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Ford last year gave its full-size Taurus sedan a transformation, creating a more attractive, more capable competitor in a class that spans both mainstream mid-size sedans like the Honda Accord V-6 as well as the Buck Lucerne. A new high-performance Taurus SHO, powered by a turbocharged V-6, also joined the model line. The only down side to the new Taurus versus the old? Its interior became a little less spacious in the process.
Although the 2011 Ford Taurus can hardly be called exciting, it's a big improvement over the pre-2010 version. All around, the Ford Taurus got an interesting new shape last year, dropping the old VW Passat-like roofline in favor of a crisper profile that hints at the smaller Ford Fusion. Inside, the 2011 Taurus is more focused; defined areas for the driver and front passenger are marked with a low, wide center console that firmly splits the driver and passenger sides (and takes up a lot of space). And there's lots of faux-wood and chrome trim. The sporty Taurus SHO gets special badging, glossy black dash trim, and more metallic highlights inside and out, as well as a trunklid spoiler, twin chrome exhaust tips, and a snazzier grille.
The 2011 Ford Taurus moves off the line smartly with its 3.5-liter V-6, making 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is smooth and plentiful at all sane speeds, and the six-speed automatic's a smooth operator, but paddle shifters (on SEL and Limited versions) feel a little gimmicky in a big sedan like this.
The Taurus SHO benefits from a lot more power, but it's a little less transformational than in past SHO Taurus sedans—in part because the SHO puts the power to the road with such stoicism and a lack of pulse-raising excitement. The new car's 365-horsepower, turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 version of the same engine breathes easily but not as dramatically as expected. Ford quotes a 0-60-mph acceleration time of 6.0 seconds for the new SHO; the curb weight of 4,368 pounds must mask some of its strength.
Road manners for standard Taurus models are quite impressive; the 2011 Taurus rides more firmly than you might expect from such a big sedan, taut but not high-strung, with a smooth ride and some natural body roll. The steering is direct and precise, and it provides plenty of feedback, a notable accomplishment since it's electronically dialed in, rather than hydraulically assisted. At the same time, you won't forget that the Taurus is a hefty car; it's far from nimble.
Front seats in the Taurus are a little constrained by the large console, though it has great room for tall drivers. The biggest issues with the rear seat come from tall passengers, as always; the door opening is wide for feet, but the roofline is low, which makes entry and exit a little tougher than need be. With a sunroof installed and six-footers in back, headroom is a letdown, with constant contact between hair and headliner.
The Taurus is strong on safety. In addition to great crash-test scores and the standard roster of safety features, Ford offers a collision warning system and adaptive cruise control on the new sedan, as well as Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alert systems; these use rear- and side-aiming radar to alert drivers to impending disaster. The Taurus SHO also offers an optional rearview camera.
The long list of standard features on the 2011 Ford Taurus means even base versions are well-equipped. The Taurus SE gets an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 playback; tilt/telescope steering; a 60/40 split-folding rear seat; a power driver seat; and power locks, windows, and mirrors. The next trim up, the Taurus SEL includes Sirius Satellite Radio, automatic climate control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel; the Limited adds 19-inch wheels, ambient lighting, a six-CD changer, reverse parking sensors, leather seats and power controls for the front passenger, and the SYNC entertainment controller. The SHO comes with its unique powertrain and suspension and gets a spoiler, push-button start, sueded seats, and high-intensity discharge headlamps.
- Handsome exterior
- High-quality interior feel
- Cutting-edge features like SYNC
- Available all-wheel drive
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- A big car that feels big
- Cramped backseat
- SHO is very quick but lacks fun factor