There are those who suggest the Ford Taurus and the Mercury Sable have been too conservative. But it's hard to support that position when the Taurus is the best-selling car in America.
From the consumer's perspective, the advantages of Ford's network of dealers, the domestic nameplate, the unquestioned value of the car, and the attractive leases and incentives Ford has provided have all added up to a solid deal.
Because 1995 is the last year for the current Taurus and Sable (all-new, more radically styled cars are due for '96), changes are minor but well-done: more equipment made standard and additional suspension and engine refinements. A new low-priced Sport Edition, or SE, has been added to the lineup to attract younger buyers who would love to own the high-powered Taurus SHO but lack the bank accounts to do so.
The midsize sedan is the heart of the car business. Big enough for today's smaller families, yet fuel efficient and unpretentious, midsize 4-doors suit today's tastes.
In this class, the big three are Ford Taurus, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, with the new Chevrolet Lumina bidding for a higher place.
All four have a suitably conservative demeanor, appropriate for cars of broad appeal. The Taurus is a little longer and a little heavier than its Japanese competitors, and to our eye, its design is aging. Radical in 1985, today the Taurus looks too familiar. (The handsome wagon versions, however, have held their own in the appearance category.)
But buyers in this class seek utility and value, not radical styling. The Taurus offers both.
In some car lines, the base model is an underpowered cheap-looking loss leader. Not so for the Taurus. The base GL is a solid package, while the LX, which we tested, offers additional creature comforts. And for stealthy power, there's the SHO.
The SE model borrows its sporty looks from the SHO (front bucket seats and the optional rear deck spoiler) and partners them with the economic 3.0-liter V6 for about the same price as a GL.
Dual airbags are standard on all Tauruses, and the seat-belt anchors have been lowered for 1995. That's better for shorter people, but not quite as versatile as fully height-adjustable seat belts. Families using child safety seats should note that you must use locking clips in a Taurus.
Although the Taurus looks very much as it did in the beginning, the interior has had a number of revisions over the years, and the updates have kept the car current. Important controls are easily reached, and the analog instrument panel is in plain view. The large, simple dash-mounted light switch is more convenient than the stalk-mounted switches typical of Japanese cars, and power-window switches are easy to distinguish by touch.
Many conveniences have been made standard on the Taurus this year, including air conditioning, rear-window defroster, low-fuel warning light and solar-tinted glass to cut glare and heat. A nice touch in the optional center console is a removable rubber mat in the single cupholder, making it easy to clean sticky soda pop residue.
The Taurus is roomy inside and easy to enter and exit, with plenty of legroom up front and adequate room in the rear. The optional power moonroof in our LX test car cut headroom noticeably - a consideration for taller occupants - but otherwise the car is spacious for its size.
The Taurus has a relatively high cowl, with a dashboard that always hovers in your line of vision. This is unlike an Accord or Camry, for example, where the view is more glassy vista. Some find the high cowl claustrophobic; others find it gives them a sense of security.
The optional 6-way power seats make it easy to get comfortable. However, we found the seats a bit soft for long trips, and a little lower back support would have been nice.
Functional as it is, the interior does have some appearance problems. There are too many pieces in the dashboard and door panels, creating a number of bad fits and poor color matches and a generally cluttered, untidy appearance. And some optional items seem to be thrown into place. The controls for the power moonroof, for example, were housed in a tacky, oversize plastic box slapped between the sun visors.
The optional high-line JBL audio system in our test vehicle still had the old-style Ford faceplate with its multitude of tiny buttons. It's housed low in the console and is difficult to operate while driving. Fortunately, Ford has placed additional buttons high on the dashboard, allowing you to change the volume and station without taking your eyes off the road.
When you turn the key and take off, you realize the Taurus' strongest point: It is an easy-to-drive, well-behaved, nicely balanced sedan. Like the Chevy Lumina, its base engine is a V6.
The standard Taurus 3.0-liter V6 gets several improvements for '95: thicker walls in the cylinder blocks and a re-designed crankshaft to reduce vibration, and improved seals, water pump and thermostat for better performance. The engine coolant change interval has been bumped from 30,000 miles to 50,000 miles.
Our test LX was equipped with the optional 3.8-liter V6. With the same horsepower as the 3.0-liter but more torque lower down (215 lb.-ft. at 2200 rpm rather than 165 lb.-ft. at 3250 rpm), the optional engine has much better acceleration.
However, unlike some base engines, the 3.0-liter V6 does a perfectly acceptable job. The 3.8-liter V6 provides extra oomph for passing and keeping pace in the stoplight races, and it's the engine we'd choose. But we also recommend that you try both engines, to see if you need to spend the extra money.
The Taurus handles quite competently. The suspension system modifications have produced a much improved ride - firm and secure - and the car stays flat and controlled during cornering and acceleration. Steering is a little vague, lacking the light, immediate responsiveness of the Accord, in particular, but it's comfortable and easy to adjust to.
The Taurus' standard 4-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and has no tendency to hunt between gears in long uphill climbs.
As we noted earlier, it's hard to argue with best-seller status.
Neither the Taurus nor the Sable stands out in the traffic stream the way they once did, but the styling is still attractive, and the basic virtues are still there: They're well-made midsize sedans, easy to drive, pleasant to live with.
The as-tested price of $24,328 for our test vehicle seems high, but that's the manufacturer's suggested retail price, and we think you'll find some leeway. Ford and its dealers are working hard to keep buyers from defecting until the new Taurus and Sable debut, so you may be able to negotiate an attractive deal.
One final consideration: The Taurus is one of the big sellers in this class and automatically goes on people's shopping lists, but there are numerous competitor models that also merit a look.
A domestic alternative is the newly redesigned Lumina, bland but a little bigger and a little cheaper. Equipped with a sport suspension, the Pontiac Grand Prix is also comparable.
Half a class down in size are the Nissan Altima and Chrysler Cirrus. Half a class up in size is the Dodge Intrepid - a full-size front-drive sedan of comparable price, with much more room inside.
This isn't to suggest that any of these vehicles are superior to the Taurus. But extensive cross-shopping invariably broadens your perspective - and increases your bargaining leverage.
Build and price your dream Ford Taurus in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2013 FORD TAURUS$18,995 | 33,510 mi
2013 Ford Taurus$19,339 | 26,174 mi
2013 Ford Taurus$19,995 | 32,336 mi
2013 Ford Taurus$20,000 | 48,044 mi
2013 FORD TAURUS$24,900 | 20,031 mi
2013 FORD TAURUS$26,900 | 20,513 mi
2012 Ford Taurus$14,995 | 88,729 mi
2012 Ford Taurus$15,639 | 55,872 mi
2012 FORD TAURUS$15,995 | 62,130 mi
2012 Ford Taurus$18,575 | 34,769 mi
2012 Ford Taurus$21,482 | 39,408 mi
2012 FORD TAURUS$27,599 | 19,346 mi
2011 Ford Taurus$13,995 | 93,367 mi
2011 Ford Taurus$15,529 | 65,782 mi
2010 FORD TAURUS$14,995 | 69,935 mi
2010 FORD TAURUS$16,500 | 24,290 mi
2010 FORD TAURUS$17,999 | 63,257 mi
2010 Ford Taurus$18,694 | 50,981 mi
2010 Ford Taurus$19,877 | 35,996 mi
2008 Ford Taurus$8,890 | 108,619 mi
2008 Ford Taurus X$9,667 | 85,830 mi
2008 FORD TAURUS X$14,995 | 75,485 mi
2003 FORD TAURUS$3,994 | 147,402 mi
2003 Ford Taurus$4,990 | 148,933 mi
2003 Ford Taurus$6,091 | 63,017 mi
2002 Ford Taurus$6,995 | 99,644 mi
2001 Ford Taurus$4,990 | 121,432 mi
1997 Ford Taurus$695 | 232,029 mi