New & Used Ford Taurus: In Depth
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The original Taurus is often credited with having saved Ford. It pioneered the aerodynamic, design-forward look among affordable sedans. The groundbreaking mid-size sedan entered the hotly contested mainstream segment, establishing itself as a true competitor. After a long reign, the Taurus was briefly put on hiatus and has since returned as a larger car, with Ford's Fusion taking over in the family-sedan fray.
The largest sedan in the Ford model range, the Taurus has a classy design, a comfortable interior, and an available high-performance version with some sporty driving dynamics.
Over the years, alternatives to the Taurus have included the Chevrolet Impala, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon, and Toyota Camry.
MORE: Read our 2015 Ford Taurus review for options, specifications, and pricing
The first Taurus was positively ground-breaking—it truly was a different kind of American car when it bowed as a 1986 model. The look was derided by some as a "jellybean," but in context against the stuffy General Motors and Chrysler offerings, the Taurus looked fresh, and radical, and completely different than anything else available on the market.
A ground-breaking design and the packaging-friendly front-wheel-drive layout both helped give the Taurus an advantage over the other American offerings at the time. In short, it was a logical and attractive choice for American families. The engine offerings weren't quite as exciting or advanced at first, but that changed with the arrival of the first high-performance SHO version.
Ford didn’t mess with a good thing for several years (and it thankfully discontinued the tepid base four-cylinder engine), and Taurus sales boomed. A thorough 1992 update made the Taurus appear a little lower and more aerodynamic in front, and the Taurus was slightly roomier and longer.
In its redesign of the Taurus for 1996, Ford simply struck out. Perhaps in response to some critics who had called the 1992 redesign conservative, the automaker gave the Taurus a more radical redesign that emphasized ovals, gentle curves, and elliptical shapes inside and out, but it brought serious deficiencies like meager trunk space and tight headroom in back.
Ford then backtracked a bit in 2000, bringing up the roofline and trunkline and making the front and rear styling of the Taurus a lot more conservative. It also backtracked on powertrains.
In 1989, Ford introduced its high-performance Taurus model, the SHO. The first Taurus SHO was endowed with a 3.0-liter V-6 specially built by Yamaha just for this project and offering a serious 220 horsepower in the relatively light car. A SHO was again offered from '96 to '99 in the new body style, featuring a 3.4-liter V-8 making 235 horsepower, but that version is less loved by enthusiasts. Still, it remains the only factory-available V-8 Taurus to this day.
Looking at '86 all the way through 2006, most Taurus models are equipped with Ford's 'Vulcan' V-6 engine, which delivered adequate but never remarkable performance. The 200-horsepower Duratec 3.0-liter was offered from the late '90s through 2005 and makes the Taurus more enjoyable.
Ford wound down Taurus production in 2006, after introducing both the slightly smaller Ford Fusion and the larger Ford Five Hundred. Then in 2007, under the leadership of Alan Mulally, Ford renamed the roomy but conservative Five Hundred the Taurus (also renaming the related Freestyle the Taurus X).
The current Ford Taurus
For 2010, the Taurus was redesigned into a sleeker, less conservative-looking sedan, sacrificing a little bit of headroom for a lower roofline. In the years since then, the Ford Taurus has been a repeat IIHS Top Safety Pick and offers several advanced-tech features like adaptive cruise control and Ford's MyKey programmable access system. The Taurus SHO has also returned, with a 365-horsepower twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, six-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive.
The Taurus again got a significant refresh for 2013, and it hasn't changed much since then. With restyled front and rear appearances, as well as more soft-touch surfaces and a quieter (although not very spacious) interior--as well as the introduction of the MyFord Touch interface to upper trims--the current Ford Taurus keeps its look contemporary next to the more dramatic restyle of the Ford Fusion. Ride and handling in the new Taurus have been improved, while there's even more onboard tech—including multicontour seats with Active Motion, Intuitive Park Assist, rain-sensing wipers, and other active-safety features.
Beginning in 2013, the Taurus received a new base turbocharged four-cylinder engine (only for front-wheel-drive models). In the Taurus, the EcoBoost four makes 237 hp and delivers 31 mpg or more on the highway. The familiar 3.5-liter V-6? It now makes 290 hp, with mileage boosted by 1 mpg.
A new Taurus is expected for the 2016 model year. It should better compete with the Chevy Impala, Hyundai Azera, and Toyota Avalon with a new chassis underneath. It's expected to ditch the packaging-challenged old Volvo platform for a stretched version of the Fusion architecture, and likely will employ downsized EcoBoost engines for efficiency gains. All-wheel drive is likely to return to the model, although it remains to be seen whether a high-performance SHO model is once again available.