perception and reality park in the same space.

Based on the Intercepter, a dark and powerful-looking concept car, the Taurus's exterior was drawn with a thick Sharpie. There's a heavy feel to it (perhaps because the Taurus weighs a touch over 4,000 pounds).

But the thick three bar grille looks right for this car. Its face squints as it moves toward you, and the lower front end makes the Taurus look like it's ready to jump. Instead of giving it very small windows and lower the car's profile, the greenhouse on the Taurus provides plenty of glass. The roof is flatter than curved, but that's why the car provides so much headroom (37.8 inches) in the back.

While the Taurus looks big and strong, there are no sharp edges. The corners are rounded, as if Ford tried to baby proof the parking lot. The looks help the design flow around the body. The exterior is not as dramatic as the original Taurus, but a vast improvement over the Five Hundred, which resembled a turtle.

The Taurus won't save the Blue Oval. But flagships rarely single handedly pull off a victory of those proportions. A flagship watches the fighting from a distance, moving its pieces around the board and summing up the competition. This Taurus provides the kind of ride any general would enjoy.

That's the difference between this generation Taurus and the original. This Taurus, with its stately manner, good performance and high-tech interior, finally shows what happens when a car grows up the right way.

It may have had a rough life, but things are finally looking up for the Taurus. Change is inevitable and the Taurus has changed for the better. (313) 223-3217

2010 Ford Taurus

Type: Five-passenger front-wheel or all-wheel drive large sedan.

Price: $25,995

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Power: 263 horsepower, 249 pound-feet torque

EPA gas mileage: 18 mpg city / 28 mpg highway

Report Card

Overall: ****

Exterior: Good. The Taurus's design flows nicely around its chunky body. The lines are crisp and the look denotes power.

Interior: Excellent. Comfortable, roomy and filled with useful high-tech devices. While it can carry a family, it feels like the driver was considered the most important passenger.

Performance: Good. The powerful V-6 gives the Taurus plenty of power while the suspension and tires provide a sure-footed performance.

Safety: Excellent. Front, side and side-curtain air bags protect passengers, and the adaptive cruise control and collision warning systems may help prevent accidents.

Pros: Well-priced and nicely appointed large sedan.

Cons: Why buy the Lincoln MKS when the Taurus costs less and offers more?

Grading scale

**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor