When it comes to best sellers, a few names come to mind. Oprah. Clancy. And Taurus.
Sure, it's been a while since the Ford Taurus sat atop the monthly sales charts--but in its heyday in the 1990s, the Taurus had a vise grip on the slot. Introduced in 1986, the Taurus went on to be the best-selling car in America for seven years, until it was dethroned by the Toyota Camry. And then demoted further by the Honda Accord.
Today, the charts show the Camry at number one, but the Accord's catching up quickly. And there's a new Taurus coming to showrooms. Sound like a championship playoff round to you? It sounds like a car comparison to us.
By now you know TheCarConnection.com rates vehicles for styling, performance, safety, comfort and utility, and features. From there, we arrive at an overall score, based on each vehicle's individual merits and on its competitiveness in its class of cars, vans, trucks or SUVs. We also let you compare cars of your choice, side by side, to see how they stack up in our editors' ratings.
We also do our own comparisons based on our experts' hands-on road tests. For example, TCC's editors have driven each of these vehicles in various forms, in locations around the country, to be able to explain the ratings and to help you make your own decision.
Which of these three is best for you? To compare the trio, we've rated the relative vehicle lineups: the Taurus is V-6 only, but the Accord and Camry are also available as four-cylinders. The Taurus also comes in turbocharged SHO trim, while the Camry is offered as a Hybrid, and the Camry and Accord also come as coupes. So while we've rated the Accord, Camry and Taurus lineups for you, we'll also describe why they rank where they do, against each other.
It's a difficult test of family four-doors, but among them, one sedan tops the TCC ratings by a wide margin. Of the best-selling family cars of all time, which is the most highly rated by TheCarConnection.com? First, the basics:
2009 Toyota Camry
The basics: A 2.4-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder with five-speed manual or automatic transmission is standard; a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 gets a six-speed automatic
Price: $19,145 and up
Fuel economy: 19/28 mpg (four-cylinder) to 21/31 mpg (six-cylinder)
Rating: 7.6 out of 10
The Toyota Camry has amassed an enviable reputation for reliability and has been the best-selling car in America for years. All that's in danger this year: sources like Consumer Reports have seen Camry reliability ratings drop, and the Honda Accord could be on a pace to displace the Camry as America's top-selling car.
TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Camry, with both engines, and in Hybrid and coupe versions as well. Editors enjoy its smooth ride, its quiet interior (especially in six-cylinder form), its refined engine performance, and the four-cylinder's fuel efficiency.
On the downside, the reputation for Camry durability is under fire; the exterior shape is very conservative, interior materials look cheap and subpar in places, and build quality has become an issue for a car that's held the top slot in sales largely based on its quality. In all, the Camry receives a rating of 7.6 out of 10, with lower scores for styling and for safety--the latter, because stability control remains optional on many models for the 2009 model year.
Our Bottom Line? The 2009 Toyota Camry remains one of the best choices for those looking for a reliable and roomy—albeit plainly dressed—family sedan.
2010 Ford Taurus SHO
The basics: A 3.5-liter V-6 with 263 horsepower teams with a six-speed automatic; all-wheel drive is available, but there's no four-cylinder option. The SHO edition sports a 365-hp turbocharged V-6 and paddle shifters.
Price: $25,170 and up
Fuel economy: 18/28 mpg (17/25 mpg, SHO)
Rating: 8.4 out of 10
The 2010 Ford Taurus sparks interesting debate among TheCarConnection.com's editors. It's obviously better-looking than the previous edition, which was dull as dishwater to look at, though functionally more fun. The interesting lines aren't perfect, but dynamic in the vein of the Ford Fusion. Inside, the Taurus feels much nicer than previous editions, though back-seat room is lean in surprising ways. Cutting-edge features like SYNC are best-in-class, and with the reborn SHO edition, the Taurus has a performance edge unavailable to most other family four-doors.
Dulling the appeal, the new Taurus doesn't offer a fuel-saving four-cylinder. It's a big car, and feels big inside--almost claustrophobic, thanks to smaller glass areas. It's an interesting new shape, but not as handsome as the Nissan Altima or Chevrolet Malibu. That back-seat space is an issue for tall passengers, and price is a concern for anyone looking for a four-door bargain. TheCarConnection.com's tested Taurus SHO, in fact, stickered in the high $40,000 range. In all, the Taurus rates an 8.4 out of 10, thanks in part to Ford's growing reputation for top quality, for its great high-tech features and for its optional all-wheel drive.
Our Bottom Line? The 2010 Ford Taurus punches up Ford’s reputation for quality and features, with an engaging new SHO model to boost.
2009 Honda Accord
The basics: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder comes in 177-hp and 190-hp forms, teamed to five-speed manual or automatic transmissions. A 271-hp 3.5-liter V-6 is teamed with a five-speed automatic.
Price: $20,905 and up
Fuel economy: 19/29 mpg to 22/31 mpg
Rating: 9.0 out of 10
The Honda Accord is a perennial favorite of car reviewers. It's a wide-ranging family with frugal four-cylinder models, sedans, coupes, and plush V-6 editions that feel equal to Honda's upscale Acura sedans. The latest Accord is closer than ever to Acura territory, particularly in V-6 form; it's powerfully quick, has a well-isolated cabin and still feels quick and nimble in a way the Taurus and Camry do not. It's also the most finely finished inside, and while its edgy styling may put off more conservative buyers, it's appealing to anyone who might shop Infiniti or BMW for a similar look, especially as a coupe. Build quality is as good as ever, and unlike Camry, the Accord's reliable reputation hasn't taken many dings lately. It's also a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS.
The downsides to the Accord are few. Its automatic transmission lacks the extra gear found on the Taurus, and fuel efficiency tops the other cars here--but it didn't improve in this new generation. The styling can be seen as quirky, but its bigger fault is how it reduces rear headroom, just like the shape cuts into the Taurus' headroom. Overall, the Accord scores a 9.0 out of 10 from TheCarConnection.com's editors, thanks mostly to its sweet mechanical feel, its durability, and its plethora of high-tech options.
Our Bottom Line? Whether you're looking for a comfy commuter in the $20,000 range or a luxurious, powerful $30,000 family sedan, the Honda Accord should be on your shortlist.
2009 Honda Accord
The Winner: Honda Accord
The Honda Accord tops the Toyota Camry and Ford Taurus and hits a sweet spot where sporty handling and performance are valued just as much as safety, quality and comfort.
The Accord, Taurus and Camry have plenty of competition in the family four-door sedan class. The latest Chevrolet Malibu occupies roughly the same size class—bigger than the usual front-driver—and offers a fuel-saving four-cylinder version and a hybrid edition, though no all-wheel drive. The 2009 Nissan Altima has a sportier look and feel than most other mid-size sedans, but it's just as practical. The Volkswagen Passat has a different, more European character, and its peppy four-cylinder engine performs best out of any base engines in this field, but it requires premium fuel. it also offers a diesel edition, a V-6 option and all-wheel drive. Reliability has been spotty, though.
You can view this comparison chart at our Compared: Taurus Vs. Camry Vs. Accord page.
Also, you can compare cars of your own choosing at TheCarConnection.com. Just stop at our car comparison page, select your choices for vehicle type, price range, model year, and brands, and then choose up to three to compare on a single page.