My Duratec 24V engine Taurus has been utterly reliable. I've covered 39,000 miles since 11/02. I service it myself and use synthetic oil and high quality filters, which I change every 10K miles. I got a repair shop to change the serpentine belt, changed brake fluid and auto-fluid too. This helps maintain the car's life and reliability I feel. Regarding performance, only use the overdrive 4th gear on freeways, stick to the 3 speed around town, gas mileage will improve as the box is not hunting up and down all the time. Great road holding and comfort. Seats are hard, but good for my back and there is oceans of space inside. Controls are easy to use. Brakes are appalling, as is wind noise.
Comfort, handling, road holding, performance, gas mileage due to sensible gearing, steering has good feel, although a little undergeared. Controls easy to use, ABS and traction works well. Good crash protection, although side airbags should be standard.
Disc brakes all around. Double pots on the front brakes to avoid the 'magic- inch' when nothing happens when you brake initially. Better door sealing. ABS/Traction/Side bags should be standard. Worst problem is Fords H.Q. customer service. I complained about service locally, their response was a joke.