First Drive: 2013 Ford Taurus

We go for a snowy ride in Ford's madeover flagship sedan.

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March 23, 2012

First Drive: 2013 Ford Taurus

The SHO is the car for the family man who's forced to give up the Mustang.

Introduction
Ford's Taurus has had a strange journey since its 1986 debut. It started as a mid-size sedan, endured a head-scratching redesign, disappeared for a while, then became a full-size car when the Taurus name replaced the 500 moniker. In 2010, the car underwent a full redesign and the SHO performance version returned.

Now, Ford has set its sights on giving the car some major updates for 2013, with the goal of remaining competitive in the full-size class.

Updates include new engines, refreshed exterior styling, improvements to Ford's MyFordTouch multimedia suite, new tech features, and some new convenience features.

Are the changes enough to allow the Taurus to compete with the Audi A6, which Ford has labeled as its top competitor (much to the disbelief of journalists attending the media launch)? Read on.

2013 Ford Taurus SHO Me The Money Sorry about the subhead, we haven't quoted Jerry Maguirein awhile. Anyway, the SHO is Ford's hi-po Taurus, so naturally journalists attending the media launch swarmed the available SHOs, leaving us in a Limited, which is the highest non-SHO trim, the others being SE and SEL. While a 240-horse 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost is optional on front-wheel-drive non-SHOs, all SE/SEL/Limited Tauruses (Taurii?) will come standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 288 ponies, and that engine is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive. All trims, including SHO, get a 6-speed automatic transmission. Our tester was a Limited with all-wheel-drive.

Some of the new tech features include standard torque-vectoring control (stabilizes the car when accelerating out of a corner), curve control (slows the car if it enters a corner too quickly), active grille shutters (intended to increase fuel economy), and available active front seats (intended to reduce fatigue).

From behind the wheel, most of these changes are fairly transparent. We appreciated the available all-wheel-drive on snowy mountain roads outside of Portland, Oregon, as the car moved confidently through each corner, with plenty of sure-footedness. The electric power-assisted steering offers up more feel and feedback that Tauruses past, giving a boost of sportiness to what's essentially a large highway cruiser. The ride is stable, finding a nice blend of sport and comfort.

Step into the SHO, and you'll find a 365-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-6 under the hood to go along with standard all-wheel drive, a sports suspension, a rear spoiler, power-adjustable pedals with memory, aluminum interior trim, xenon headlamps, and a few other goodies. Our time in the SHO was brief, but we found the steering to be even sportier (as one colleague noted, it made a big car feel small) and the acceleration even livelier. This is the car for the family man who's forced to give up the Mustang.
2013 Ford Taurus Features and Prices Most features carryover, but depending on trim, there are some new goodies, such as a remote start, active park assist, and heated sideview mirrors to go along with other features typical of the class such as satellite radio, a blind-spot warning system, a rearview camera, and a push-button start.

The big news here is that Ford claims to have updated its MyFordTouch system, although most of the changes are subtle. Ford claims that phones will pair to the Bluetooth link faster and that the system is easier to use. We did snicker when a Ford rep said with a straight face that the MyFordTouch buttons 'look more like buttons' but we didn't notice any huge differences. Either you like the system or you don't (we do, but we acknowledge it takes getting used to). Ford also announced that owners of cars with the previous generation of MyFordTouch can use an USB drive to update their systems in a process that takes an hour or so.

Depending on which trim you choose, wheels come in sizes of 17-, 18-, 19-, or 20-inches.

Taurus prices start at $26,600 for an SE and $39,200 for a SHO, not including destination. As an example, our Limited AWD tester with navigation, 20-inch wheels, and adaptive cruise control based for $34,850 and totaled $42,225 as tested, including the $795 destination fee.
2013 Ford Taurus Exterior Outside of a new grille on SHO models and LED taillights and a new hood on all models, not much is changed on the outside. The changes are just distinctive enough to be noticed by a trained eye (they're more noticeable on the SHO) but otherwise the look remains pretty consistent with the Taurus theme.
2013 Ford Taurus Interior The usual complement of class-appropriate features are available, such as a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, a heated rear seat, and a sunroof. The overall look fits in with other Ford models, and despite the updates, MyFordTouch looks and functions more or less the same. This is a large, roomy car with plenty of headroom and legroom even for taller passengers, even in the rear seat. Space isn't an issue here.
2013 Ford Taurus Fuel Economy Fuel economy numbers play out thusly: 19mpg city/29 mpg highway for the naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter with front-wheel drive and 18/26 for the same engine with all-wheel-drive. The SHO clocks in at 17/25 and the 2.0-liter isn't yet rated.
2013 Ford Taurus Wrapping Up While we disagree with Ford's assessment that the Taurus is an Audi A6 beater (the company's data on cross-shopping not withstanding), that's not an insult. We think the Taurus stacks up nicely with the Toyota Avalon or the Buick LaCrosse/Lucerne combo. It's more of a driver's car than the soft Avalon, and unlike the nearly forgotten Lucerne, it shows that Ford cares about this car. The solid LaCrosse is still gives the Taurus a run for its money (although Buick doesn't offer a SHO-stopper), but the Taurus may have a bit more to offer to the enthusiast, even in decaf (non-SHO) form.

The Taurus is a very good, though not great, car. It won't make too many top 10 lists and it won't rattle the German competition. What it will do is provide solid if slightly anonymous family transportation for those who need a spacious sedan, and it will do so with competence.

Sort of like the old mid-size Taurus did, once upon a time.

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