The Taurus is a thoroughly American design, yet it owes almost nothing to the long, ponderous line of over-styled American sedans of the past. Its styling is exciting and chic, more than a match for any foreign competitors in its price class or even for competitors that cost a good deal more. Even in its most mundane models, it has an aggressive, ready-to-go demeanor.
The signature three-bar grille on the Taurus wraps around to sleek, swept-back headlamp complexes. The expression on this car's face is a wry glint that says this car knows what it's doing.
The side panels are muscular and handsomely sculpted, while the side profile shows a distant similarity to the currently fashionable Audi family. The only peculiarity is the odd bullet-head of chrome on the front fender sides just ahead of the front-door cut. Isolated where it is, it's a tic that Ford styling could do without.
At the rear, the car's lines feature another pair of sleek lamp complexes, tied together with a gleaming horizontal chrome strip. On the Taurus SHO, the upper lip of the trunk is adorned with a spoiler; with the speed the SHO can generate, the added downforce is appropriate.
Particularly in the upper reaches of the model line, handsome wheels bring the Taurus's profile brightly to life. In the Limited and SHO versions, big 19-inch wheels and tires give the Taurus a resolutely competitive look.
A key element of the SHO formula is the subtlety of its unique exterior design cues. The SHO is distinguished from other Taurus models by special wheels, the decklid spoiler, twin exhaust tips, unique grille work and unique parking lamp bezels.
Inside, the Ford Taurus is roomy, comfortable, and quiet. The dashboard takes an unusual form. Its upper surface is a broad, downward-curving shape that behaves almost like a sunshade over the dash's cascade of equipment and gauges. The gauges have a fresh, modern look, and all instrument lights are fully lit at all times. This is important, because so many cars dim their instruments in daylight, enough so that in high sun, the gauges and readouts are unreadable. For this bright decision, give Ford an A-plus.
The Taurus paddle shifters are based on the BMW paradigm, with shifters on both sides of the wheel, a pull granting an upshift and a push yielding a downshift. The six-speed transmission, present in all models, works remarkably well, especially in the SHO, where it is programmed to provide still-faster gear changes than with the normal Taurus. However, this writer prefers the Ferrari paradigm, where the paddle on one side of the wheel summons an upshift, and downshifts are summoned at the opposite side of the wheel. This is simpler and more intuitive. Functionally speaking, however, the Ford system works beautifully.
The Taurus is fully equipped with the usual Ford interconnectivity. Sirius Satellite with Travel Link provides a broad range of information about the environment, everything from weather radar to gas prices to movie start times.
Onboard radar gives you collision warning on the road when you are getting too close to a car ahead of you, then automatically executes full braking force the instant you step on the brake pedal. Similarly, it warns you when a car is in your blind spot on multi-lane roads, preventing lane-change accidents. And, backing out of a spot in a parking lot, the car warns you if any car is approaching from the rear or either side, or if a child or small object is behind where you can't see it.
Adaptive cruise control lets you set your speed in highway traffic while it measures your distance to cars ahead and automatically slows to prevent a collision. Then, when your way ahead is clear, the cruise control automatically returns you to your programmed cruising speed. This full range of technologies is offered in no other family sedan within the Taurus price range.
The seats are lavishly comfortable, with one exception: In order to achieve its full five-star rating in crash protection, which it successfully did, the front seat headrests lean slightly forward. (In the crash test, this position yields zero head movement, a requirement of the five-star rating.) We resorted to reclining the seat a little more than normal to get the headrest away from the back of our head. This is not our preference. To soothe our nerves, we indulged in the excellent Active Motion massage cycling, delivered by massagers within the seat cushions and seatbacks.
The climate-control system was vigorous and more than adequate, and the optional Sony 12-speaker audio was superb. In addition, an available CD Jukebox system allows storage of over 100 CDs. The controls switchgear was uniformly excellent, with a luxurious soft touch that connotes luxury.
The voice-operated navigation and other prompts took a moment to get used to (you need to learn the right vocabulary) but it worked really well when operated as designed.
This is a roomy car. In the matter of interior volume, the Taurus earns its standing as a full-size sedan, delivering total passenger volume of 102.2 cubic feet. It's big on the outside, too, though its deft styling makes it seem slightly less so. All in all, the Taurus interior is generous, comfortable, extremely quiet and pleasing to be aboard.
Cargo space is a massive 20.1 cubic feet of trunk volume.