2009 Ford Taurus Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 3, 2009

The 2009 Ford Taurus still runs at the head of the class in terms of space, practicality, and safety features, but driving enthusiasts and those wanting to be seen should probably steer clear.

To give you a conclusive review covering all aspects of the 2009 Ford Taurus, TheCarConnection.com staff has read a wide range of observations from other sources. And to help you make sense of differing opinions, TheCarConnection.com's resident staffers have also driven the 2009 Ford Taurus and include their own remarks.

The Taurus you’ll find today at dealerships is not at all related to the bland rental-car fleet vehicle that was sold through 2007. Just so Ford could make it especially confusing, it seems, in a time when the company is changing names as haphazardly as an informer in a witness protection plan, the current Taurus originally went on sale in 2005 as the Ford Five Hundred. That new sedan shared running gear with the Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicle (and the previous Volvo S80 big sedan), which explains the vast interior spaces inside the latest 2009 Ford Taurus.

Like last year's model, the 2009 Ford Taurus is offered in two flavors: a plain-vanilla SEL and the more upscale Limited. The driving experience is largely the same in either trim, which is unsurprising considering that both share a 263-horsepower V-6 engine, and a six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Don’t expect any driving excitement; the Taurus can be hustled through corners with surprising poise, but it does so with a sluggish, heavy steering feel and some body lean. Front-wheel drive is standard fare on the 2009 Ford Taurus, but Ford also offers an all-wheel-drive version of both trims.

The standard V-6 on the 2009 Ford Taurus provides strong, satisfying acceleration, even with a full load of passengers, and the automatic shifts up and down much more decisively—and more smoothly—than the GM’s six-speed automatic. But refinement is only acceptable, and real-world fuel economy is disappointing—considerably lower than the 18 mpg EPA city rating, in the experience of TheCarConnection.com editors.

Review continues below

Now for the strong positives—and there are plenty of them. The Ford Taurus offers a cavernous interior that, while somewhat drab in terms of styling, offers a seemingly limitless supply of storage space. Construction quality is also a plus for the 2009 Ford Taurus, as is the commanding view afforded by the high, comfortable bucket seats. Backseat legroom is vast, it's wide enough for three adults across, and unlike most other current mid-size sedans there’s adequate headroom for average adults. The interior layout, which is criticized by some for its lack of flair, is refreshingly simple to the editors of TheCarConnection.com. Don’t consider the Taurus if you want something flashy.

Ride quality is excellent, even when loaded with passengers and cargo. It’s not at all queasy or bouncy, just absorbent—and very quiet.

Among the Ford Taurus's best attributes is its commendable safety rating; not only does the 2009 Ford Taurus offer a comprehensive package of airbags and a highly crashworthy chassis, for 2009 Ford has also includes an electronic stability control and SOS-Post Crash Alert System as standard fare.

6

2009 Ford Taurus

Styling

It's certainly better-looking than the versions from earlier this decade, but the 2009 Taurus won't leave anyone drooling over its seductive styling.

In its extensive research, TheCarConnection.com discovers that the 2009 Ford Taurus is an exceptional value in big sedans, if not a sporting or very stylish one.

Styling for the 2009 Ford Taurus hasn't changed one bit from the 2008 edition, although one new trim level has been added. Cars.com reports that the 2009 Taurus "is available in base SE, SEL and Limited trim levels," as opposed to just the SEL and Limited options from last year. Reactions to the exterior styling are mixed among members of the automotive press, although reviewers at MSN say that this 2009 Ford "looks dressed up on the outside, with eye-catching taillights and headlights and a grille reminiscent of the one on Ford's popular and smaller sedan, the Fusion." Several reviews read by TheCarConnection.com mention the similarity to the Fusion as well. Calling the Taurus's front fender chrome side vents "the tailfins of this decade," Car and Driver remarks the new styling makes the front of the car more "interesting" with "three-bar chrome grille and sexier rectangular headlamps."

A few negative opinions are also circulating on the Web, most notably at Cars.com, where reviewers claim that "those who think they're getting an upsized Fusion might be disappointed to see the Taurus in the flesh; with the same wheelbase and virtually unchanged dimensions, it keeps the Five Hundred's stodgy profile." Those same reviewers also dislike the clear lenses of the taillights, saying that change is "something a lot of automakers resort to when they need to spice things up...simpler red taillights seemed more fitting for a large family car."

The exterior of the Ford Taurus 2009 does sport some redeeming styling touches, but unfortunately, the interior offers far fewer. ConsumerGuide extends some praise, noting that the 2009 Ford Taurus features "clear, simple gauges, but audio and climate controls comprise many look-alike buttons and sometimes hard-to-read electronic displays, all set too low for easiest use." MyRide.com reviewers also point out that "the wood trim on Limited models warms the interior, but still looks fake," although on the positive side, they say that when "compared back-to-back with the Five Hundred the alterations are effective." Edmunds also feels that the interior is "handsome and functional," but Cars.com moderates their enthusiasm by recommending that "those who fancy a premium environment or imaginative design would do better in a Lucerne or Avalon."

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2009 Ford Taurus

Performance

Fuel economy and overall excitement behind the wheel of the 2009 Ford Taurus still trail the competition.

When considering the performance of the 2009 Ford Taurus, it's important to put things in perspective. The Ford Taurus isn’t a screaming performance machine, but it’s satisfying in a practical way. Few of its target buyers will be left wanting.

Ford has kept the 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 powerplant, which delivers 265 hp, from last year's Ford Taurus. According to Edmunds, the extra 60 horses are a definite improvement over "the slow-as-snails Five Hundred." Automotive.com reviewers report that "it sounds healthy, powerful and smooth at full throttle, makes the car plenty quick in acceleration and passing situations, and settles down to a nice background hum in sixth gear, as it should." ConsumerGuide simply characterizes the Ford Taurus 2009 as "strong and relaxed," while Edmunds adds that "no one will ever call the Taurus quick, but it now has the gusto needed to get up highway on-ramps and pass pokey fellow motorists without breaking a significant sweat."

The standard six-speed transmission on the Ford Taurus, available only as an automatic, leaves most reviewers unimpressed. In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, some reviewers, like those at ConsumerGuide, complain that the transmission "can be reluctant to downshift for passing." Cars.com says that "occasionally it goes beyond the call of duty, finding the right gear in a pinch and sticking with it," but "other times it comes up short—prod the gas pedal from a stoplight, and the gear changes are jerky and awfully late." Edmunds states that the hit-or-miss action of the transmission is "a result of being tuned for maximum fuel economy," but that doesn't stop them from criticizing it for being "slow to downshift." The one major improvement that some reviewers would like to see, notably ConsumerGuide, is some sort of "manual shift control," which would go a long way toward fixing the transmission woes.

Fuel economy for the 2009 Ford Taurus clocks in right where you'd expect: somewhat below comparable imports, but better than past entries from Detroit. The EPA estimates that the 2009 Ford Taurus will get 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway when equipped with front-wheel drive, while the all-wheel-drive models get 17/24 mpg. MyRide.com reviewers deem those numbers "good if not stellar," although in ConsumerGuide tests, the Ford Taurus "averaged 18.5 mpg in city/highway use." On the positive side, the Ford Taurus requires just regular-grade fuel, while some competitors recommend premium.

One area where reviewers are slightly more positive is in the ride and handling. ConsumerGuide calls the ride in this 2009 Ford "firm yet absorbent," with the "retuned suspension and other changes [reducing] harshness over sharp bumps and potholes." When throwing the 2009 Ford Taurus into turns, Cars.com reports that "body roll is noticeable, but the suspension firms itself up through any prolonged turns and stays reasonably level." Automotive.com reviewers are impressed to find that the "steering is accurate, with good feedback, and not overly assisted in normal and highway driving." Motor Trend chimes in by noting that "while the handling remains nondescript, the road sizzle you used to feel throughout the car is nearly extinguished, and moderate bumps are swallowed whole." In terms of stopping performance, ConsumerGuide declares that "the brakes have fine overall stopping control."

9

2009 Ford Taurus

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Ford Taurus is more than deserving of a look from those who put comfort and cargo space above all else in the family sedan market.

Reviewers like the 2009 Ford Taurus for the quiet, comfortable ride, but despite improvements, some still quibble about the quality of interior components.

The vast interior of the 2009 Ford Taurus makes it possible to seat five passengers quite comfortably, as reviews read by TheCarConnection.com note. ConsumerGuide remarks that "headroom and legroom are both six-footer ample" up front, "but some testers still want more rearward seat travel." Automobile Magazine reports that the front seats "provide that commanding view of the road that SUV owners were always going on about." Autoblog positively gushes that "the bottom cushion is so far from the ground that entering the vehicle is a matter of opening the door and sliding your butt to the right. Ford calls it Command Seating, and we dig it." The rear seats offer much of the same story, with Edmunds declaring that "legroom is plentiful," while ConsumerGuide notes that "three adults will fit but may feel cramped on longer trips."

The large dimensions also bestow the 2009 Ford Taurus with quite a bit of usable storage space. Automobile Magazine points out that the Ford Taurus has "more interior room than a Chrysler 300 or a Toyota Avalon," while Motor Trend simply calls the interior "cavernous." The trunk is equally large, and ConsumerGuide says that the "voluminous trunk has a flat floor, usefully cubic shape, a large opening, and non invasive strut-type lid hinges." Those features all combine to give the 2009 Ford Taurus "a whopping 21.2 cubic feet (think six golf bags) in the trunk proper, and a whole lot more if the split rear and front passenger seats are collapsed," according to Motor Trend.

Despite its many virtues, the 2009 Ford Taurus is far from perfect, as complaints about materials quality show. AutoWeek points out that "while the wood trim avoids the trap of warping it into shapes only a sculptor could love, it looks tacked on rather than integrated," and Cars.com claims the center armrest is "hard enough to dribble a basketball on." ConsumerGuide is more moderate, reporting that the Ford Taurus's "cabin materials are nothing special but are appropriate for the price and include many soft-touch surfaces." Cars.com also laments that the "overhead grab handles still slam against the ceiling when you let go—something most automakers addressed years ago with soft-shut handles."

When compared to the Ford Five Hundred, the new Ford Taurus is far more advanced in terms of build quality. This is probably best evidenced by the very subdued driving environment, which many reviewers praise. Motor Trend says that "foam pellets expanded into the A-pillars and new sound-absorptive material, called Sonosorb, swathed throughout the cabin" provide the improved noise reduction. MSN notes that it is "even quieter than the 2007 Five Hundred," in part because "revised outside mirrors that produce less wind noise." They also credit the new engine mounts that mean "Engine vibration is isolated...and doesn't transmit readily to the passenger compartment," although they warn "the Taurus Limited's 18-inch tires" can cause a bit of noise "on rough pavement." ConsumerGuide agrees somewhat, finding "tire noise intrudes only on coarsest pavement," but overall they consider the 2009 Ford Taurus "refined for a mainstream family car."

10

2009 Ford Taurus

Safety

When you take price and value into consideration, the 2009 Ford Taurus is ahead of every one of its rivals and probably the safest car for the money.

With its Volvo roots, top safety equipment, and only the best crash-test ratings across the board, the 2009 Ford Taurus is one of the safest sedans on the planet. With the previously optional electronic stability control system now offered as standard, the Taurus is a perfect 10.

The 2009 Ford Taurus features one of the most structurally sound bodies on the road today, as TheCarConnection.com discovered when researching crash-test reports. In NHTSA testing, the latest Ford Taurus earns perfect five-star ratings across the board, a very unusual feat given the stringent requirements for achieving such a high tally. The IIHS also reports perfect scores for the 2009 Ford Taurus, including a rating of "good" in both the frontal offset and side impact tests. In addition, the IIHS awards the 2009 Ford Taurus a Top Safety Pick award, citing the Taurus's "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and standard electronic stability control."

Speaking of electronic stability control, that feature, along with "a new standard SOS-Post Crash Alert System," is standard on the 2009 Ford Taurus, according to ConsumerGuide. MyRide.com reviewers also appreciate that the Ford Taurus has "multiple airbags—two in front, side impact and curtain airbags that deploy in a rollover—and one of the strongest structures in the industry, courtesy of Volvo." As for other safety features, Cars.com reports that all but one of the five seats has head restraints. Buyers with infants and small children will like that "the Latch child-seat anchors for the outboard seats are spaced a few inches inward of the door," which means that when installed properly, the seats will be "farther away from potential side-impacts, and the inboard anchors are close enough to easily secure a seat in the center position—the safest spot for kids."

Visibility from within the 2009 Ford Taurus is another strong safety feature, and reviewers are unanimously impressed in this regard. ConsumerGuide says "visibility is very good," while Cars.com calls it "excellent, unhindered by sweeping rooflines or chunky C-pillars."

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2009 Ford Taurus

Features

A new base model, which comes relatively well equipped, makes getting into a 2009 Ford Taurus even more affordable than before.

From high-tech gadgets to creature comforts, the 2009 Ford Taurus offers features that impress TheCarConnection.com and other reviewers.

The 2009 Ford Taurus is offered in three trim levels, with varying degrees of standard features across the lineup. Beginning with the base SE, ConsumerGuide says that it includes "air conditioning, [a] tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control," and full power accessories, along with an "AM/FM/CD/MP3 player." The Ford Taurus SEL offers upgrades in the form of "dual-zone climate controls, 8-way power driver seat w/lumbar adjustment, heated power mirrors, AM/FM radio w/in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, [and] satellite radio," according to ConsumerGuide. Regarding the upscale Limited trim of the 2009 Ford Taurus, Edmunds reports that "leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, front seat heaters, a memory system for the driver seat/mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded audio system with a six-disc CD changer, heated mirrors with puddle lamps, and an analog clock" are all standard. The Ford Taurus Limited also includes the SYNC wireless interface, which Edmunds claims "allows voice activation of cell phones and entertainment systems." MyRide.com simply advises that "if you're thinking that like the old Taurus, this one's a stripped fleet leader, think again," pointing out that standard equipment "is extensive, including a full complement of airbags, a tire-pressure monitoring system...traction control, and keyless entry."

Optional features on the 2009 Ford Taurus are numerous and highly desirable. Cars.com reports that "options include a moonroof, backseat DVD player, navigation system and rear parking sensors." Edmunds adds "satellite radio" to that list, while ZDNet reviewers are impressed with the "very advanced navigation system and voice command, a feature we haven't seen on a Ford until now." They aren't as happy with the stereo, which they deem "over-amplified," saying that at "half volume it was almost painful, and above that the speakers started rattling. This isn't a finely balanced system, but it does produce satisfying bass. The overall audio quality is also good, although it lacks crispness in the high range." This criticism of the audio system is virtually the only negative TheCarConnection.com finds in reviews of Taurus features.

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8.4
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Styling 6.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 10.0
Features 10.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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