Do we want to fly to Knoxville, Tennessee to drive the new Ford Taurus? Sure, but don't expect us to get too excited about it. The Taurus was a real game changer when it was introduced in 1985, but eventually devolved into an underwhelming oval-themed bore of a car. Then Ford dropped the Taurus name altogether. After a brief hiatus, the Taurus name emerged once again, this time during a hasty name change for the competent but ultimately uninspiring Ford Five Hundred.
In case we sound overly critical of Ford, allow to us clarify. All signs indicate that Ford has emerged from the doldrums of the 80's and 90's and is actually on a bit of a roll, despite the beleaguered state of the economy. Ford continues to dominate the full-size truck market, the recently revised Mustang and Fusion continue to garner strong praise and, as the only American manufacturer to not request government aid, Ford is enjoying a buoyed image among car buyers. Still, Ford hasn't always done right by the Taurus name, so we are understandably cautious as we approach the new 2010 Ford Taurus.
Our hesitation proves completely unnecessary. With a sculpted, athletic-looking body, roomy and modern-looking interior, and an abundance of high-tech features, tomorrow's Taurus stands in stark contrast to yesterday's. We haven't seen such a bold reversal of character since Ben Kingsley traded in his Ghandi robe to play a murderous gangster in "Sexy Beast." In fact, a glance at the options list should illustrate just how seriously Ford takes the Taurus' role as brand flagship. Beyond Ford's excellent Sync voice-activated entertainment and communications system, buyers can add features like adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beams, a blind-spot warning system and seats with massage function, elevating the Ford Taurus from mere family sedan into something approaching a luxury car.
Some time behind the wheel of the 2010 Ford Taurus reveals a balanced ratio of engaging performance and passenger comfort. When cornering, the steering feels nicely weighted and responsive, yet the ride remains supple at cruising speeds with wind and road noise kept in check. We also enjoy the strong acceleration and responsiveness provided by the standard 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission.
While most drivers will find the standard Taurus perfectly enjoyable, those with a taste for performance will gravitate towards the Taurus SHO. With a sport-oriented suspension, all-wheel drive and a direct-injection twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 pumping out a stout 365 horsepower, the Taurus SHO delivers an exhilarating and impressively sophisticated driving experience. Accompanying the dynamic fun is a mildly differentiated exterior, which is either the SHO's greatest asset or biggest liability, depending on taste. Besides a few pint-sized SHO badges, dual exhaust tips, different color trim and a rear spoiler there is little to distinguish the SHO from the rest of the Taurus lineup, making it a smart choice for performance driving fans that prefer a low profile.
After a few days spent piloting the 2010 Ford Taurus and 2010 Ford Taurus SHO around the green hills of Tennessee and North Carolina, we think Ford may have a hit on its hands. Our concern is that potential buyers will view the latest Taurus as simply the latest offering in a series, instead of the bold departure that it is. The 2010 Ford Taurus is an excellent car that deserves to be assessed on its own merit, free from the burden of its name or history.