2010 Ford Taurus SEL Review
By Kevin Miller
I was in Detroit earlier this year when the curtain was raised on the all-new 2010 Ford Taurus, and Ford rightfully made a big deal out of the Taurus introduction. It is a big nameplate in Ford’s lineup, as well as a big car in terms of the shadow it casts on the pavement. In addition to carrying on the storied Taurus nameplate, size-wise it fills the shoes of the finally-departed passenger version of the Crown Victoria (though the outdated Mercury Grand Marquis soldiers on).
Ford’s media info, as well as many available upscale features, indicate that the Taurus is moving into the premium segment. Based on what I saw in Detroit, as well as all of the press photos and all of the glowing early reviews, I was expecting a bit more premium feel. My mid-level Taurus SEL did have plenty of nice features (dual-zone climate control, heated leather Multi-contour massaging seats, SYNC system, 18” alloy wheels) but some of the interior materials and assembly left me unimpressed. While my tester had a Light Stone beige leather interior, the steering wheel and some door inserts are a dull gray color, which seemed unmatching and cheap. Too, a hard plastic interior trim piece that runs along the center console (next to driver’s or passenger’s leg) and up to the ignition lock was hard, brittle plastic, against which keys on the driver’s key ring will rattle.
Speaking of keys- the first thing you touch when using any car is its key or electronic fob. In that regard, the first with the Taurus is a letdown. The key-integrated remote is a decidedly down-market-looking piece, with cheesy graphics, a too-big head, and buttons that are awkward to use. A better-looking keyless entry/start fob is available on some models, and would make a better first impression.
The design of the interior is striking in photos, with its forward-leaning, cockpit-inspired design. Unfortunately, the passenger-side dashboard extends well into the passenger cabin for the stylistic purpose of making a symmetrical dashboard assembly, which leads to a major loss of knee room for front seat passengers. My wife complained that she was unable to cross her legs as she normally does on longer trips in the car because of the way that the styled dash protruded into her leg space.
Other parts where pennies were obviously saved include the lock switch and window switches (and their surround) on the driver’s door, and the soft-but-wholly-unattractive padding on the door where my elbow rests. These parts serve to remind us that the Taurus is a nicely-equipped mainstream car rather than a luxury vehicle, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Taurus and Luxury didn’t really go together before, whereas now they are much closer by virtue of a stylish design, good build quality, and many available features that are normally found only in luxury cars (such as ventilated seats, active cruise control, AWD, keyless entry/start, heated rear seats, power adjustable pedals, head-up display…)
The new Taurus absolutely has a more-upscale look than its predecessor, though there are some awkward elements to the new sedan’s exterior styling. To my eye, most of the offensive styling occurs behind the rear doors. The crease in the bodyside that starts at the front fender vent totally disappears at the rear wheel arch, and incongruously reappears on the rear quarter panel; however the area below that line on the rear panel looks strangely indented and twice during my week with the car I glanced at it and thought it had been dented by a careless driver. That’s not good. Too, the tail lamps are an awkward shape, perhaps not quite wide enough in the huge expanse that is the trunk lid and bumper on the Taurus’ baby-got-back sized behind.
While that huge behind allows for a lot of room in the trunk, the trunk is so large that it can be difficult to use. The Taurus SEL I tested was not equipped with the optional trunk cargo organizer; instead there is a lowered section in the center of the trunk floor which essentially makes the trunk floor uneven. Trying to get objects farther back in the trunk than meant, even for 6”4’ me, leaning against the usually-wet-and-dirty back bumper, to push my cargo onto the raised area at the back of the trunk. After getting the huge trunk loaded, there is no interior handle for closing the trunk lid, meaning that you just have to reach up and touch the wet, dirty outside of the trunklid. This was incredibly dissatisfying; an inexpensive interior handle would do wonders for increasing the premium feel of the car.
It may sound like I’ve been picking nits, and perhaps I have. The Taurus really does have a lot going for it. Much of the interior was very nicely executed. The Light Stone Leather seats had contrasting dark stitching which looked nice. The Multi-Contour front seats had power adjustment and power lumbar support a massage function, which worked by inflating portions of the bottom or back cushion on a type of interval. The massage control was not marked (it is located on the side of the seat adjacent to other power seat controls) but the massage was a nice feature to have. While the front seats had a lot going for them, there was no bolstering to speak of, and the bottom cushion was too short for my long legs, leading to significant discomfort after only an hour on the road.
All of the gauges are clear and legible, making them easy to read. A scale with numerals every 20 MPH on the speedometer make it easy to tell how fast you’re traveling at a glance, and there is even a temperature gauge, which is becoming a rarity in modern vehicles. The info display at the bottom of the speedometer and the audio/climate display at the top of the center stack are both easy to read, and get bonus points for having matching display colors and font sizes. The many pushbuttons for the audio and climate control systems are clearly marked, though consist of many small rectangular buttons, which can be a bit of a challenge to discern with just a quick glance.
The 3.5 liter V6 produces 263 HP, which is more than adequate to move the Taurus both around town and on the highway. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly, though those shifts are not particularly quick. There is a manual shifting position for the transmission, which sends control of the transmission to the chunky shift paddles mounted to the steering wheel, though the slow shifts are unfortunately not hastened by using the manual shifting paddles. For those wanting more motivation in their Taurus, an Ecoboost V6 is available in the AWD Taurus SHO, producing 365 HP, which would dramatically change the character of the Taurus.
On the road, the Taurus’ ride is well damped. Whether around town or on the highway, the Taurus’ suspension tuning does a good job of isolating the car from road imperfections, providing a comfortable ride. While the steering isn’t particularly communicative about what the tires are doing, feel through the steering wheel doesn’t leave you clueless. Too, body roll, is kept in check quite nicely. Squat and dive, long the downfall of large American cars, are virtually nonexistent.
Side windows in the Taurus are somewhat short, as is the backlight; this limits visibility. Because of the prodigious (and tall) booty out back, when sitting at a stoplight I could usually see only the top half of the windshield of a regular-sized sedan behind me. The comparison photo showing the height of the Taurus’ back end and that of a Volvo wagon shows just how tall the Taurus is; the optional reverse sensors or camera are a must.
The spacious back seat offers plenty of leg- and head-room, though the shape of the back seats necessitated moving the front passenger seat forward a bit to accommodate a rear-facing child seat behind it. The back seat was equipped with LATCH anchors for all three seating positions, though there are just three anchors, meaning that you can secure a seat in the center or two seats in the two outboard positions, but you can’t secure three child seats across the back using only LATCH attachment points. When not used for child seats, there are headrests for all three rear passengers, or a fold-down center armrest for two passengers. Note that a passenger in the center position has to straddle a not-insignificant driveshaft tunnel, present to accommodate the optional AWD (which was not included on my test vehicle).
My Taurus SEL was equipped with Ford’s class-leading SYNC system. Having sampled the system in the Ford Focus Coupe I reviewed several months ago, I was happy to have its Bluetooth phone and music features and voice-actuation capabilities, and it was easy to use, though I couldn’t control my iPod’s songs from the Bluetooth-audio connected SYNC, and that Bluetooth audio connection had spotty reception failures, leading to brief interruptions in playing songs.
I had the opportunity to take several hour-long highway trips in the Taurus, as well as the standard runs around town. The Taurus always proved itself capable, easy to use, easy to get in and out of easy to park. During a rainy Seattle week, the Taurus’ recessed door sills are protected from dirt and rain and make stepping in and out of the car very easy. The FWD Taurus has an EPA fuel economy rating of 18/28 MPG, and I saw 23.1 average over nearly 400 miles.
The front-wheel drive Taurus SEL I drove was a preproduction model, but building a similarly-equipped car on Ford’s website adds up as follows: the Taurus SEL has a base MSRP of $27,170. Rapid Spec 201A includes SYNC and Reverse Sensors for $700, Candy Red Metallic paint for $295, Multi-Contour seats for $595, Power Moonroof for $895, Leather seating for $1395, and Destination Fee of $825, for a total price of $31,875. That is an attractive price for large, well-equipped, comfortable sedan which provides a lot more space- and much more expressive styling- than a comparable Accord or Camry.
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