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Greatness in the stars for 2013 Ford Taurus

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | April 2nd, 2012

The first Ford Taurus showed up in 1985 (as a 1986 model) and proved to be an instant success. In just one year, Ford had sold over 200,000 Taurus cars, and by 1989 that number had surpassed over one million units sold. Ford had not seen this kind of success for a car since the original Mustang went on sale in 1964.

The Taurus sent a wake-up call to the entire North American automotive industry and soon Chevrolet and Chrysler tried to hit back with their answer to the Taurus, although none came close to beating the initial success of the Taurus.

Last year, Ford sold just over 63,000 Taurus cars in America. While not a bad sales figure, it is still far from the success the Taurus saw back in the late '80s and early '90s.

To capture the attention of more buyers, Ford has revamped the Taurus for the 2013 model year, but will they be enough to shoot Taurus sales up to their former glory?

To find out, we were invited by Ford to rainy, picturesque Portland, Oregon, to test the new 2013 Taurus.

From a distance, the 2013 model Taurus doesn't look much different from the 2012 model. The new SHO model does stand out from the previous model thanks to its new nose and its stunning 20-inch wheels, but you'll be hard pressed to tell the differences between last year's SE, SEL and Limited models and the 2013 models.

The differences might be subtle, but they are there, like the wider front grille and a lower fascia. Around the side, you will find folding rear-view mirrors and new 19- or 20-inch wheels (the old basemodel 17-inch wheels remain). At the rear, you'll find LED taillights and dual exhausts.

To spot the real differences, you need to step inside. Here you'll find nicer, softer materials than used in previous Taurus models and a completely revised dashboard. Gone are the old twist knobs and raised buttons, replaced by a clean and simple flat panel in the centre of the dashboard that has soft touch buttons. This setup is similar to the one you'll find in the current Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Is this setup to everyone's liking? No, and we are not 100 per cent convinced, either, but it does give the interior a cleaner, classier look.

We are also not big fans of the (optional) touch-screen infotainment system. Yes, it has lots of features and functions and the screen graphics are very cool, but all touch-screen systems start showing finger smudge marks and are hard to keep clean. An iDrive-esque system might have been a better option to go with.

Otherwise, the interior is a pleasant place to be in, particularly because it is very quiet. Ford has spent a lot of time and effort making the Taurus quieter than its competition by using thicker glass and more sound insulation. According to Ford, the new Taurus is quieter than the Toyota Avalon and the Nissan Maxima, and we would agree with them on that.

Space-wise, the interior and the trunk have remained the same size as before, so no changes here.

Where you will find some changes is under the hood. For 2013, you get to pick from three engines: a base 3.5-litre V6; the top-of-the-line 3.5-litre Ecoboost (turbo-charged) V6 in the SHO; and, later in the year, a 2.0-litre Ecoboost four-cylinder will be offered, which will actually be priced $1,000 more than the base V6. Since there were no Taurus cars at the launch that had the 2.0- litre engine, we won't talk about it at this time.

What we will talk about is the vastly improved base 3.5-litre V6 motor, which now has twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT). Thanks to its variable cams, this motor now produces 27 hp more than last year's car, for a total of 290 hp. Maximum torque is now 255 lb/ft at 4,000 rpm. What this does is it gives you bags of power in the mid-range, so it makes overtaking a lot easier. Power from this motor is fed to either just the front wheels or all wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox, which might be very smooth, but the competition has moved to eight-speed gearboxes now and Ford should also have followed in that direction.

Ford says, despite lacking a few extra cogs, this new Taurus is still more efficient than most of its competition, averaging 19.2 mpg in the city and 30.1 mpg on the highway — not bad for a vehicle that is 16.9 feet long and weighs 4,388 lbs.

Remarkably, the much more powerful Taurus SHO, which packs a 365 hp and 350 lb/ft punch can deliver the same fuel economy, provided you don't lean too hard on the power pedal.

All the SHO models come equipped with all-wheel drive, which certainly makes things a lot more secure, especially when you're covering ground on the twisting, greasy, rain-soaked mountain roads like we were in Portland. No matter what the road had in store, the Taurus SHO could manage it, and do it quite well, too.

To further help drivers navigate through twists and turns, Ford has fitted their latest Curve Control and Torque Vectoring devices to the Taurus. Curve Control will slow the car down by as much as 10 mph if it feels the car is going too fast for the corner at hand, and Torque Vectoring applies slight braking force to the inside front wheel when accelerating out of a corner — this helps the car take a tighter, more precise line through the corner.

We like driver aids that work behind the scenes, keeping you safe. What we don't like very much is the electronic power steering system. It lacks feel for what the front wheels are actually doing so it requires more attention to figure out how much steering input is actually needed. But spend some time with the vehicle and you can learn and adapt to live with this new system.

All in all, the 2013 Taurus is an evolution of the car you've been able to buy from your local Ford dealer for the past two years. Some of the improvements are more noticeable than others, and some people might consider that some of the changes are not for the better. From a technical and performance point of view, we feel this new Taurus is a step in the right direction. Will customers feel the same way? Only time will tell.

Prices for the 2013 Taurus start from $28,799.
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