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The 2012 Ford Taurus, depending on how it's equipped, can play several different roles. At the base level, at about $26k, the Taurus is a big-car alternative to the likes of the V-6 Honda Accord or Chevrolet Malibu. On the other hand, it could be a luxury rival to the Buick LaCrosse or Toyota Avalon. And in top SHO guise, it's a strong, tech-loaded 365-horsepower luxury performance sedan that can sticker at $45k or even higher.
From one of the front seats, the 2012 Taurus feels almost like a personal-luxury car. There are focused, defined areas for the driver and front passenger, with a wrap-around instrument panel design and a low, wide center console that firmly splits the driver and passenger sides (and actually, taking up a lot of space). The back seat is wide, with potential space for three adults, though legroom and headroom can be surprisingly tight, given the Taurus' full-size exterior. Faux-wood and chrome trim combine with good fit and finish to give it an upscale look and feel that's generally in sync with its price tag. Special badging, glossy black dash trim, and more metallic highlights inside and out help give the SHO more interior panache, while a trunklid spoiler, twin chrome exhaust tips, and different grille hint at the brawn.
The 3.5-liter V-6 that's under the hood of most 2012 Taurus models moves this big sedan plenty quick. With 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of torque, plus a smooth six-speed automatic, it's rarely caught flat-footed, and the paddle shifters included in SEL and Limited versions even feel a little gimmicky in such a big, comfy sedan. On the other hand, the Taurus SHO is focused around performance, with all-wheel drive and a 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 capable of running this big, heavy (nearly 4,400 pounds) sedan to 60 mph in about six seconds. But possibly because of that heft, the SHO is a little less transformational than you might think—in part because the SHO puts the power to the road with such stoicism and a lack of excitement or drama.
Those worried about a pillowy, overly bouncy ride have nothing to worry about here; the Taurus rides more firmly than you might expect--taut but not too harsh, and certainly in base versions no sport sedan. But it's confidence-inspiring, with direct, precise steering and more feedback than is typical from the electric power steering.The Taurus is strong on safety. In addition to great crash-test scores (IIHS Top Safety Pick) and the standard roster of safety features, Ford offers a collision warning system and adaptive cruise control on the 2012 Taurus, as well as Blind Spot Information and Cross Traffic Alert systems. For 2012, a side-mirror-integrated blind-spot system is standard across the model line, which does help make up for the limited visibility. The Taurus SHO also offers an optional rearview camera.
As an extensively redesigned model is due for 2013, there's very little new to the Taurus lineup for 2012, other than a new color, Ginger Ale Metallic. Even in base form, the Taurus comes somewhat better-equipped than mainstream mid-size sedans. Base cars get a power driver's seat, SEL models include automatic climate control. Meanwhile, top Limited trims are the way to go if you want a loaded car, as they include showier 19-inch wheels, ambient lighting, a six-CD changer, reverse parking sensors, leather seats, and power controls for the front passenger. Ford's Sync interface for smartphones and media players is included in Limited and SHO models. Push-button start, sueded seats, and high-intensity discharge headlamps are added in the SHO.