2001 Taurus New Car Test Drive
While not as overtly outre as the previous generation, the current Taurus remains a styling leader, sleek, fresh and contemporary, confidently leading the way to Ford's future.
But like every previous Taurus, this one grabs attention with its styling and then keeps it with its engaging combination of everyday practicality and enthusiast flair. Both of its powertrains deliver vigorous response. Its handling, while suitably smooth and comfortable, delivers a sporting crispness that will satisfy even the aspiring Formula 1 driver in the family.
The cabin is functional and attractive, with controls that are straightforward and easy to use. The materials, switchgear and interior textures have a high-quality look and feel.
For 2001, Ford offers the Taurus sedan in four trim levels. LX is now the standard level, although at $18,260 it offers a reasonable list of standard equipment, including second-generation, dual-stage airbags; air conditioning; power windows, mirrors and door locks; speed-sensitive power steering with tilt steering wheel; and tachometer.
The lower-mid-range SE ($19,035) adds cruise control, remote keyless entry, color-keyed mirrors, a cassette player, and five-spoke aluminum wheels. Next up is SES ($20,050), with ABS, six-way power seats, CD player, and 'aerodynamic' bumpers, among other luxuries.
At the top of the line is the $21,535 SEL, also with 'aero' bumpers as well as a more powerful engine, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, heater mirrors, a perimeter anti-theft system, leather wrapped steering wheel, machined aluminum road wheels, and both cassette and CD capability.
A single wagon variant is offered. Although badged 'SE,' it is somewhat better equipped than the SE sedan, with four-wheel-disc brakes, power antenna, six-way power seats, luggage rack, rear-window wiper/washer; and a rear anti-roll bar. With its 60/40 split rear seats folded down, this roomy wagon has space for a maximum of 81.3 cu. ft. of cargo; or with six passengers aboard, there's still 38.8 cu. behind them. The SE Wagon lists for $20,190. Adding option groups 96W ($300) and 85A ($1,040) upgrades the Wagon to the equivalent of an SES sedan.
Two engines power the Taurus. Standard in all but the SEL is a 3.0-liter ohv 12-valve V6 Ford calls the Vulcan, presumably after the god of ironworking, not Earth's staunchest interplanetary allies. It produces 155 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque. Our past experience with this engine has been generally positive. Although not particularly quick from a standstill, once rolling it delivers more than adequate performance, along with a nicely rorty exhaust note.
Standard in the SEL is a more sophisticated 3.0-liter dohc 24-valve V6 Ford calls Duratec. This is a higher-revving power plant producing 200 horsepower and 200 pounds-feet of torque, and you can order it as a $695 option in the SES sedan or SE wagon. Good as the Vulcan engine is, one drive with the responsive Duratec V6, and you may never be satisfied with less.
Both engines come with a four-speed automatic transmission.
LX and SE sedans are set up to seat five, with bucket seats up front and a floor-mounted gear selector in a swoopy-looking center console. SE Wagon, SES, and SEL are all nominal six-seaters, equipped with a 'seating console' between their front buckets, and a column-mounted gear lever. LX and SE buyers can switch up to six-seat capacity at no extra charge, but it costs SES and SEL buyers $105 to give up the seating console and have the floor-mounted shifter instead.