What's New for 2008
Ford resurrects the Taurus nameplate for 2008 by affixing it to a much-improved Five Hundred. A more powerful engine, a nicer and quieter cabin, a retuned suspension and a corporate three-bar grille are the major highlights.
Name recognition and awareness are no doubt important for automotive manufacturers. For example, look no further than the 2008 Ford Taurus. Ford has pulled the Taurus nameplate out of its one-year dirt nap in hopes of getting back into the thick of the large family sedan game. But is the public's awareness of the Taurus name a good thing or bad? Though a hero car back in the 1980s and early '90s, more recent iterations of the Taurus were dated and anonymous, a favorite of image-dulling rental car agencies and a not-so-favorite of middle management types who received them as company cars.
The Taurus revival is combined with the death of the Ford Five Hundred, a large sedan introduced a few years ago that never sold like the company had hoped. Although it offered a large cabin and an impressive ride and handling balance, the Five Hundred was let down by weak engine performance and a lack of refinement.
Thankfully, the 2008 Ford Taurus gains a number of improvements as part of its return. Under that familiar Five Hundred sheet metal are much improved running gear and additional features. In fact, Ford says there are more than 500 changes. A 263-hp V6 replaces the lame 203-hp V6, and a more responsive six-speed automatic replaces the sluggish continuously variable transmission (CVT) across all trim levels.
Other improvements for this large family sedan include the adoption of stability control, a "Ford Sync" system (that allows hands-free use of mobile phones and digital music players), improved cabin materials and more sound insulation for a quieter ride.
With its major performance infusion, addition of key safety and luxury features, and available all-wheel drive, the Ford Taurus is the best it's been in a long time. Given the Taurus' size (along with the fact that the Ford Fusion now battles stalwarts like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry), you'll probably want to cross-shop it against full-size sedans like the Chrysler 300, Hyundai Azera or Toyota Avalon. Though still slightly deficient in terms of style (compared to the 300) or all-around polish, the Taurus is certainly worth consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Ford Taurus is a large sedan that is available in either front- or all-wheel drive. Two trim levels, base SEL and uplevel Limited, are offered. The well-equipped SEL has 17-inch wheels, full power accessories (including a power driver seat), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood grain interior trim, air-conditioning, a CD player and MP3 jack, cruise control and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Move up to the Limited and you'll get 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, front seat heaters, a memory system for the driver seat/mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded audio system with a six-disc CD changer, heated mirrors with puddle lamps, and an analog clock.
Options include a moonroof, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, satellite radio and the Ford Sync system, which allows voice activation of cell phones and entertainment systems.
Powertrains and Performance
A 3.5-liter V6 with 263 hp and 249 pound-feet of torque paired to a six-speed automatic transmission powers all Taurus trims. Buyers can choose between front- or all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is rated at 18 city and 28 highway for the front-wheel-drive Taurus and 17 city/24 highway for the AWD model.
Antilock disc brakes and traction control are standard, as are front side- and full-length side curtain airbags. Stability control, power-adjustable pedals and rear parking sensors are optional. Crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration returned perfect five-star ratings across the board, making the 2008 Ford Taurus one of the safest cars on the road.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Taurus features a handsome and functional cabin with solid materials quality, plenty of storage areas and eight cupholders. Legroom is plentiful in both the front and rear and a tall seating position should both please those used to SUVs and make for easier ingress/egress. However, that tall seating position puts taller drivers very close to the ceiling. The 21-cubic-foot trunk is massive (bigger than the Crown Victoria) and the Taurus' 60/40-split rear bench and front passenger seat fold flat, allowing items up to 9 feet in length to be transported inside the car.
The addition of 60 horses makes the 2008 Ford Taurus a much more attractive proposition than the slow-as-snails Five Hundred. No one will ever call the Taurus quick, but it now has the gusto needed to get up highway on-ramps and pass pokey fellow motorists without breaking a significant sweat. However, its six-speed automatic is slow to downshift -- a result of being tuned for maximum fuel economy. Ford softened the suspension to create a suppler ride, which should please most potential customers, but we found that the Five Hundred handled a tad better. There were also great pains taken to make the Taurus quieter, and those who equate silence with quality should be pleased.