- Improved ride quality
- Attractive interior
- Top-notch safety
- A true tech-loaded flagship
- Surprisingly tight back seat
- Drives like a large car
- SHO is fast but not fun
- Harshness with 20-inch wheels
The 2013 Ford Taurus gets improved performance and is more of a technology and luxury flagship than ever--although its 'smaller inside' packaging continues to limit its appeal.
Getting Ford's legendary Taurus nameplate back on track has been one of the automaker's many miracles of the past several years. With the return of the Taurus SHO, and a newfound emphasis on tech features and luxury refinement, Ford brought a once-great name back from the brink—as an excellent, albeit staid larger sedan.
For 2013, Ford hasn't shaken up the formula all that much, but it's stepped up its game just a little bit in all respects—with better fuel economy, improved driving feel and dynamics, and even more safety and tech features that are typically reserved for German luxury flagships. It's also refreshed the Taurus' look in front and in back, as well as spruced up the cabin look and made room for the MyFord Touch infotainment interface inside.
But the big news is that a 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo four will be optional, making 237 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, while also returning at least 31 mpg on the highway. A 290-horsepower version of the familiar 3.5-liter V-6 will remain standard; it adds twin independent variable camshaft timing, bringing it up to date with recent upgrades in the rest of the Ford lineup. Each of those engines is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. And yes, the high-performance 2013 Ford Taurus SHO is back, with its 365-hp, 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6 and standard all-wheel drive (AWD is available on Taurus SEL and Limited, too).
Whether you'll like the SHO really depends on what you want in a performance sedan. It's not a high-involvement car, yet it can be quite rewarding in the sense that it's very capable in the corners without reminding you with added noise or vibration during everyday driving. Ford has also retuned the entire lineup's ride and handling for 2013, with less impact harshness and a little more progressivity to the suspension. You'll find decent ride comfort, yet it's confidence-inspiring, with direct, precise steering and more feedback than is typical from the electric power steering.
From one of the front seats, the 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; that's one of the glaring flaws remaining from a 2010 redesign that dropped the roofline (to good design effect, otherwise). 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.
The Taurus already had a reputation for safety and safety features, and now the automaker is really following through with Alan Mullaly's vision of making the Taurus the brand's luxury-and-tech flagship. Examples of what's on offer include a new heated steering wheel, multicontour seats with Active Motion, Intelligent Access with push-button start, auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera system, and a power rear sunshade. And for those who do a lot of parallel parking in urban areas, the Intuitive Park Assist feature remains another standout convenience.
The 2013 Ford Taurus will as before be offered in SE, SEL, Limited, and SHO versions, with prices up somewhat from last year; base Taurus SE models start at $27,395, and later in the year the 2.0T four-cylinder engine will be a $995 option on all non-SHO models.
2013 Ford Taurus
The 2013 Ford Taurus gets a mild exterior refresh to fit right in with the new Fusion.
The Taurus is one of the longest sedans on the market, at nearly 203 inches long. It's wide, too, and its long overhangs and rather long roofline all serve to amplify the impression.
A few years ago, Ford gave the Taurus a lower-profile look; while it might have been controversial for its practicality, most found it stylish, both in its swept-back profile and for its bold details. Now for 2013, Ford has redone most of those details, while the roofline remains the same. With 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, it's a somewhat sportier appearance from most angles. SHO models take it even further, with a new front-end look; in place of the standard Taurus' grille with thin horizontal chrome bars, the SHO gets a blacked-out metal-mesh grille and lower airdam.
Much of the Taurus' side profile carries over, with its rising side creases and crisp detailing. The rear fenders are most interesting, with sculpted shoulders and firm, straight character lines playing off each other in a way no Taurus has ever seen.
From the front seats, the Taurus feels almost like a personal-luxury car--as if it were a luxury coupe like a modern Thunderbird rather than a sedan. 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). 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.
Ford says that it benchmarked the interior of the Audi A6 for fit and finish, adding cloth-wrapped pillars and all-new switchgear. While it's clear the interior of the 2013 isn't a clean-slate redesign—it continues with the same sweeping-down center stack and tall center console—the Taurus looks to have been nipped, tucked, and upgraded throughout, and based on Ford's other recent products we expect a substantially upgraded look and feel to the materials.
2013 Ford Taurus
The 2013 Ford Taurus performs very well in most respects--although it's not always fun or inspiring.
The changes work exactly as advertised; it's not especially strong off the line, but a very sharp throttle calibration and a rather low first gear makes it feel so; the engine feels especially strong in the low to mid revs, exactly where the revs are going to land in a full-throttle upshift, amplifying the feeling of quickness. The SHO again gets a 365-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, with turbocharging and direct injection, and making a fat 350 pound-feet of torque at just 1,500 rpm (all the way up to 5,000 rpm). Zero-to-60 times for the SHO will be as short as the low-five-second range—so faster than a V-8-powered Chrysler 300C but not quite as quick as an SRT8. Thanks to the wonders of turbo boost, the SHO's rocket-like thrust isn't interrupted by upshifts, and there's seemingly no let-up as you head toward triple digits.
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 it should perform nearly as well as last year's V-6 while returning 31 mpg or more on the highway. But at the time that V-6 models hit the market, this model hasn't yet been launched.
In the corners, don't expect the SHO, or any of these all of these AWD Taurus models, to drive like a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan; they handle like large, front-wheel-drive cars, with the system only sending power to the rear wheels when there's measurable slip and the need for more grip, and there's a feeling of stoicism in the way they rarely seem challenged for traction.
The SHO suspension is tuned for handling, with stiffer shocks and springs, thicker anti-roll bars, and new suspension mounts, and it pays off with crisp turn-in and nicely balanced handling. Hustle it through corners, and the SHO leans a little before it takes a good set and grips the pavement as well as any competitor, save for the Nissan Altima, the handling standout in the class. Road manners for standard Taurus models are quite impressive, too. They ride 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.
For 2013, the electric steering rack is now hard-mounted (to the subframe), which helps tremendously with steering feel on and just off center. Now, the system loads nicely, and as we noticed when especially pushing the Taurus SHO hard on tight corners on mountain roads, you do now feel just a bit of bite and feedback through the wheel. Brakes have been substantially upgraded across the line, and pedal feel is more confident.
2013 Ford Taurus
Comfort & Quality
Ride and refinement have been improved for 2013, but the back seat remains surprisingly tight.
What you might expect from the outside of the 2013 Ford Taurus isn't necessarily what you'll find inside. It looks like (and is) a full-size car; but if you're very tall, or in the back seat, it might not always seem so from inside.
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 front seating area can feel more like that of a grand-touring coupe than of a sedan. The standard seats are generously sized and comfortable for long hauls, and the available multi-contour seats (a segment-exclusive feature) in the 2013 Taurus family allow an added measure of adjustability and support.
Three adults can potentially fit in back, although there are some serious limitations. The space in back is wide, though legroom and headroom can be surprisingly tight. To blame is the Taurus' lower, sleeker roofline that it got with a 2010 redesign; it looks better from the outside, but it makes the interior feel more confining and the back seat tighter. Entry and exit in back is harder than it should be, too. The door opening is wide for feet, but the roofline is low, which makes entry and exit a little tougher than need be.
As you might be able to tell from the Taurus' silhouette, trunk space is more than ample. At more than 20 cubic feet, it's one of the few trunks that probably won't having you wish on occasion that you had a utility vehicle.
Refinement remains top-notch within the Taurus, with tight construction, impressive plastics and trims, and a ride that's on the firm side but for the most part quiet and comfortable. Ford has also for 2013 introduced a host of chassis measures that, combined, serve to give the Taurus a more quiet ride with less impact harshness and better isolation from road noise especially.
There's one caution, though: We'd recommend against the 20-inch wheels which, from our driving experience in a Taurus Limited, seem to negate some of these gains in ride and refinement. With them, the ride is a little more abrupt, with more impact harshness, but they bring no noticeable improvement in handling.
2013 Ford Taurus
Several optional high-tech driver aids could add to the Taurus' already strong record for safety.
The current Taurus has an excellent record for safety and is one of the top-rated sedans of any size or price. For 2013, Ford bolsters that reputation with even more safety-tech. In it there's a new Curve Control feature that senses when the driver has entered a curve (or freeway ramp) too quickly, smartly scrubbing off speed. Other noteworthy features include adaptive cruise, collision warning with brake support, a blind-spot system, cross-traffic alert, and Ford's MyKey electronic-nanny system, which has proven appreciated by both parents and fleets. An SOS post-crash alert system is standard, too; after an impact that causes airbags to deploy, the SOS system unlocks all doors, turns on the hazard flashers, and sounds the horn.
Crash-test ratings for the Taurus have for years been excellent. But as of yet the revised 2013 Ford Taurus doesn't have a complete set of scores. The federal government hasn't yet tested the 2013 Taurus for frontal impact, but it carried the Taurus' five-star side impact rating over from last year--as well as its top five-star score in the federal side-pole test, simulating a side collision with a tree or pole, and indicating that the Taurus' structure is especially robust and protective. And at the time of posting, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn't yet tested the 2013 model or carried over any of its ratings from previous model years.
Poor rearward visibility is an additional strike against the Taurus, as our editors have noted, although the rear camera system helps somewhat.
2013 Ford Taurus
MyFord Touch comes to the 2013 Ford Taurus, as well as even more tech goodies.
Base SE models still include quite a bit more than mainstream mid-size sedans--which makes up somewhat for the higher price of entry. They include a power driver's seat, cruise control, air conditioning, and a six-speaker sound system. The next trim up, the Taurus SEL includes automatic climate control, satellite radio, Sync for voice-command Bluetooth/USB connectivity, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Limited and SHO models mark out the top of the line. The Limited adds 19-inch wheels, keyless ignition, ambient interior lighting, parking sensors, leather upholstery, MyFord Touch, and a garage-door opener. In addition to its stronger powertrain and performance- and appearance-oriented improvements, the SHO gets all that's included in the Limited plus extra touches like special suede-like seat inserts and HID xenon headlamps.
Models with MyFord Touch also include an upgraded Sony sound system. The voice- and touch-screen-based system interfaces with Bluetooth and USB devices as well as vehicle functions, and includes a second, configurable set of displays in the gauge cluster. Below MyFord Touch, the center stack now moves to capacitative controls—relying on a touch of the finger rather than a real button. However the hazard switch is a real button, just under the screen.
For those willing to spend a little extra on options, the 2013 Taurus can be outfitted with all the tech of a German sport sedan. Items include a new heated steering wheel, multicontour seats with Active Motion, Intelligent Access with push-button start, auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera system, and a power rear sunshade. And for those who do a lot of parallel parking in urban areas, the Intuitive Park Assist feature remains another standout convenience.
All said, the Taurus can get a bit pricey, however. You'll have to pass the $30k barrier to get MyFord Touch, and to take advantage of all that's offered, you might want the Limited, which can top $40k with options. The entry price for the SHO is $39,995, including destination, and a well-optioned SHO can still land well above $45k.
2013 Ford Taurus
A more economical turbo four-cylinder is on the way for the Taurus later in the model year; other models are about par for a large sedan.
The Taurus SHO that we drove very enthusiastically over more than a hundred miles averaged 16.5mpg for that distance (it's rated 17 mpg city, 25 highway), while the Taurus Limited AWD we piloted later had been averaging nearly 20 mpg over an entire day and more than 250 miles of driving.
Unfortunately, the greenest model in the lineup--SE, SEL, and Limited models with the 2.0T engine, won't arrive until later in the model year; but Ford has promised at least 31 mpg highway.