2013 Ford Taurus: First Drive

March 16, 2012
The Ford Taurus was once the epitome of the mainstream, All-American mid-size sedan. But the current version of the Taurus has never been anything but a niche car, and as much as the 2013 Taurus is much-improved, we'd venture to say it's destined to stay that way.

Why? While it's a big, comfort-oriented (or performance-oriented) sedan with a distinctive design, and Ford has made some meaningful improvements on it for 2013, it remains a car for which you need to really like what you see—as that's not entirely what you get.

What you see is one of the longest sedans on the market, at nearly 203 inches long; the 2013 Ford Taurus is wide, too, and its long overhangs and rather long roofline all serve to amplify the impression. It's stylish, both in its swept-back profile and in the details, which now include new lower-body aero work and an all-new grille—a more mature one that fits right in above the front end of the 2013 Ford Fusion—plus new crisp new LED-outline taillamps and a great set of new wheel designs.

The Taurus looks like it has amazing trunk space, and it does—with a low cargo floor, and a reasonably large pass-through for long items, plus split folding rear seatbacks.

But take a step inside, and you'll see that the Taurus, unfortunately, carries one very significant piece of baggage over to 2013: its surprising lack of passenger space. For a car this large, its cabin, practically speaking, doesn't feel significantly more spacious or airy than most compact sedans—or the more upright, straightforward 2012 Fusion cabin.

Especially in the front seats, the cabin feels tight, intimate. While it's wide, your legs are confined to a relatively narrow footwell, against a wide center console; and the entire instrument panel flows dramatically back in a gentle contour. It's space-robbing, and we're probably not the only ones to think that this dash layout as a whole would feel more in place in a touring coupe (such as a Thunderbird?). And looking back, the entire cabin feels quite small...Where'd the space go?

Those first impressions remain as they were. But in more subtle ways, Ford has upgraded the Taurus interior to feel more modern, more upscale, and frankly, more like a luxury car inside.

Soft-touch all the way

That includes soft-touch materials all the way around the driver and front passenger, in pretty much all the touch points—including, finally, the space that those knees are against all the time. Plus door trims and upholsteries have been upgraded, and power lock and window controls are completely new, with better tactility (replacing the carry-over switches Ford had used for years).

A front-wheel-drive Taurus 2.0T model with an EcoBoost four-cylinder engine is on the way later this year, and that's really the big news, as its 31-mpg (or higher) EPA highway rating will beat some V-6 rivals. In the meantime we were able to drive a 2013 Ford Taurus SHO, and a loaded 2013 Taurus Limited AWD, around Portland, plus along a challenging route of curvy backroads over Oregon's Coast Range.

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