2009 Taurus New Car Test Drive
Ford had little success with its large, front-drive family sedan called the Ford Five Hundred since its introduction two years ago. So, for 2008, Ford dumped the Five Hundred name and went back to the name of a clear market winner, renaming this car the 2008 Ford Taurus.
Likewise, the Mercury Montego has been renamed Mercury Sable, and the Ford Freestyle has been renamed Taurus X, the X for crossover SUV.
Along the way, Ford has made some 500 changes to the new Taurus, changes that were already scheduled for the mid-cycle freshening of the Five Hundred. The general body shape of the new Taurus is the same as that of the previous Five Hundred, a large, front-wheel-drive family sedan, but almost everything else has changed for the better.
This family of vehicles, loosely based on the same architecture as the Volvo S80 luxury sedans with some detail changes to the suspension systems, also uses the same Swedish Haldex all-wheel-drive system as the Volvo when it is ordered as an option.
The weak 3.0-liter V6 engine has been dropped in favor of a new 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 engine that makes a full 30 percent more power. It's the same engine that powers the larger and heavier Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers and MKZ luxury cars. Likewise, the CVT transmission has been replaced by a new 6F six-speed automatic.
This new powertrain makes the Taurus a whole lot more fun to drive than the ill-conceived Five Hundred was. Its 0-60 mph acceleration performance has been reduced by more than a second and a half, from 9.2 seconds down to 7.6 seconds, which is a huge chunk of performance. The new engine not only makes more power, it gets 10 percent better fuel economy, even after adjusting for the new, stricter testing procedures EPA has mandated for 2008 models. On the open road, we found the Taurus to be very quiet and smooth.
Taurus competes directly against other larger sedans on the market, chief among them the Toyota Avalon, the Chevrolet Impala, and the Chrysler 300. Against that competitive set, the Taurus is the largest car in the group, and carries four five-star safety ratings for front, rear, side and rollover crashworthiness. The big kicker in all of this is that, with all the new styling, interior, engine, transmission and standard features upgrades, the price hovers only about $250 above comparably equipped versions of last year's bland, slow Five Hundred.
The 2008 Ford Taurus features two models, SEL ($23,245) and Limited ($26,845). Each is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, called SEL AWD ($25,095) and Limited AWD ($28,695). Taurus comes as a four-door sedan; the Taurus X is the wagon variant.
Options include a convenience package with a universal remote control, reverse sensing system, a cargo net and memory adjustable pedals ($475); a wood package ($195); a DVD entertainment system ($995); AdvanceTrac electronic stability control ($495); moonroof ($895); voice-activated DVD navigation ($1995); 18-inch chrome wheels ($695); engine block heater ($35); and Sirius Satellite Radio ($195).
Safety features include front, side and curtain airbags, ABS, and traction control. Electronic stability control is an option. With its Volvo-like crash structure and features, the new Taurus has been awarded a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).