If the big American car is so evil, why is it that everybody is going to so much trouble to make them?
If you're just driving to the grocery store, you won't get what the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited is about. It's almost too big to fit into the new breed of narrow parking spaces they've got down there. You'll just have to park in the far corner of the big lot at Meijer and hope they send a tram to shuttle you to the door.
Instead you've got to lift your horizons and drive across the country on a summer vacation, maybe see those 40-foot statues of Paul Bunyan and eat that bad barbecue. It turns out that American cars really invented all this high-speed stuff that European brands associate with autoroutes, autostradas and motorways. You want a nice long wheelbase, some weight to suppress ride motions and a useful amount of lead at the tip of the arrow.
No surprise then that the Ford Taurus is utterly unflustered by highway travel. What is a surprise is how well it does the job, as its tires practically dance over seams in the pavement. Nothing else that pretends to be an affordable American sedan can match this car on the open road.
Making a Virtue of Bigness You have to prepare yourself to stand next to the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited. Just like the Ford Five Hundred from which it's derived, the Taurus is truly vast, some 202.9 inches from tip to tail, and it stands so tall at 60.7 inches that it reminds you of those Dillinger-era cars of the 1930s that let you wear a hat on the way to work.
There's no mystery about the size, because underneath you'll find the same Volvo-derived architecture that's under the Ford Flex. Various so-called smart guys had been saying for such a long time that Americans would ditch their SUVs and buy any car that was as spacious and practical as a sport-utility, so Ford took their advice and built a car with sport-utility dimensions.
But the 2005 Ford Five Hundred freaked people out. It tried to be stylish, but the overall effect was of an NFL lineman who had been left to his own devices in a Big & Tall store. And it looked so much like the last-generation Volkswagen Passat that it might have been designed among the turnip fields near VW's home in Wolfsburg, Germany.
Now we have something altogether American instead. The redesigned 2010 Ford Taurus is extruded, straked and chromed with an exuberant sense of style, as if it had drunk several glasses of Cadillac water. It's expressive and modern, less wacky than the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, far more handsome than the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat, all of which have that turnip disease thing.
If it only weren't so big.
Size Matters So much size can't help but look like self-indulgence in a sedan, because our cultural enthusiasm for utility vehicles has conditioned us to find bigness acceptable only in trucks. But then you climb into the 2010 Ford Taurus and finally you understand.
Is there any reason why the door of a sedan shouldn't open so wide that you don't have to think about squeezing through a narrow opening? Is there any reason why you shouldn't be able to sit on a chair with your feet on the ground and your head several inches away from the roof like a full-size, yearning-to-breathe-free American instead of being folded, spindled and mutilated into whatever space is left over in some badly packaged space created by a malevolent CAD program?
Why no, there isn't. That's why the driving position of the Taurus is defined by 41.9 inches of legroom, 39 inches of headroom and 57.9 inches of shoulder room. Tinker a bit with the tilt steering wheel and adjustable foot pedals and you're home. And if you care about your backseat passengers (apparently you're supposed to when you drive a car like this), then you'll be happy that they have 38.1 inches of legroom, 37.8 inches of headroom and 56.9 inches of shoulder room. Plus there's a big trunk with 20.1 cubic feet of capacity.
Minority Report The 3.5-liter V6 in the 2010 Ford Taurus seems like an afterthought here. Its output of 263 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 249 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm hardly rates with the competition and peaks a little far up the rpm scale to promise comfortable motoring. Fortunately the six-speed automatic transmission picks up the slack, and the Taurus never feels breathless or sluggish in the way the Five Hundred did with its continuously variable transmission (CVT).
At the same time, the Taurus is not quick. It gets to 60 mph from a standstill in 7.8 seconds (7.5 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip), and does the quarter-mile in 15.7 seconds at 88.9 mph. If you had four passengers with you, a calendar would be the requisite measurement tool.
It's easy to feel a twinge of embarrassment while slinging this 4,042-pound car through a corner, but there's no need, since a BMW 7 Series weighs 500 pounds more and no one is ever embarrassed by it. The stability control always stays engaged, probably what you expect from a passenger sedan, so cornering grip on the skid pad is limited to 0.79g (not so bad) and speed through the slalom peaks at 60.3 mph (pathetic). It comes to a halt from 60 mph in 131 feet, which is what you expect.
Yet from behind the wheel, there's no maneuver that you won't attempt. While the Five Hundred always proved well-balanced at the limit, it used to sink submissively to the bump stops of the suspension when you got serious, making it seem wimpy even when it wasn't. Now the suspension feels far better managed in the European style, and the Taurus uses all of its travel with well-damped precision until you finally peel the tires off the rims. None of this car's front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive competition corners as adeptly, and the guys at GM might consider a quick fact-finding trip to the Dearborn proving ground to discover how the Ford guys have been able to suspend the laws of physics in such a heavy car.
The Taurus is just big, that's all.
The Quality Thing Of course, an American car might have its merits on the open road, but then you're afraid that so many interior trim pieces will fall off that you'll have to carry them around with a cardboard box in the trunk. We've all driven an American car before, right?
Well, the 2010 Ford Taurus puts to sleep most of your fears about the crumminess of American-made car interiors. A wonderfully modern dash slopes dynamically toward the windshield, while there's easily understood logic behind the placement of all the controls. The blue lights of the electronic displays look a little Blue Light Special, though, as if the Ford design people had just discovered digital.
The one thing the interior lacks, unfortunately, is a sense of spaciousness. The imposing cowl and shoulder-high beltline have always limited visibility with this vehicle architecture, and it's now accentuated by a lower hip point for the driving position. Meanwhile, the massive transmission tunnel imposes a narrow, cockpit-style slot upon each front-seat passenger. And since you're made to keep your feet in carefully defined wells just like in an SUV, it's way too easy to wonder where all the real room went. Rear-seat passengers also report that their sight line forward is obstructed by the lower leading edge of the new roof.
It's Just Big There's no sense trying to get over the bigness of the 2010 Ford Taurus Limited. Bigness is its most important message. The trouble is, this battle has been fought before and the big car has lost; the crossover does the utility thing better than a sedan.
What the big car does best is luxury, and here the Taurus delivers something unique. It's really far more like a Hyundai Genesis V6 than either a Honda Accord or an Infiniti G37. Comfort and luxury, but built to a price. That's the American way.
The days are long gone when we'll see millions of big American cars roaming the Earth like the dinosaurs they are. This Taurus is really a niche vehicle, meant for that same slim market that caters to people who buy the Mercedes S-Class and Lexus LS, only at a price that an American working man can afford.
And now please rise from your seats here in Yankee Stadium and join tenor Ronan Tynan in singing "God Bless America."
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Edmunds.com Road Test Editor Brian Moody says: This latest Ford Taurus is a sedan for car enthusiasts who live in the real world. I'm not talking about the guy who mortgages time with his kids or family so he can work 18 hours a day just to own something cool. I mean the guy who loves cars but still has his priorities straight.
The Taurus is for the guy who'd like an Acura, BMW, Infiniti or Mercedes Benz, but realizes that a sedan from one of those brands in the size he needs is prohibitively expensive. This is also the same guy who gets all geeked out about whatever car he owns, because he knows every detail, every contour and every spec that he thinks makes it better than the next car. And maybe details like chrome exhaust tips, glowing side-marker lights, a sweeping center stack, voice-activated Sync and push-button start are worth getting geeked out about.
(Speaking of push-button start, when you hit the one in the Taurus, the car actually starts, like right then. No delay, no system check or blinking/dancing gauges. Just push and BOOM, the car starts. Simple is the new simple.)
If that regular guy wants to show off his new 2010 Taurus to you, allow a good 30 or 40 minutes, because it's going to take that long just to get through the litany of features and cool details. Sure, this car won't set your heart on fire, but when that proud new Taurus owner is done, you'll likely say, "Nice car."
And that's just about right. The new Ford Taurus is a great everyday car. Even if you're into cars with more prestigious badges, you have to say this is a nice car.
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