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2013 Ford Taurus: First Drive Page 2

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The 3.5-liter in SE, SEL, and Limited models makes 288 horsepower and 254 pound-feet, and it adds Ford's Ti-VCT (variable camshaft timing) to increase fuel efficiency and help it be more responsive across the rev range. The changes work exactly as advertised; it's not especially strong off the line, but a very sharp throttle calibration and a rather low first gear makes it feel so; the engine feels especially strong in the low to mid revs, exactly where the revs are going to land in a full-throttle upshift—so the Taurus feels quick.

The SHO again gets a 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, with turbocharging and direct injection, and making a fat 350 pound-feet of torque at just 1,500 rpm (all the way up to 5,000 rpm). Zero-to-60 times for the SHO will be as short as the low-five-second range—so faster than a V-8-powered Chrysler 300C but not quite as quick as an SRT8. Thanks to the wonders of turbo boost, the SHO's rocket-like thrust isn't interrupted by upshifts, and there's seemingly no let-up as you head toward triple digits.

But in the corners, don't expect the SHO, or any of these all of these AWD Taurus models, to drive like a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan; they handle like large, front-wheel-drive cars, with the system only sending power to the rear wheels when there's measurable slip and the need for more grip.

Better steering, braking—and you can feel it

The electric steering rack is now hard-mounted (to the subframe), which helps tremendously with steering feel on and just off center. Now, the system loads nicely, and as we noticed when pushing the Taurus SHO hard on tight corners on mountain roads, you do now feel just a bit of bite and feedback through the wheel. Brakes have been substantially upgraded across the line, and pedal feel is more confident.

An available SHO Performance Package ($995) includes 20-inch premium wheels with summer performance tires, performance brake pads, and special calibrations for the electric power steering system and the stability control. It also orders up a lower 3.16 axle ratio for quicker sprints.

Multi-contour seats are a segment-exclusive feature in the Taurus family this year, and we found that they allow an added measure of adjustability and support.

The Taurus SHO that we drove very enthusiastically over more than a hundred miles averaged 16.5 mpg for that distance (it's rated 17 mpg city, 25 highway), while the Taurus Limited AWD we piloted later had been averaging nearly 20 mpg over an entire day and more than 250 miles of driving.

Ford has also introduced a host of chassis measures that, combined, serve to give the Taurus a more quiet ride with less impact harshness and better isolation from road noise especially.

We'd recommend against the 20-inch wheels which, from our driving experience in a Taurus Limited, seem to negate some of these gains in ride and refinement. With them, the ride is a little more abrupt, with more impact harshness, but they bring no noticeable improvement in handling.

MyFord Touch—the improved one

There's one more very important upgrade in the 2013 Ford Taurus: MyFord Touch, along with a software upgrade that, Ford says, cures a number of hiccups and user issues. Ford says that responsiveness was improved with the update, but we still found the system sluggish at times, requiring a couple of presses before it would react for some tasks. We'll update you after we've had more time with the revision—and at first glance, we really like the improved font size and more intuitive on-screen buttons.

Below MyFord Touch, the center stack now moves to capacitative controls—relying on a touch of the finger rather than a real button. However the hazard switch is a real button, just under the screen.


 
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