Predecessor: 500 / Taurus
|Replacing also Crown Victoria, the new
Taurus is inevitably huge.
the first glance, the new Ford Taurus looks fresh. Having abandoned the
Volkswagen-Passat-copycat appearance of the old car, its new styling is
by all means original. The emphasize here is solidity, which is as
apparent as a solid gold brick. Subtle details are carefully treated
too, such as the new interpretation of 3-bar corporate grille, the slim
headlamps, the silver-crowned taillights, the chromed horizontal bar on
the boot lid and a subtle "Lincoln-blade" recessed at each side of the
tail. For the first time since the original 1986 car, you can use the
word "elegant" to describe the Taurus.
Nevertheless, this car has a very big difference from the original -
while the latter looked like a European car, the new Taurus feels
purely American. Its combination of high waistline, low roof line and
slim glass area contribute to a muscular stance close to Chrysler 300C
and not available in any other foreign designs. Ford obviously sees the
importance of emphasizing its American origin in order to distinguish
from foreign brands. Its homegrown genes are also reflected in its
massive size - at 5.15 meters long and 1.94 meters wide, the new Taurus
is one or two size larger than your Camry. In fact, Ford uses it to
replace both the old Taurus and the long-serving dinosaur Crown
Victoria (and Mercury Grand Marquis).
|It conflicts with the modern values we
pursue today, namely, greenness and driver appeal...
That bring us
question: is the new Taurus really a successor to the traditional
Taurus line? I'm afraid not. At best we can say it is the successor of
the last generation, Five-Hundred-renamed Taurus. Remember the original
Taurus occupied the bulk of the American family car market and rivaled
Honda Accord and Toyota Camry to the top spot? Unfortunately, its
radical redesign in 1996 was not successful, leading to its gradual
sales decline over the next decade. In 2004, Ford called the end of the
Taurus line and replaced it with two models - the smaller Fusion and
the larger Five-Hundred. The latter was derived from the European EUCD
platform of Volvo S80 and Ford Mondeo. J. Mays disastrously approved a
half-done Volkswagen Passat-like design. Besides, an underpowered old
engine in the heavyweight car resulted in poor performance. Build
quality and handling were also below class standard. As a result, the
Five-Hundred destined to failure from day one. In 2007, it was given a
facelift and engine upgrade. At the same time, Ford boss Alan Mulally
thought renaming the car into Taurus could improve its image and boost
sales, so the Taurus name was reborn on a much larger car.
Another decision Mulally made was to push forward the introduction of
new generation Taurus. Nevertheless, to recoup the investment made into
the Five-Hundred, especially its 2007 update, the new Taurus has to be
built on its platform and share most of its underpinnings.
Unfortunately, this also implies it share much the same driving
the old car as well.
|High waistline, low roof line and slim
glass area contribute to a muscular stance close to Chrysler 300C...
One of the
disliked about the old car was its high floor level and large ground
clearance - designed to accommodate its crossover cousin, Freestyle.
This is carried over to the new Taurus. Although the new styling belies
its height very well, the roof still sits some 1.54 meter above the
ground. You open the door and step "onto" its cabin, sit "onto" its
high-mounted chair - although it is already lowered by 40mm compared
with the last car, it is still higher than conventional cars by the
same amount. Some American drivers may enjoy the commanding view over
the road ahead, but keener drivers will dislike its sense of high
center of gravity.
Another carried-over weakness is its bulkiness. We didn't have problems
with the EUCD platform in the case of Volvo S80 and Ford Mondeo - the
latter is actually excellent - but what if you load it to 1820
kilograms, adding extra metal at both ends and raising its center
of gravity? It means lots of understeer when you push it into a bend.
The driving experience in Taurus is not about agility or fun. Although
its body roll is reasonably well controlled, its chassis dynamics does
not deliver the response and sharpness of smaller cars. Moreover, its
electric power steering lacks feel to inspire the driver. The hefty
weight also hampered its braking performance, which is poor by class
standard. The same goes for acceleration, even though the combination
of 3.5-liter Duratec V6 (with 263hp and 249 lb-ft of torque) and
6-speed automatic transmission is modern enough. Car & Driver and
Motor Trend did a good job to mislead us with 0-60 mph in 7 seconds.
You may need many serious attempts to repeat that. Expect a second
behind its Accord and Camry V6 rivals.
|Classy interior design; Space is
sacrificed a bit to the lower roofline.
What the big
excels is driving refinement, just like its predecessor. Its
long-travel suspensions deliver a smooth and calm ride. In the cabin it
feels solid and quiet. While the 6-speed paddle-shift transmission
lacks sparkle, it shifts smoothly. Ditto the V6 engine. However, you
can say the same to most of its Japanese rivals as well.
The cabin of new Taurus is more stylish than expected. Its center
console flows smoothly towards a wide and prominent transmission
tunnel, both classy and sporty. The "twin-cockpit" dashboard design
enhances the style further. Materials and fit and finish are another
lift from the old car, now matches its Japanese rivals. The cabin is
not as spacious as we expected for a car so large, partly because of
the lowered roofline which costs 1-inch headroom to the rear seats,
partly due to the high waistline and shallow windows which results in a
darker ambience. It can still carry 5 big adults happily, but the sense
of limo space is lost. Another downside of the cabin is rear passenger
vision. As the "theater" seating of the old car remains, and the
roofline is now lowered, rear passenger vision naturally falls onto the
windscreen header instead of the road. More generous is the boot, which
swallows nearly 600 liters of luggages.
|What the big car excels is driving
refinement instead of excitement...
Thanks to its
packaging, the Taurus should be far more desirable than the old car in
the eyes of American customers. However, the old wine in the new
bottle delivers much the same mediocre performance and dynamics as
before, making it less desirable to us than the original Taurus.
Moreover, by upping its size and weight to compete with foreign brands
from a class below is just a repeat of the old American tricks. It
conflicts with the modern values we pursue today, namely, greenness and
above report was last updated on 18 Jul 2009. All Rights Reserved.
|The combination of 365 hp and 350
lb-ft matches that of a conventional V8, yet its fuel consumption is
years ago we were
by the SHO (Super High Output) version of Taurus. Powered by a
Yamaha-built 3-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 with 220 horses, it was capable
of reaching 143 mph and sprint from 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. That was
the same performance as the contemporary Ferrari Mondial or Porsche
20 years later, the new SHO has grown much bigger and more luxurious.
Weight has been increased by 30 percent to a whopping 2 tons.
Fortunately, it gets a 66% more powerful engine. Based on the regular
car's 3.5-liter Duratec V6 with intake variable valve timing, power is
boosted by a pair of small Honeywell turbochargers and direct fuel
injection. The combination of 365 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque
matches that of a conventional 5.7-liter V8, yet its fuel consumption,
according to EPA, is an admirable 17 mpg in city and 25 mpg on highway.
That puts it at the same level of a less powerful and slower Acura TL
3.7 SH-AWD and a much smaller BMW 335i (also with twin-turbo and direct
injection). An Infiniti M45, for instance, concedes 1 mpg in city and 4
mpg on highway to the SHO. No wonder Ford added an "Ecoboost" logo with
a green leaf to the back of the car.
The Ecoboost V6 is a refined powerplant. Power is built up linearly and
quietly right from idle. Turbo lag is virtually non-existent. Max
torque is reached at merely 1500 rpm and the ECU regulates it until
5000 rpm to protect the 6-speed automatic gearbox. Such a flat torque
curve means Ford can adopt a long final drive ratio, which explains the
aforementioned frugality, yet capable of doing 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
100 mph is reached in around 14 seconds. This big car is not a bit slow
|Even the performance package cannot
change the fact that SHO is dull to drive...
However, many drivers may opt for the Performance package which uses a
shorter final drive ratio to cut half a second from 0-60 mph.
Predictably, to handle the extra power the SHO needs to adopt the
Haldex 4WD system which is optional in lesser Taurus. Torque split is
default at 55:45 between front
and rear. When one axle loses traction, more torque will be directed to
another axle. What a pity the Volvo-originated system does not have the
latest torque vectoring technology like Honda, Saab or BMW. It means
while the 4WD can enhance driving confidence on difficult surfaces or
in poor weather, it
does not mask understeer satisfactorily. The mild chassis tuning SHO
received is another reason to blame. Its suspensions are stiffened
by just 15 percent compared with the regular Taurus to preserve a
refined ride. Body roll is well contained, but longitudinal movement
isn't. Under braking the nose dives noticeably. The electrical power
steering gets more weight than the standard car but not any more
communication. Moreover, under aggressive acceleration the steering
wheel tugs in your hands. The unchanged brakes is another big
is already deemed to be weak in the regular Taurus. How can it be
carried over to the SHO ?
Upgrade to the Performance package tightens things a little bit. You
will get grippier Goodyear Eagle F1 tires with 20-inch wheels, 20%
stiffer dampers, 9% stiffer rear springs, thicker rear anti-roll bar,
performance brake pads and the aforementioned shorter final drive.
Roadholding and body control are improved, but the new brake pads -
without any changes to the discs and calipers - show no discernible
improvement. The more aggressive rubbers generate more noise and
shocks, damaging some of the refined manner of the standard car.
However, even the performance package cannot change the fact that SHO
is dull to drive. No matter its flat power delivery, its slow gearbox,
its bulkiness or its numb driver interface fail to promote driving
excitement. You had better see it as a higher power version of the
Taurus rather than a real sports saloon.
above report was last updated on 18 Jul 2009. All Rights Reserved.