2010 Ford Taurus — Ford’s proud new standard bearer

By Lary Coppola

The Ford Taurus was a groundbreaking vehicle when it debuted in 1986, defining the automobile’s physical shape for a generation. While long known as a family sedan, the 2010 model still boasts the typical sedan trappings — large interior, ample trunk and comfortable ride. However, the new Taurus also has a much sharper focus on styling and technology, successfully injecting a dose of passion into an uninspired market segment dominated by the Toyota Avalon, Chevy Impala, and Chrysler 300.

The Taurus was criticized as boring and too conservative in 2003, when it was redesigned and re-badged as the Ford Five Hundred. With sales slumping, Ford brought back the Taurus nameplate in 2008, did some minor freshening, but didn’t change the overly conservative looks of an essentially dull family car.

However, for 2010, Ford has redesigned the Taurus into sportier, more attractive car that’s a technology and design showcase.

Walkaound: Standing in bold contrast to previous versions, the 2010 Ford Taurus is a visually ambitious remake of the full-size sedan genre. Boasting shorter front and rear overhangs, Ford’s signature three-bar slotted grille, raised hood, highly detailed wrap-around headlamps, and a wide stance, the Taurus presents an aggressive face. The lowered roofline, raised belt line and pronounced accent line moving rearward, project a wedge shape stylishly bisected at the rear fender flare, connecting to chrome trim tail lamps. The rear end is blatantly influenced by Ford’s Interceptor concept shown at the 2007 Detroit Auto Show.

The much sportier Taurus SHO is distinguished from the lesser SE, SEL (our test vehicle) and Limited models by unique trim, dual exhaust outlets, inconspicuous SHO badges and a rear spoiler.

Interior: Much like the new Buick LaCrosse, much of Ford’s redesign efforts obviously went into improving the interior. The extensive use of soft touch materials worthy of a German luxury sedan, dual-binnacle dash design, and a stylishly sweeping center stack that flows dramatically into the center console, are all evidence of the massive focus on providing the most comfortable, pleasant atmosphere possible.

The interior has some obvious Mustang trim cues, but amenities and technology abound. Head and legroom are abundant in all seating positions — even the usually uncomfortable rear middle seat. With more than 20 cubic feet of space, the trunk is big enough to hold several large suitcases, and is further enhanced by split folding rear seats.

Standard equipment on all models include a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power driver’s seat, six-speaker audio, with AM/FM/CD, Sirius satellite radio, auxiliary audio input jack, steering wheel audio and cruise controls, power windows with driver-controlled one touch up and down function, and Ford’s programmable MyKey system.

Standard safety features include anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, dual front airbags, front seat-mounted airbags and side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers.

Many of the available high-tech features offered on the Taurus are typically found on more expensive luxury cars — such as seats with a massage function, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers and adaptive cruise control with collision warning. Other options include heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, keyless entry and start, power rear sunshade, power adjustable pedals and a 12-speaker premium Sony audio system.

The new Taurus is loaded with technology features that include Ford’s Sync system, voice-activated navigation, and radar-based adaptive cruise control, as well as the aforementioned MyKey parental programmability.

The high-tech cruise system detects when traffic ahead slows quickly, sounds a warning, and pre-charges the brakes to help reduce stopping distances. High-tech safety technology also includes Ford’s new Cross Traffic Alert, and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which utilizes radar modules in the rear quarter panels to monitor traffic in the blind spot zones. When detected, the blind-spot warning alerts the driver with lights in the side mirrors. Cross Traffic Alert uses the same radar modules to monitor traffic crossing behind when the vehicle is backing out of a parking space, and warns the driver with the same side mirror lights. Much of this technology was pioneered by Ford-owned Volvo, and has been available on Volvo’s for a couple of years now.

Under The Hood: All 2010 Taurus trims feature Ford’s 3.5-liter Duratec V6, that’s married to the six-speed SelectShift automatic. With the exception of the SE, all Taurus models feature steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. All but the SHO are rated at 263 horses with 249 lb. ft. of torque, and an EPA fuel estimation of 17/City and 25/Highway. The SHO offers 365 horses thanks to the use of direct injection and twin turbochargers, delivering 350 lb. ft. of torque and the same EPA mileage. Front wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is available as an option on both SEL and Limited trims, and standard on the SHO.

Behind The Wheel: The Taurus rides on the solid D3 platform developed by Volvo and used for the Lincoln MKS sedan. It offers sportier handling than the Lincoln thanks to larger brakes and a new rear suspension configuration that provides a superior balance between cornering and handling, reduces weight and enables the use of 19- and 20-inch wheels.

While the Taurus doesn’t pretend to
be a sport sedan, driving with the feel you expect from a full-size sedan. However, it delivers a welcome sense of agility in the corners, and if you don’t know better, between the paddle shifters, strong acceleration, and handling, it may convince you it’s close to one.

The extra horsepower and performance-tuned suspension of the SHO — especially on winding two-lane blacktops — make it fun to drive and deceptively quick.

Whines: The MyKey allows parents and fleet managers to activate a restricted driving mode that keeps all safety systems active, has a persistent Beltminder, and can be set to limit top speed at 80 mph with sound warnings at 45, 55 and 65 mph. Personally, I would find that highly annoying. Thankfully, our test vehicle didn’t have these activated.

Bottom Line: I really liked the 2010 Ford Taurus. With starting prices of $25,995 for the SE, around $28,000 for the mid-level SEL we tested, close to $32,000 for the Limited, and just shy of $38,000 for the high-performance Taurus SHO, even with all-wheel drive adding another $1,850 it’s still a bargain compared to the boring Avalon. The 2010 Taurus truly showcases the Blue Oval’s engineering capabilities. It’s destined to be more than a full-size sedan — it’s the new flagship for the Ford brand.