Around 2 AM EST on Monday night, one of our readers sent us a tip about a photo making the rounds on two Taurus-specific forums. We followed both links and came across the spy shot you see above – now rumored to be the 2010 Ford Taurus. Big deal, right? It was, but not for the reasons you think. While we like spy pics as much as the next pistonhead, we have a policy against posting photos taken inside an automaker's design studio. Unlike the shots snapped by Frau Priddy and the crew at KGP, our legal department insists that anything taken on automaker property is illegal to distribute. So after the picture began circulating on several smaller sites, we held off on publishing it... until now. With sites like MotorTrend and InsideLine throwing caution to the wind, despite Ford's attempt to quell the photo's circulation, we feel compelled to bring it to you in all its grainy majesty – until FoMoCo's legal department starts pounding on our virtual door.

With that out of the way, all of us around the Autoblog offices are split about the design direction this one particular exercise (we're sure there's at least a dozen) is taking. The front end is far more dynamic than the current Taurus, with swept-back headlamps, a pointed fascia and the best application of the three-bar grille we've seen yet -- even if it does ape the last generation Lexus IS. The profile is handsome and distinctly Mondeo, a model that may, or may not, underpin the next Taurus. And if there's an SHO variant packing Ford's new turbocharged, EcoBoost V6, we're sure Mr. Neff will have his dirty little way with it when its officially uncloaked (possibly) in Detroit.

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