Children of the '80s (and earlier) will recall the original Ford Taurus as a strikingly modern family sedan and wagon. Amid a sea of anonymous boxes on wheels, the Taurus stood out with spaceship-like styling and some relatively advanced features, winning legions of loyal customers.
Ah, how times have changed -- the 2009 Ford Taurus isn't even a "real" Taurus, but rather a renamed Ford Five Hundred, a large sedan that officially met its maker a couple years ago. And unlike those avant-garde Tauruses of yore, the current Taurus plays it safe with middle-of-the-road styling. On the bright side, though, the availability of Microsoft's Sync system puts the Taurus on the technological cutting edge for this segment, and there's plenty to like about it from a family-minded buyer's point of view.
The first priority on many families' lists is safety, and it doesn't get much better than the Taurus in this regard -- the government has given this Ford perfect five-star ratings across the board. Another Taurus virtue is its ample passenger and cargo space, both of which put midsize family sedans to shame. There's available all-wheel drive for those who need it, and the Taurus rides smoothly for a car at this price point. Even the gas mileage is good: At 28 highway mpg, the V6-powered front-wheel-drive Taurus is more fuel efficient than quite a few midsize family sedans despite its full-size status.
However, there are reasons why the Taurus isn't on the tip of our tongue when we speak of segment-leading full-size sedans. The steering wheel doesn't telescope, which makes the car not very hospitable for taller folks. The brake pedal's action is long and soft, inspiring little confidence during hard stops. Nor is the car particularly enjoyable to drive, a result of the unsporting high seating position, pronounced body roll on twisty roads and coarse-sounding V6.
Particularly given the availability of the segment-exclusive Sync system, which allows for seamless voice-activated operation of iPods and cellular phones, the 2009 Ford Taurus has enough going for it to be considered a contender in the full-size sedan category. This is especially true if the Taurus' strengths of safety and interior room are priorities for you. However, one would be wise to check out a few other large sedans before deciding, including the Chrysler 300, Hyundai Azera, Pontiac G8 and Toyota Avalon.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2009 Ford Taurus is a large sedan that is available in either front- or all-wheel drive. Three trim levels are offered: base SE, midlevel SEL and top-of-the-line Limited. The well-equipped SE comes with 17-inch wheels, full power accessories, power seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, faux wood-grain interior trim, air-conditioning, a CD player with an auxiliary input jack and cruise control. Move up to the SEL and you'll be treated to power-folding heated exterior mirrors, automatic climate control, a six-CD changer and satellite radio. The upscale Limited rolls on 18-inch wheels and adds chrome exterior accents, leather upholstery, front seat heaters, Sync, an analog clock and memory settings for the driver seat and exterior mirrors.
Options include reverse parking sensors, power-adjustable pedals, a sunroof, a navigation system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, satellite radio (on base SE models) and the Sync multimedia integration system (on the SEL).
Powertrains and Performance:
The 2009 Ford Taurus is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that cranks out 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is mandatory, but buyers can choose between front- and all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is rated at a laudable 18 city/28 highway and 22 combined for front-wheel-drive models, while all-wheel drive taxes the Taurus to the tune of 17 mpg city/24 highway and 19 combined.
Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on every 2009 Ford Taurus. There is also a standard "SOS Post-Crash Alert System" that unlocks the doors and activates the horn and emergency flashers in the event that the airbags are deployed.
Crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration returned perfect five-star ratings by every measure, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety similarly awarded the Taurus its top "Good" rating in every test.
Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside the 2009 Ford Taurus, the news is generally positive, though cars such as the Avalon and Azera feature more visual interest in their dash layouts. Most controls are logically arrayed, and there are plenty of storage areas and an impressive eight cupholders. Legroom is plentiful front and back, while the Taurus' characteristic elevated seating position is evocative of crossover SUVs. The 21-cubic-foot trunk is gargantuan, and the Taurus' 60/40-split rear bench and front passenger seat fold flat, allowing items up to 9 feet in length to be transported inside the car.
Though the Taurus' 3.5-liter V6 sounds strained at higher engine speeds, it gets the job done, pulling the Taurus around with adequate gusto. The six-speed automatic, though, is too slow to downshift. When the Five Hundred died, some of its handling prowess died with it. On back roads, the Taurus feels a bit like a dinghy caught in a squall, and its long-travel, spongy brake pedal doesn't help its cause. Nonetheless, the ride is fairly comfortable, and road noise on the highway is muted compared with some other midsize and full-size sedans.