After it hit the market for the 1986 model year, the Ford Taurus quickly became a sensation in America. This front-wheel-drive midsize family sedan looked like no other Ford before it and won over car shoppers with its comfortable and roomy cabin and affordable price.
Throughout its first decade of production, the Ford Taurus was consistently one of the best-selling cars in America. As the years wore on, however, the Taurus' popularity declined considerably due to stagnating design and more desirable competitors. As a used car purchase, we'd probably consider something else. Although Ford briefly killed the Taurus in the mid 2000s, it was soon resurrected as a revamp of the Five Hundred full-size sedan.
The current-generation Taurus is still mechanically based on that car, but looks entirely different and offers notable improvements in powertrains, interior quality and features. Although this Taurus is certainly a competitive car, other, more recently redesigned full-size sedans are generally more appealing.
Current Ford Taurus
The Taurus is a large sedan cast in the traditional American mold. In other words, it's unabashedly large, sports more than a few chrome accents and provides a plush, quiet ride. The Taurus is offered in base SE, midlevel SEL, plush Limited and sporty SHO trims.
The typical Taurus will be front-wheel drive with the base 3.5-liter V6, a solid engine that cranks out 288 horsepower. All-wheel drive is optional. Also optional is a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that generates 240 hp and gets among the best mpg in the large sedan segment. If performance is on your mind, Ford offers the Taurus SHO and its twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 good for a healthy 365 hp and a sub-6-second 0-60 time. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only available transmission for any Taurus.
Standard equipment highlights include alloy wheels, full power accessories, a power driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system. Higher trim levels add niceties like bigger wheels, the Sync and MyFord Touch electronics interfaces, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, a power passenger seat and leather upholstery. Taurus options, depending on trim level, include a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, massaging front seats, a navigation system (with HD radio) and a 12-speaker Sony-branded premium audio system.
In reviews, we've been mostly impressed by the current Taurus. The styling is distinctive, as is the cabin with its twin-cowl dashboard layout and ample feature content. Rear passenger space is a bit tighter than we expect from a large car and its rising beltline, thick roof pillars and tall center console can make the interior feel confining. On the other hand, the trunk is massive.
On the road, the Taurus provides a comfortable, quiet ride. Handling of non-SHO versions, however, isn't as impressive. Whereas other large sedans drive like smaller cars, the Taurus feels every bit its substantial size as it has a lumbering feel around turns. The sport-tuned suspension on SHO models, especially those with the optional Performance package, noticeably sharpens up the handling while still providing a good ride. Performance ranges from ample with the turbocharged four and base V6 engines to thrilling with the SHO's twin-turbo V6.
Used Ford Taurus Models
The current Taurus is representative of the sixth-generation Taurus that debuted for 2010. Although it shared its powertrain and accommodating cabin with the previous version, most agreed that the sixth generation was a big improvement in terms of design, inside and out. This generation also signaled the return of the potent SHO model, which sported the most powerful engine ever seen in a Taurus.
From 2010-'12, the Taurus' base V6 engine made 263 hp. For 2013, that engine's output was increased to 288 hp, the car's styling was refreshed, the turbocharged four-cylinder debuted and the SHO could be had with a Performance package that included a firmer suspension, upgraded brakes and stickier tires. That year also saw the MyFord Touch electronics interface make its way to the Taurus.
The previous fifth-generation Taurus was technically produced only from 2008-'09, although prior to that, this particular car was known as the Five Hundred. Those interested in a used Taurus should keep this in mind, since despite its flaws, the Five Hundred was indeed a better car than the Taurus that was sold alongside it.
The 2008-'09 Taurus was a full-size sedan available with one engine: a 3.5-liter 263-hp V6 mated to a six-speed automatic. All-wheel drive was available as an option. Trim levels included the base SE, the midgrade SEL and the loaded-up Limited. Even base models came nicely equipped with power front seats, a leather-wrapped wheel, an auxiliary audio jack, stability control and a full complement of airbags. The Limited came with items such as leather upholstery, driver-seat memory settings and the Sync system.
The interior hardly won design awards for its visual flair, but the controls were logically arrayed and there were plenty of storage areas. Legroom was plentiful front and back, and the distinctive driving position was SUV-like in elevation -- a boon for shorter drivers, but potentially a headroom-robbing annoyance for taller ones. This Taurus' trunk was nothing short of gargantuan.
These are all core attributes shared with the Five Hundred it replaced, along with outstanding crash test scores, good outward visibility and competent handling that didn't detract from ride comfort. But the Taurus' meatier power, quieter cabin, comfier ride and higher level of feature content (including the excellent Sync electronics interface) make it a more attractive choice than the Five Hundred.
The previous (fourth) Taurus generation ran from 2000-'06. Although the basic body shell was identical to the third-generation Taurus, this version dispensed with many of the oval-themed components used before and the result was a more attractive car.
A pair of 3.0-liter V6 engines (155 hp and 200 hp) were the engine choices and a four-speed automatic remained the lone transmission. Four trim levels were offered: base LX, midlevel SE models and luxury-themed SES and SEL. Even the LX provided air-conditioning and power windows, while springing for the SEL meant you got the 200-horse V6, an in-dash six-CD player and automatic climate control. By the end of this generation, just two trims remained (SE and SEL) and the wagon was dropped. Also, in a fit of American carmaker rationale, the better of the two engines (the 200-hp V6) was discontinued as well.
In an Edmunds.com 2000 family sedan comparison test, the Ford Taurus finished a respectable third out of nine cars, thanks to strong performance (it had the 200-hp V6), solid handling and ride dynamics, and a user-friendly cabin. Six years down the road, however, it was easily eclipsed by more competent rivals from Japan and Korea.
The 1996-'99 third-generation Taurus was an odd duck that considerably softened the formerly best-selling car's appeal. Evidently using Ford's oval symbol for inspiration, the Taurus designers went overboard on ovals, with the car's grille, rear window and dashboard's center stack having the ellipsoid form. Trim levels were comprised of base G, midlevel GL, luxury LX and high-performance SHO.
The high point of this third generation was the debut of the Duratec V6 that made 200 hp. It was offered alongside the dated, 145-hp Vulcan V6. The high-performance Taurus SHO was fitted with a 3.4-liter V8 that made 235 hp. No manual gearbox was available, however, so like every other Taurus, the SHO had a four-speed automatic. In our road test of a 1999 Taurus (with the base V6) we found performance acceptable but unrefined, the transmission sometimes slow to downshift and the ergonomics confusing. On the upside, the seats were comfortable, handling was composed and the brakes (with optional ABS) were strong and progressive.
The second-generation Ford Taurus ran from 1992-'95. An evolution of the original, its lower-profile nose and slightly crisper lines tastefully updated the car, while hardware improvements included new safety features such as antilock brakes and a passenger side airbag. Trim levels initially stood pat at L, GL, LX and SHO, though a sporty SE debuted in the last year (1995) of this generation.
Most Taurus sedans and wagons came with either a 3.0-liter V6 or 3.8-liter V6. Horsepower was the same at 140, but the larger engine provided more torque. This generation's SHO was available for the first time with an automatic transmission. (It was manual-only before.) Auto-equipped SHOs had a larger version of the muscular V6 (3.2 liters versus 3.0), though engine output (220 hp) was the same for both SHO engines.
The first-generation Ford Taurus ran from 1986-'91. Compared to the boxy architecture of its competition, the jelly bean (and aerodynamically efficient) look of the Taurus was a breath of fresh air. A 90-hp inline-4 (with either a manual or automatic transmission) and a 140-hp V6 (automatic only) were offered. The former engine was a joke in a midsize family sedan, so it was eventually cancelled. On the other end of the spectrum was the hot-rod SHO, which featured a ripping 3.0-liter V6 designed by Yamaha that made 220 hp and sent this family sedan to 60 mph in around 7 seconds. Thanks to its handsome looks, solid overall performance and accommodating cabin, the first Taurus was a home run for Ford that rode the top of the sales charts for much of its early life.