• Oct 15th 2007 at 11:55AM
  • 44
click above image to view complete high-res gallery of the 2008 Ford Taurus

Ford knew what it was doing handing me the keys to a 2008 Ford Taurus Limited AWD. I'm a self-professed Taurus fan, counting the 1991 Ford Taurus SHO Plus as one of my favorite cars of all time. I consider the Taurus one of the most influential cars in the history of the American auto industry. I even read a book about it called "Car: A Drama of the American Workplace" by Mary Walton. That makes me, like, an expert on the subject. Unfortunately, by the time production of the Taurus ended in late October of 2006, it had come to represent Ford's over-reliance on fleet sales rather than its cutting edge innovation.

When a CEO from Kansas named Alan Mulally took over as CEO of Ford last September, one of his first actions in office was to announce that the Taurus name would return in 2008, replacing the forgettable Five-Hundred and Freestyle badges affixed to Ford's large sedan and wagon. So here we are, reviewing the 2008 Ford Taurus, and along with a new name, it's got an updated design and more powerful engine. Does the new Taurus do the old one any justice? More importantly, is it a better car than the Five-Hundred it replaces? All those questions and more will be answered after the jump.

Live Photos Copyright ©2007 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

Whereas the design of the 1986 Ford Taurus was refreshing, and the 1997 Ford Taurus derided, the Ford Five-Hundred's design was ultimately anonymous and even derivative. The 2008 Ford Taurus, meanwhile, makes no effort to connect with Tauri of the past, but rather toes the current corporate line by adopting the brand's ubiquitous three-bar chrome grille. Both the grille and the Taurus name are meant to give Ford's big sedan some instant recognition, and they do their job.

However, the 2008 Ford Taurus is really just a mid-cycle enhancement of the Five-Hundred. The car is nowhere near all-new, but the design has been tweaked extensively to get it noticed more. Along with the new grille, the front end gets new headlights that are more expressive, though we still wish Ford had used the better headlights from the Taurus X on the sedan, as well. The hood is also new with a pair of stylized indents that we find entirely superfluous. Another design element for the Superfluous Files are the fender vents. While not as atrocious as those on the 2008 Focus, they're purpose on the Taurus is to merely up the car's chrome quotient.

The arched roof profile of the Five-Hundred remains, as nothing we could see has been changed between the A- and C-pillar. That is, except for those side view mirrors, which now feature four raised streaks on top that aren't just for looks. They supposedly reduce turbulence created by air blowing over and under the mirrors, which not only decreases wind noise but also improves aerodynamics.

Out back the Taurus receives a new taillamp design to differentiate the car's derriere from the Five-Hundred's. Whereas last year's rear lamps were mostly red with just the backup light gleaming white, the new ones are almost Altezza-like with a clear cover that's interrupted only by the red turn signals. As with many of the Taurus' tweaks (the hood indents, the fender vents, etc.) the new taillights come of as being different for the sake of being different. There was likely no budget for actually redesigning the car's rear end, so designers did what they could and ordered up a new taillight assembly that doesn't so much make the back more interesting as it just makes it different.

One thing that remains the same is this car's size, which can't be fully appreciated in pictures. At 62.3 inches, the Taurus is tall enough to ride the big roller coasters and almost as long as one with 16 feet and 10 inches between each bumper. The 18-inch rollers on our Limited AWD model do much to make the car look in proportion, but the gap between the tires and the body makes the car look off-road ready. As such, the Taurus rides very high off the ground, so much so that its roof is almost level with some midsize CUVs. In fact, the seats themselves are closer in feel to those found in larger vehicles. They're chairs more than seats, and the bottom cushion is so far from the ground that entering the vehicle is a matter of opening the door and sliding your butt to the right. Ford calls it Command Seating, and we dig it.

With butt in place, the driver encounters the best of what Ford's parts bin has to offer. We've seen most of this switchgear in other vehicles like the Fusion and Edge and therefore felt immediately acclimated with the Taurus' controls. The flip side is that there's nothing interesting about the design of this car's interior. Our Limited model was equipped with faux wood trim that warmed up the dash amongst acres of dark plastic, as well as an analog clock with a light-colored face that almost matches the light-faced gauges. Though depressingly dark, most of the plastic on the dash panel is soft to the touch and feels more expensive than the flimsy hard plastic lid that opens on top of the dash.

The Taurus may look large from the outside, but it's absolutely ginormous from the driver's seat. It's one of the largest car's you can get for the money, with headroom, legroom and width to spare for even the largest of hominids. The center console and transmission tunnel are as wide as a HUMMER's, which tells you that there's space to spare in between the front seats. There's so much room, in fact, that an average sized driver can feel overwhelmed by it all. You begin to trust the backup sensors a lot since the rear bumper is in a different area code. And the ceiling is so high you half expect to look up and see Michelangelo lying on his back doing a paint by numbers. That high ceiling, however, allows for the optional DVD entertainment system to be mounted up there for the benefit of rear seat passengers. It's the same unit used in much larger vehicles like the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, but works well in the slightly smaller confines of the Taurus.

Passengers in the Taurus just might be more interested in watching a DVD than enjoying the visceral pleasure of this car's performance. While the new 3.5L V6 producing 263 HP is a big improvement over the Five-Hundred's 3.0L V6, especially matched with Ford's 6-speed automatic, the engine is not the jewel that many have made it out to be. First of all, it's difficult to tell all of those horses are present and accounted for. The Taurus has a damped throttle and power delivery always feels muted, as if the driver is always being protected from the inertia of acceleration. While the Taurus will get up and go when the pedal is mashed, it clearly prefers a more measured approach for getting from Point A to Point B. Secondly, this powerplant is not a smooth operator like some V6 engines with which we've become particularly smitten. Press an accelerator pedal connected to Nissan's VQ 3.5L V6 or VW/Audi's 3.2L V6 or even GM's 3.6L V6 (especially in the new Cadillac CTS!) and you'll know exactly what we mean.

The Taurus' supporting cast of handling hardware, however, is up to the task of keeping this big barge buttoned down. We were surprised and delighted to find a strut-tower brace up front and never felt a shimmy or shake in the body while cruising over cobbled pavement. The strong platform and rigid construction goes a long way in making the Taurus feel like a high quality car from behind the wheel.

Our opinion of the 2008 Ford Taurus doesn't really matter though, as the buying public has already spoken. The newly named car went on sale in September and combined sales of the Taurus and Five-Hundred that month were just 4,230 units, some 30.1% below Five-Hundred sales in September of 2006. That's right, sales actually fell in the first month that the new Taurus was on sale. That's got to sting a little. With an interesting exterior design, a more powerful engine and a new identity that at least conjures something in the minds of prospective buyers, we thought increased sales for the Taurus would be a given.

Apparently that's not the case, though we still expect the pace to pick up as soon as buyers realize that a base front-wheel-drive Taurus starting at $23,245 is one of the best values on the market right now. Our tester was optioned to the hilt as its $32,600 MSRP attests, though the base price of the AWD Limited model is a more reasonable $28,695 ($1,500 cash back is also currently being offered on the Taurus). Even at that price, we still feel the 2008 Ford Taurus is a great value and compares favorably against competitors like the Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera, Chrysler 300, Chevy Impala and Buick Lucerne. The fact that you can buy an all-wheel-drive Taurus for thousands less than a front-wheel-drive Avalon will not remain a secret for long.

Live Photos Copyright ©2007 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Good review. But I don't know why the hate on the 3.5. Had a rental Edge with one in it and it was decent. About as quiet as the 3.5L in my G35 sedan. Had decent punch (driving in the mountains of the Seattle area) and would kick down and pass just fine. Not stellar punch, but when you're hauling around almost 5,000 lbs of CUV, people, and luggage, I doubt much would.

      That being said, the Taurus500 is a decent car, but bland. Then again, so is the competition.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's too bad they don't get a little aggressive with their styling b/c i've always kind of liked Ford's. Man is that thing a snoozefest
      • 7 Years Ago
      It was probably a good idea to rebadge the 500 as Taurus.

      But here's the problem: The New Taurus has no compelling reason to buy it. Even the positioning totally strips Volvo of its safety credentials. Once again, Ford blew it and has shown that it is totally incapable of BOLD MOVES.

      The other problem with Ford lies in its design. I like the new Ford face (with the 3 chrome bars) but everything they have slapped it on so far are VERY ordinary vehicles. Look at the Fusion. Other than its face, it is a very ordinary traditional 3-box design. Almost something that you would have seen in the mid-1990's when Ford should have had it out. Oh, and then the ultimate stupidity is to have Ford, Mercury and Lincoln versions of what is a completely non-differentiated product.

      Other than the F150 and the Mustang--and those vehicles aren't all that great either--Ford has nothing compelling on the market.

      BOLD MOVES was a great rallying call, but after 18 months, I have seen nothing, nothing at all, that even comes close to being a bold move from FoMoCo.

      • 7 Years Ago
      I agree with the review that this is one of the best values in this class right now specially considering the chasis is built on a version of the Volvo S80 platform ( one of the safest cars out there).
      The style of the car in my opinion is the biggest problem.It is not ugly but is too bland. I think Ford should restyle the car, change the name to something like what Psarhjinian suggested ( I like the Galaxy name) and put a bit more " bling " on it to try to distance it from the rental stigma of the previous Taurus.
      • 7 Years Ago
      On paper it sounds appealing. However, in person it isn't very impressive. I've never had the looks of a car negate the power on hand quite as much as the Taurus.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think all it needs is an attention getting V8 version. I would expect this configuration to garner only 10-15% of Sales but the power image would help sell the new nicely powerful V6 in spades. i.e. all this car needs is minor development and IMAGE!!!!!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      It looks like a squared off Crown Victoria, but I'm sure it rides nice. I bet it will be a favorite with rental companies and taxi drivers.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I still think the Mercury Sable looks much better than the Taurus!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I will be the first to say I actually kinda like the new styling, despite the useless fender vents and rather forgettable headlights. The new design is much less reminiscent of an old model Volkswagen and the interior seems much more up scale compared to the five hundred. I am curious to see what the completely redesigned model looks like (if there is one after such disappointing sales).
      • 7 Years Ago
      It's a good looking car, kinda like that late 40's attractive lady who wears nice business suits to work, quick with a smile, yet you'd never see yourself actually lusting for her.

      It is light years ahead of the last Taurus that came off the line, yet somehow behind the original 1980's Taurus in the excitement factor catagory. I still think the original Taurus, like author said, was a groundbreaking vehicle in so many ways. It put Ford on a path that many thought would see it overtake GM in outright sales.

      Anyway you put it, that was an amazing feat. This isn't that car, but it's not bad. Definitely a step in the right direction.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The car looks fine; I just wonder about its reliability. I'll never forget being stranded in a rental Taurus with a failed fuel pump in about 1997. The Hertz guy who rescued me said it was the fifth one that day!

      Problem with Ford and the other American car companies is that customers never forget. Once they buy a Honda or a Toyota, they never return.

        • 7 Years Ago
        Saying something is based off a Volvo is not a good thing, reliability-wise. Volvos aren't too bad, but European cars--all of them--aren't generally that solid and do come with a pretty high repair tag when things do go wrong. The build quality is pretty good, and the safety is excellent, but durability, while better than someone like Mercedes or VW, isn't going to be better than contemporary Ford and certainly not up to Toyota/Honda expectations.

        The Five Hundred is pretty good (better than the S80 was, at least) but for reliability in a Ford's lineup one must look to the Fusion.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "Once they buy a Honda or a Toyota, they never return. "

        Which always surprised me. You have Honda with failing transmissions and Toyota with failing engines. Yet people think they are the best. Amazing how you can dupe someone with good advertising.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I think it's more than good advertising. Yes, the imports have had some missteps in quality as of late, but for the most part, the worst Hondas or Toyota don't seem to be any worse than the average domestic.

        In my experience at least, it also helps that the non-mechanical parts (ie trim, fit and finish) tend to be higher quality which helps me forget some of the small stuff that's happened with my Accord.
      • 7 Years Ago
      It actually doesn't look too bad, just very bland like every other car in the full size segment(some trade bland for ugly), IMO.
      And actually, the avalon starts at 27k for the base model, so the awd taurus is still 1k more. But i'm not sure if people actually buy the avalon anyways, all i see are the new camrys.
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