Click on the Taurus for a high-res gallery

At Ford's 2008 model preview at the Dearborn Proving Ground, we had the opportunity drive the newly-reborn Taurus back-to-back with its immediate predecessor, the Five Hundred, and the differences were immediately apparent. Side-by-side, the Taurus is clearly an update of the Five Hundred, retaining the same profile and stance, but the Taurus now has the face it should have had all along.

The three-bar grille gives the Taurus a look that fits in with its stablemates and sets it apart from the competition.A lot of detail work was done on the Taurus and Sable for 2008 to ramp up the refinement levels and bring them to the head of the class. One example is visible on the side mirror housings. The top of the housing has a row of notches that manage the airflow around the mirror. The notches reduce the aerodynamic drag of the mirror and also reduce wind noise dramatically.

Continue reading our driving impressions and see the video after the jump

Driving the 2007 Five Hundred

Chris and I took the Five Hundred and the Taurus out on the straightaway at the Dearborn proving ground. The 3.0L V-6 in the Five Hundred roared and struggled to increase the velocity of the big sedan. Even at constant speed, wind and road noise were clearly audible, with a noticeable whistle around the mirrors. Ford specifically had us drive the Five Hundred and Taurus on the main straightaway because it was smooth, straight and flat, eliminating other variables so we could compare the differences between the cars.

Driving the 2008 Taurus

Climbing into the Taurus and closing the doors immediately seals out the outside world. When we pulled out, the drivetrain improvements were immediately apparent. The extra sixty horsepower that comes with the new 3.5L Duratec now motivates the Taurus in a manner more befitting its position at the top of Ford's sedan lineup (ignoring the geriatric Crown Vic). Stepping on the gas now brings a prompt but much quieter response from the engine room. Shifts were smooth and seamless and downshifts were only a squeeze of the gas pedal away.

How much of the improved refinement comes from extra insulation or the engine itself is unknown, but either way this is by far the most sophisticated car ever to wear the Taurus nameplate. The dash is largely unchanged although the plastic wood does look a little more like it came from a tree rather than a refinery. Those fancy notched mirror housings definitely accomplished their task of reducing the whistling as air flowed over them.

Between the vastly better engine and the all the other tricks, this may be one of the quietest cars Ford has ever built. This new Taurus is now definitely a worthy competitor in the large sedan class. Stay tuned for a longer review of the new Taurus soon.

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