In a time before four-door pickups, SUVs, minivans, and crossovers, families drove sedans. History's most famous out of production sedan names include Nova, Dart, LTD, Cutlass, Fury, Fairlane, Volare, and Valiant. A name that has just returned to the forefront of the automotive world is Taurus.

With a roomy interior, a powerful V-6 engine, 28 mpg on the highway, and a standard price tag starting around $26,000, this sedan will put a new shine on the sedan category. The new Taurus is so good that it may even attract current truck, SUV, and drivers in a way no other current sedan can.

From your reaction to stories that AOL Autos has already published about the 2010 Ford Taurus, we know that American drivers are interested in this all-new sedan. Read on for an in-depth look at this popular car, its features and competitors. And we won't neglect driving impressions.

Meet The New No-Bull Taurus
The original Ford Taurus stampeded onto American streets as a 1986 model. The effect was seismic. The original was so good, it not only became the best-selling car in America, Hollywood took notice and used it as the basis for Robo Cop's patrol car (Now there's an endorsement!).

As the Taurus changed over the years, its horns were never as sharp. In its final years it went lame, becoming a pariah of rental car and municipal fleets. Finally, in 2007 the old bull was put out to pasture.

Under the leadership of Ford CEO Alan Mulally, the Taurus name returned, branded over top of the Five Hundred in 2008. The market reacted with a yawn because the freshening of the Five Hundred was far from being a full eight-second ride in the rodeo ring. Buyers knew the 2008 Taurus was little more than an ol'switcheroo.

But Mulally was on to something. He knew that Ford could open its gates again and let loose a winner. The 2010 Ford Taurus proves he was right.

Sizing Up The Bull
The 2010 Taurus is the new standard for full-size sedans, just as the 1986 Taurus set the standard for mid-size cars in its era. The 2010 edition is smaller than the traditional rear-wheel-drive Crown Victoria, and about the same size as the 2009 Taurus, Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, and Audi A8. Interior roominess is generally comparable between these vehicles, but the 2010 Taurus offers a cavernous trunk with over 20-cubic feet of easy-to-fill room.

While it is technically accurate to say that the 2010 Taurus is derived from the 2009 edition, it is inaccurate to characterize the transformation as a casual refresh or minor update. The only major components that are carried over include the front suspension, parts of the body structure, and the efficient 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission (18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway). Most other mechanical components are new, including the design of the rear suspension that was lifted and retuned from the 2009 Lincoln MKS luxury sedan. (If you're going to share components between vehicles within a company, this is a good way to do it.)

The styling of this mainstream sedan is powerful. The giant VW Passat looks of the previous Taurus/Five Hundred model is gone, ditched in favor of a squared-off design that clearly says, "I'm an American, not a German wannabe." The roof is lower and the lines are pleasingly angular.

Inside, the five-passenger Taurus is clearly driver-focused. Up front, there are defined areas for the driver and front passenger. The instrument cluster presents information to the driver in three, deeply recessed gauges. Day or night, the readouts are easy to see. The way the dash slope away from the occupants gives the interior a feeling of openness. If you can't get comfortable using the power seat, adjustable pedals, and the tilt/telescopic steering column, you must be a very oddly shaped person, indeed.

In the rear seating area, the Taurus is wide enough to sit three across. With the front seats in their rear-most position (for a driver well over six-feet), room is tight for those in the rear, but with the front seat adjusted for a 6-foot driver, an average adult male riding in back enjoys plenty of space in front of his knees. The rear seat backs fold down to open up a truly huge cargo area, expanding the already large capacity of the trunk.

A large touch screen occupies the top of the center console on models with the optional navigation system. The touch screen is easy to use, even for Luddites. This brings up the point that Ford is using the 2010 Taurus to bring high-technology to the masses. Safety features like stability control, ABS, traction control, and six airbags are standard. So is the SOS post-crash alert system. After an impact that causes airbags to deploy, the SOS system unlocks all doors, turns on the hazard flashers, and sounds the horn.

Beyond these expected features, the Taurus also provides SecuriCode; a keyless entry system with a key pad on the driver-side B-pillar, and MyKey; a feature that lets parents program a specific key fob with restricted vehicle function, such as maximum speed and maximum radio volume. While this list is solid, it's the options on the 2010 Taurus that are unusual for a mainstream American sedan.

Whizz Bang: Some of the new options on the 2010 Ford Taurus

Adaptive Cruise Control: it maintains a set speed, but also keeps a driver-defined distance from vehicles ahead, and will use active braking when necessary to slow the Taurus to maintain that distance
Collision Warning: audible and visual alerts warn a distracted driver about a potential frontal collision and pre-arms the brakes to provide full power when the driver hits the brake pedal
Blind Spot Monitoring: Keeps an electronic eye on a driver's blind spots and warns drivers using an orange icon in the mirror and on the digital IP readout
Cross Traffic Alert: Helps drivers detects oncoming traffic approaching the vehicle from the side while reversing out of a parking space
SYNC: a voice-control technology that enables drivers to speak commands to the audio system and any connected devices such as a phone or MP3 player
Travel Link: a sophisticated suite of subscription services that provide real-time weather, traffic and shopping information - Multi-Contour seats; Seven air bladders constantly change pressure to keep those in front feeling alert and more refreshed during long drives

A shopper would be hard pressed to find these options available on an Audi, BMW, or Lexus, let alone a Chevy or Toyota with a starting price of $25,995. Call it a democratization of high technology. If you plan on test driving a new Taurus, give yourself some time to learn about and test these new technologies.

Saddling Up The Bull
From the driver's point of view, the 2010 Taurus is simply a winner. The dynamics are more engaging than a Toyota Avalon but still smooth and refined. The engine produces 263 horsepower, which is plenty to move this full-size sedan off the line smartly. Acceleration is smooth and plentiful. Mileage is acceptable for such a large vehicle, at 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway for the front-wheel-drive models. Adding all-wheel drive subtracts 1 and 3 mpg.

The ride characteristics are sportier than you might expect from a big sedan. The Taurus feels taut but not high-strung. It's responsive without being twitchy. Though there is some body roll, it is not objectionable. The steering is direct and precise, and provides plenty of feedback. Driving the 2010 Taurus feels natural and intuitive. Even though it's not quite the equal of a Lexus LS 460, the interior is quiet and vibration free. Bumps and road acne are filtered out by the suspension, sub-frame isolators between the suspension and the body, and well-placed insulation.

The Meanest Bull In The Corral
If you're looking for more excitement, the performance-oriented Taurus SHO is available. The Super High Output edition of the 2010 Taurus is a serious performance machine at a starting price of about $38,000. It takes a sharp eye to distinguish between the SHO and the other Taurus models, the SE, SEL, and Limited. Look for the small spoiler on the trunk and the larger 19-inch aluminum wheels and wide high-performance tires.

Thanks to Ford's new EcoBoost technology, the SHO's exclusive twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 engine with direct fuel injection produces a staggering 365 horsepower. Ford engineers tell us that if the top speed were not limited to 133 mph, the SHO could hit over 160 mph with all of that power. Drivers averse to getting tickets will enjoy the engine's acceleration up to highway speeds and its ability to effortlessly pass traffic on two-lane roads.

This power is managed by a standard all-wheel-drive system that is tuned for safety, traction, and performance. The result is a stable, responsive feel that delivers impressive, drama-free performance. Mileage for the SHO is identical to the non-turbo AWD Taurus models, 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. This strikes us as amazing due to the engine's additional 102 horsepower.

Inside, all 2010 Taurus SHOs have leather-trimmed seats with suede inserts, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle-shifters. The drive begins by pressing the ignition. The engine fires immediately. It's quiet. Put the drive selector into A or M depending on whether you want to use the paddle shifters or not. In Auto, the heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and without fuss. The SHO cruises quietly and offers no telltales about its performance potential. Wind and tire noise at get-a-ticket speeds are subdued. The overall feeling is that of a refined European sport sedan.

But if you slam the throttle open, the big Ford sedan rockets forward. There is no turbo lag. The engine's turbos are so small, that almost any time the engine is running, the blowers are ready to produce instant turbo boost. Modern engine electronics give the SHO 350 lb-ft torque from 1500 revs on up to near the horsepower peak (5,250 rpm). The torque curve really isn't a curve, it's a broad, flat plateau that results in effortless acceleration at any speed.

The SHO's chassis remains rock-solid under full power, helped by the distribution of torque to all four corners. Expect to hit 60 mph from a standstill in under six seconds, and with AWD, you'll never have to worry about wasting time because of spinning tires. The SHO's transmission shifts quickly, and according to its engineers, it changes gears faster than the automatic in a BMW 335i.

Some performance cars can punish their occupants, but the Taurus SHO doesn't. The ride is only slightly stiffer than the standard Taurus models. Hustling through a corner, the 2010 Taurus SHO leans a little before it takes a bite into the pavement. Once set, the feeling is balanced. There is a bit of understeer (push) and absolutely no oversteer (the feeling that the car is going to spin out trunk first). When pushed very hard, the front tires begin to squeal, a warning Ford engineers designed in as an audible warning that the car is getting close to its limit.

Rounding Up The Competition
Compared to other full-size sedans and the larger mid-size four-doors, the 2010 Ford Taurus is happy to lock horns with any challenger. Its styling is more distinctive than the Toyota Avalon or the Chevrolet Impala. The classy Chrysler 300 still looks good after all these years, but its profile is no longer fresh.

The Taurus's standard V-6 matches the competition in power and economy, while the SHO's EcoBoost V-6 engine squares off positively against the V-8 equipped Impala and 300 models. For those who want the added traction and all-weather safety of AWD, it is not offered by Toyota or Chevrolet in their mainstream sedans.

Optional technology clearly separates the new Taurus from its in-class competitors, but be careful as you check the option boxes because the cost for going high-tech can add up quickly and erase the Taurus's value positioning.

Conclusion
This new car proves that Ford's engineers and designers hadn't forgotten what a Taurus could be. CEO Mulally was correct in knowing that his team could breed another winner.

Just as things were decades ago, when sedans were the mainstay of family transportation, the 2010 Ford Taurus provides a compelling reason for families to once again consider a sedan.

Next: Read More

- Research the 2010 Ford Taurus
- Free Ford Taurus Price Quote
- Ford Shelby GT500 First Drive

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