Ford Taurus – 2008 First Drive: The story of the 2008 Ford Taurus is really the story of three different cars. The first is the original 1986-1995 Taurus that quite literally saved Ford from collapse. It was a risky gamble, one that paid off with a car that quickly became a bestseller, put money in the coffers, and gave Ford a fighting chance against the crushing popularity of Japanese family sedans.
Next you have the 2005 Ford Five Hundred, a car that sorta, kinda, replaced the Taurus in the Ford lineup. Big and comfy, it suffered from an underwhelming engine connected to a continuously variable transmission, and an odd name, no matter how historically significant it may be to Fordies.
Why not just call it the Taurus? That brings us to car number three, the 1996-2006 Taurus. Maybe expectations for another automotive revolution were so high that the second-generation Taurus had no chance of replicating its previous success. Maybe it’s because the ultra-aero look was ending just as the 1996 Taurus debuted. Maybe it’s because people didn’t want to drive a car that looked like a catfish. Whatever the reason, sales declined, competitiveness suffered and the equity of one of the best new brands to come along in decades was wasted as the car’s sales numbers were propped up more and more by fleet sales until it was quite literally sold only to rental car companies.
Now it’s 2008, and there is again a Taurus on Ford lots. Technically, it’s last year’s Five Hundred, updated with a new engine and transmission, revised styling, better sound deadening and significantly elevated refinement. This is the car the Five Hundred always should have been, including the name. It is also a car that recalls the good ol’ days of the Taurus, and while maybe not the huge gamble that it was in 1986, it enters the Ford lineup at a time when the company is still scrambling for hits.
After a day of driving the new Taurus, we think Ford has a potential winner that fits perfectly alongside the hot-selling Fusion and Edge.
The Taurus name has also been extended to the Freestyle crossover, which is now the Taurus X. Although there was not one available for us to drive and we haven’t seen one since the Chicago Auto Show in February, Mercury’s Montego is similarly upgraded and rebadged for 2008 as the classic Taurus-mate, the Sable.