2002 Taurus New Car Test Drive
Taurus is the popular mid-size sedan without the boredom factor. It's a bowl of chocolate-chip mint in a sea of plain vanilla. While most sedans in its class seem designed to blend into the scenery, the Taurus stands out like a wildebeest in plaid pajamas.
Not only does the Taurus look like it came from the future, it drives like it came over from Europe, and with something double its really quite reasonable price tag. Two engines are available, and both deliver a vigorous response. Taurus rides smoothly enough for family duty, but with crisp and sporty handling that would satisfy an aspiring Formula 1 driver.
Not only that, but 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.
In fact, the only serious downside of the Taurus is its dauntingly confusing model lineup. Already one of the most complicated we have ever seen, it has been subtly reshuffled for 2002.
LX ($18,750) is the least changed of the trim levels. This is the base model, but 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.
SE ($19,560) is the lower-mid-range model and adds cruise control, remote keyless entry, color-keyed mirrors, a cassette or CD player (no charge either way), and five-spoke aluminum wheels.
SES ($20,575) is a popular model, with ABS, six-way power driver's seat, and 'aerodynamic' bumpers, among other luxuries. SES Deluxe ($21,675) adds bucket seats, console, floor-mounted gear selector, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a rear spoiler. Backing up the Deluxe model's sportier demeanor is a switch from the standard 3.0-liter pushrod V6 to a 3.0-liter Duratec unit with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder.
SEL ($22,445) is nearing the top of the line. It also comes with 'aero' bumpers and the more powerful engine, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, power adjustable pedals, heater mirrors, a perimeter anti-theft system, machined aluminum road wheels, and both cassette and CD capability. Then, at the absolute pinnacle of Taurusitude, sits the SEL Premium ($23,105), with side-impact airbags and traction control.
Wagons come in SE, SE Deluxe, SE Premium, and SEL Deluxe trim, none of which quite correspond to the same trim levels on sedans. In general, however, Taurus wagons are slightly better equipped than their sedan counterparts. Starting at $21,495, even the SE features four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, front and rear anti-roll bars, a six-way power driver's seat, a cleverly adjustable luggage rack, and its own unique bumper shape with step pads at the rear. You only have to step up to the $22,810 SE Premium to get the Duratec V6.
With its 60/40 split rear seats folded down, the roomy Taurus 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.
As mentioned, two engines power the Taurus. Lower-level models use a 3.0-liter ohv 12-valve V6 Ford calls the Vulcan (presumably after the god of iron working, not Earth's staunchest interplanetary ally). The Vulcan 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.
The more sophisticated Duratec V6 displaces the same 3.0 liters, but has dual overhead cams working 24 valves. This higher-revving power plant produces 200 horsepower and 200 pounds-feet of torque. Good as the Vulcan engine is, take one drive with the more responsive Duratec, and you may never be satisfied with less.
Both engines come with a four-speed automatic transmission.