2003 Taurus New Car Test Drive
The Ford Taurus is more than practical family transportation. It is a genuinely exciting mid-size sedan. The Taurus offers good mid-market value with excellent drivetrains, good looks, plenty of creature comforts, and the added bonus of a surprising level of driving pleasure.
For 2003, the Taurus gets an interior that's updated and much quieter. New seals for the doors, windows and rearview mirrors along with new sound damping in the floor make for a quieter cabin. Illuminated cruise control switches have been added and the controls for the adjustable pedals have been moved to the instrument panel for easier access. New seven-spoke wheels add a fresh look to the 2003 models.
For 2003, more features come standard, including power windows and door locks, a tilt steering column and floor mats. Seat coverings, both leather and cloth, are improved, with lighter colors used to brighten the car's interior. 2003 also brings new dashboard treatments.
The Taurus is available as a four-door sedan or a station wagon. The sedan comes in four versions: LX ($19,180), SE ($19,695), SES ($21,020) and SEL ($22,920). Optional trim packages include a new Sport package for the SES sedan. The wagon is available in SE ($21,345) and SEL ($23,170) versions. A choice of two 3.0-liter V6 engines is available. All models come with a four-speed automatic transmission.
LX is the base model, but it offers a reasonable list of standard equipment including second-generation, dual-stage airbags; air conditioning; speed-sensitive power steering, remote-controlled mirrors, power locks, protective body-side moldings, a tachometer, AM/FM radio, six-passenger seating, LATCH anchors and tethers for child's seats, two-speed intermittent windshield wipers, 16-inch wheels, even grocery bag hooks in the trunk.
SE adds cruise control, a cassette player, remote keyless entry with perimeter lighting, aluminum wheels.
Ford's Vulcan V6 provides power for the LX and SE. This 3.0-liter 12-valve V6 uses a traditional overhead-valve design. The Vulcan V6 is rated at 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. A flexible fuel version of the Vulcan engine can run on E-85 ethanol, regular unleaded gasoline or any combination of the two in the same 18-gallon fuel tank.
SES is a popular choice and comes in standard and deluxe variations. SES adds an in-dash single CD player, front bucket seats with six-way power and a manual lumbar adjustment on the driver's side. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are standard. Also standard is Ford's Duratec V6, a more sophisticated engine with double overhead cams working 24 valves. This engine also displaces 3.0 liters, but revs higher and produces 200 hp and 200 lbs.-ft. of torque. The Vulcan engine is good, but take one drive with the more responsive Duratec and you may never be satisfied with less.
The Sport package ($290 on the SES Deluxe) includes monochromatic body treatment with a body-color spear in the grille and a body-color applique on the rear deck lid. It comes with five-spoke aluminum sport wheels, a rear spoiler, special fender badging, pewter brushed interior trim, two-tone black and gray sport seats and special floor mats.
SEL, available in Deluxe and Premium editions, adds seven-spoke machined aluminum wheels, a six-CD changer, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dark paledo wood-trimmed interior, automatic electronic temperature control, adjustable pedals and keyless keypad entry.
Wagons are better equipped than their sedan counterparts. For example, the SE wagon features four-wheel disc brakes (an improvement over the rear drum brakes of the SE sedan) with ABS, a rear anti-roll bar, a six-way power driver's seat, a cleverly adjustable luggage rack, and a unique bumper shape with step pads at the rear. The SEL wagon adds seven-spoke machined aluminum wheels, a six-CD changer, keypad entry and automatic climate controls.
Key options for many models include a MACH audio system ($345), anti-lock brakes ($600), Cellport communications system ($350), a power moonroof ($895), and adjustable pedals ($120).