A little consideration from potential customers, that's what the folks at
Ford figures it would have cost upward of a half-billion dollars to wage a marketing campaign to gain the name recognition for its Five Hundred/Montego siblings that the Taurus and Sable nameplates still have, even though they were discontinued after the 2006 model year. From 1985-2006, Ford sold nearly 7 million Tauruses, including almost 175,000 in 2006. In comparison, it sold 106,000 Five Hundreds and Montegos in 2006.
But will an improved vehicle, even one with a familiar name, translate into sales?
"We think the name change will get us on customers' 'consideration lists,' and once that happens, we think the car will have a much better chance to sell itself," said Robert Parker, Ford group marketing manager. "Our studies showed that Taurus was the third-most-recognized Ford name, following only the Mustang and F-150 pickup."
A similar rebranding will be something called the "The Road Ahead" for the Ford Edge crossover, which is being renamed the Taurus X, due in showrooms by late summer.
The new Taurus, Ford says, features more than 500 improvements, all aimed at making the car "more distinctive, quieter, faster, and safer." Most notable:
The 3.5-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission produce 30 percent more power and 20 percent more torque than the 3.0-liter engine/CVT (continuously variable transmission) they replace.
The quadruple five-star safety rating in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests.
Other changes include a welcome retuning of the suspension and additional noise reduction. Remaining are the roomy passenger cabin, amazingly large trunk, and tasteful interior.
To demonstrate the upgrades, Ford brought a half-dozen Tauruses to the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline in late June, along with an equal number of leftover 2007 Five Hundreds. In driving the two models back-to-back, the improvements were dramatic -- they are hardly just tweaks. We guessed one older model had upward of 20,000 miles on it, given the difference in suspension and ride between it and the Taurus; in fact, it had only 49 miles on the odometer.
Likewise with the drivetrain. The new engine-transmission combination, which Ford also uses in the acclaimed Lincoln MKZ and crossover Edge, provided noticeable improvement, both in acceleration and passing.
The Taurus also now features the three-bar grille that has become a Ford family styling cue. Indeed, look at the Taurus from a distance and you can clearly see it belongs in the same family as the Ford Fusion and MKZ.
On the road, I preferred the base sedan over the tested all-wheel-drive version. Both models have standard traction control, although we wish the optional AdvanceTrac stability control system was standard.
At $32,920, our Limited AWD test car version had a lengthy list of standard features, plus a passel of options, including navigation, a reverse-sensing system, heated front seats, wood trim and convenience packages, and the previously mentioned AdvanceTrac.
As a frugal New Englander, I'd shop the base model ($23,995) and see if I could live without many of the upgrades. If you're an urban commuter, you may not need the all-wheel drive.
Over the road, we averaged 22.4 miles per gallon with the all-wheel-drive version, toward the high side of the rated 17 miles per gallon city and 24 miles per gallon highway figures.
The Taurus sits high. At 61.5 inches, it is almost 3 inches higher than any other vehicle in its segment and has 5.94 inches of ground clearance.
That, combined with a high seating position -- the front seats are mounted on a cross-member that gives the body added rigidity -- provides outstanding visibility, and allows shorter drivers to see the hood, something lost in many sleeker vehicles.
Even with the optional navigation system, the interior controls were intuitive. There were two power outlets and a auxiliary plug in the front, part of a console that has a "double-wide" armrest allowing both front seat passengers to share elbow space.
And another notable feature will be added this fall: Ford Sync, a voice-activated (hands-free) communications and entertainment system that integrates mobile phones and digital media players, developed in collaboration with
With the new Taurus, Ford has made a large sedan worthy of being on your "consideration list."
(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in the Aug. 5 Automotive section incorrectly said